A Tense Neighbourhood

India gears up for its national elections, set to take place on 19th April, and the wider South Asian region looks on with apprehension at the possibility of Prime Minister Narendra Modi securing a third consecutive term.

Ready to take on the challenge of overthrowing his regime headon, Modi’s opponents have formed the India National Development Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) to counter him. The fact that on the elections’ eve, it is fittingly India vs Hindutva is not lost on anyone.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping to secure more than 400 seats in the 545-seat lower house of parliament, the rest of India is putting a united front against the authoritarian tendencies of Modi’s rule. This opposition is trying to challenge Modi’s dominance in Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. So far, it has found it tough going against the now entrenched Modi political class, supported by a subservient media - dubbed the “Godi” media - and fascist tendencies of the loose network of ultranationalist Hindu organisations. A network centred on the infamous Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which is the BJP’s real ideological core and power base That being said, the fact that INDIA has not been silenced like the rest of Modi’s opponents in the past shows that they have power bases to back them as well - especially in northwestern and southern India. 

The BJP’s focus has always been to appeal to the Hindu nationalist sentiment by focusing on issues like the Ram Mandir and the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, contentious issues that rely on religious sentiments and uniting Indian bigotry as much as possible. Modi’s victories in the past stemmed heavily from this strategy. Prime Minister Modi does not only want to secure a victory in the national elections but rather aims to consolidate power at the state level. If the BJP gains control over southern state assemblies, it can use its power to further strengthen its nationalist agenda. This would exacerbate tensions surrounding the issues of identity, religion, and the rights of the minorities in India.

The potential success of the BJP brings further polarisation of Indian politics. This will have implications for democracy as the Hindutva agenda of the BJP greatly undermines the rights of minorities, giving one group an unfair advantage over the other. If they can be overthrown, the entire political landscape of India can be flipped on its axis instantly.

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