What will life be like for the Indian people with Modi as prime minister?

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What will life be like for the Indian people with Modi as prime minister?


Narendra Modi is prime minister again and there is danger for India’s minorities. Nilanjana Bhowmick explains why.

On Thursday 30 May 2019, Narendra Modi became India’s prime minister for a second time. On 23 May, the Indian people elected Modi and his rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for a second time after one of the longest elections in the world. They elected him even with the party’s problems in the last few months before the election. People said he was creating a feeling of fear for minorities, especially Muslims.

There was less and less support for his lawmakers and policies but Modi was becoming more popular. The new middle classes saw him as down to earth and not part of the few in power and the English-speaking opposition in the centre-left Congress Party. They liked his story of going from being poor to being rich and so the unemployment figures (the highest in 45 years) and a farming crisis, which brought thousands of farmers onto the streets in protest in 2018, didn’t seem to be important.

A survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies found that nearly one-third of the people who voted for the BJP voted not for their own member of parliament, but to support Modi as a leader. This is what the party hoped. In 2018, a BJP member told me that they hoped to win a second time because of their leader’s personality and not the party’s policies. Just before the elections, in villages across India, people more or less agreed that Modi’s lawmakers were the problem. Some had not visited their constituencies since the last general elections. In 2019, it was not Modi against the opposition. It was Modi against the BJP. And Modi won.

Vikram Singh is from Uchagaon village, Uttar Pradesh. He told me, ‘What can he do if his MPs did not work? They are giving him a bad name. But Modi has done good. He deserves another chance.’ The problem of ‘national security’ helped too. Earlier in February 2109, 40 paramilitary soldiers died and over 200 were wounded in an attack against the Indian security forces in Kashmir by the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pakistan. And so there was conflict between India and Pakistan. This all helped to make Modi stronger.

Five more years

Modi’s second time as prime minister could be more difficult than his first time. He has to help a weak economy. India’s economic growth fell to its lowest in five quarters at 6.6 per cent in December 2018. Everyone is looking now at the government’s budget, which may come in July. But his biggest problem will be his promise to stop corruption and get ‘development for all’. There has been corruption in every development plan by the Modi government, including safe and clean toilets, free housing, and other necessities. For example, Uttar Pradesh is India’s largest and most underdeveloped state with a population of over 200 million and has the highest number of lawmakers in parliament. People there have to pay money to their village leaders to get these social services.

And India has continued to be one of the most corrupt nations in the world even after Modi’s actions to stop corruption. In January 2019, Transparency International in Berlin said India was 41st in a group of 100 countries.

Modi’s second time as prime minister is also a problem for India’s minorities. On 8 April 2019, the BJP repeated a promise to have a National Register of Citizens (NRC) to find illegal immigrants in the country. Some have criticised the NRC as anti-Muslim. But the NRC is only used in Assam, eastern India. Its final list did not include almost 4 million people.

Amit Shah is Modi’s new home minister and he said at an election meeting in April, ‘It is our plan to bring in NRC across the country to remove every illegal immigrant.’

‘We would make sure that all Hindu and Buddhist refugees get citizenship of this country,’ he said but he did not talk about the future of Muslim refugees.

The religious differences are a real problem. The cow vigilante groups are still active. Since 23 May 219, there are records of at least five hate crimes against minorities, including in Madhya Pradesh where a crowd beat three Muslims, among them a woman, because they thought they were carrying beef. A video of the attack went viral online. On 23 May, a Dalit couple in Gujarat said a crowd of 200 to 300 upper caste people beat them after the husband posted about discrimination by upper-caste people on social media.

Over the last five years, Modi has said nothing about these problems. The next five years are a last chance to stop these attacks on minority populations that many Indians have helped to become mainstream.



(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed)