“Defeat of authoritarianism”: Global response to Indian polls    

Posted by
Check your BMI

By P.K.Balachandran/The Citizen

Colombo, June 9: Western democracies see the results of the Indian parliamentary elections as a victory of democracy over authoritarianism. Canada and the US have officially conveyed to the Modi government their hope that it will respect democratic norms and human rights.

In its write-up, The Economist expressed confidence that the “shock election result will change the country for the better.” The Indian electorate had shown “how democracy can rebuke out-of-touch political elites, limit the concentration of power and change a country’s destiny.”

The result, which forces Prime Minister Narendra Modi to work through a coalition, promises to change India for the better, the UK-based news magazine said. “This outcome lowers the risk of the country sliding towards autocracy, buttresses it as a pillar of democracy,” it added.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had failed to attain a simple majority on its own and lost places to regional parties even in its heartlands in Uttar Pradesh. “This is not just an electoral upset, but a repudiation of Mr Modi’s doctrine of how to wield power in India,” The Economist said.

“For over a decade Mr Modi’s answer has been to concentrate power. That meant winning elections decisively on a platform that emphasises his own brand, Hindu chauvinism and an aspirational message of rising prosperity.”

“In office, his method has been to use executive might to ram through policies that boost growth and reinforce the BJP’s grip on power.”

While the economy grew under Modi, good jobs were too scarce, Muslims suffered discrimination and, under a sinister illiberalism, the BJP captured institutions and persecuted the media and opposition, The Economist recalled. “The BJP aspired to unitary authority across India at the central and state level. That might have made big-bang reforms easier in, say, agriculture. But such power also raised the threat of autocracy.”

“Many in the BJP hoped to forge a single national identity, based on Hinduism and the Hindi language, and to change India’s liberal constitution, which they view as an effete Western construct.”


But the election results have put a break on this trajectory. “Mr Modi would have reigned supreme. Yet every Raj comes to end. If, as expected, the BJP and its allies form the next government, Mr Modi will have to chair a cabinet that contains other parties and which faces parliamentary scrutiny. That will come as a shock to a man who has always acted as a chief executive with unchallenged authority to take the big decisions. Succession will be debated, especially inside the BJP.”

“Even if Mr Modi completes a full term, a fourth one is now less likely,” is The Economist’s prediction.

However, it also warned that Modi’s diminished stature will bring dangers. “He could resort to Muslim-bashing, as in the past, that would alienate many Indians.”

Foreign Investors

On the threat awaiting foreign investors, The Economist said: “If strongman rule degenerated into the arbitrary exercise of power, it would eventually destroy the property rights that they depend on.”

On the advantages democracy offers to investors, The Economist said: “ More open politics promises to boost growth in the 2030s and beyond.”

The election results showed that Indians are united by a desire for development, not their Hindu identity. “The question facing India is therefore whether Mr Modi can evolve from a polarising strongman into a unifying consensus-builder,” The Economist said.

Ending on a hopeful note, it said that even if Modi fails to live up to these ideals, “India’s democracy is more than capable of holding him to account.”

No Definite Direction

According to the New York Times in his ten-year rule, Modi had not given India a definite direction. On the one hand, Modi got closer to American allies, including Japan and Australia, ordered high-end American weapons systems and China was kept at arm’s length. But he also signaled that he didn’t want to be an US ally.

“Some officials in his inner circle still regard the US warily. American diplomats complain about New Delhi’s apparent efforts to erode democratic norms and the rights of minority groups. So India keeps its options open. After Russia invaded Ukraine, the U.S. tried in vain to persuade India to take a stand against the war. India still processes Russian oil (picking up the slack created by international sanctions). It still buys weapons from Russia.”

“India spent the Cold War trying to position itself as a nonaligned power. Old habits die hard,” the NYT commented.

Rampant Poverty

The paper pointed out that while India is the fastest-growing large economy  most of the country remains poor.

“Some 800 million people need help filling their stomachs. Modi’s ideas about how to help them can be contradictory, at once globally minded and protectionist. Exports have barely risen, even as Modi threw subsidies at them.”

On Modi’s vision of a “self-reliant India” the NYT said that “shielding Indian companies from foreign competition is at odds with preparing them for it.”

Also the Indian State “wields a heavy hand in most sectors — imposing radical, sometimes half-baked reforms by decree.”

Fillip to Communalism

The New York Times further said that Modi has been reshaping the country as an explicitly Hindu nation. “He converted Jammu and Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state, into a heavily policed federal territory. He built a giant Hindu temple on a disputed site where mobs had torn down a mosque. During the campaign this year, he called Muslims, who make up 14% of the population, infiltrators. India’s Muslims say they have been turned into second-class citizens.”

“The call to put Muslims in their place is the lifeblood of Modi’s party, creating winning majorities within a hugely diverse and caste-riven Hindu population. In a third term, Modi could choose new targets, perhaps by agitating for the replacement of historic mosques with more Hindu temples.”

“But he may be constrained by his new political partners, who are not beholden to his party’s Hindu-first projects.” 

The NYT pointed out that Modi’s style had meant flouting many democratic norms.

“The police have thrown leaders of the opposition in jail, swelling the number of political prisoners. The Election Commission has been stacked with pro-Modi appointees. The judiciary hardly ever stands in the way of government priorities.”

The NYT warns that there is always the danger that Modi “could crack down harder than ever, making full use of the agencies that answer directly to him, to ensure that his party stays ahead of the invigorated competition.”

“If anything is to hold him back now, it will have to come from within his new governing coalition,” it added.

West Pushes for Human Rights

In the message Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent to Modi on his getting a third term, he hoped that Modi will “advance the relationship between our nations’ peoples—anchored to human rights, diversity, and the rule of law.”

Meanwhile The Hindu reported that a Canadian parliamentary committee report has described India as the “second-biggest foreign threat to the country’s democracy.”

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians report said: “India emerged as the second-most significant foreign interference threat to Canada’s democratic institutions and processes.” 

The revelations of the report added to the negative state of the bilateral relation between the two countries which have been caught in a diplomatic spat since the June 2023 killing of a pro-Khalistan ideologue in Surrey, British Columbia, The Hindu explained.

The report stated that alleged interference by India has “slowly increased” but at the same time the operation has become expanded.

Matthew Miller, United States State Department spokesperson applauded “Indian voters, poll workers, civil society, and journalists for their commitment and vital contributions to India’s democratic processes and institutions”.

Jeremy Corbyn MP, who served as Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the British Labour Party from 2015 to 2020 congratulated social activists in India on the election results. Corbyn said: “You give hope to people for a freer society. Hope to people against regressive legislations. Hope to people on the grotesque level of poverty and inequality in India. It’s a big step forward for social justice”.


The post “Defeat of authoritarianism”: Global response to Indian polls     appeared first on NewsIn.Asia.