Modi’s campaign along the LOC

  • The election will show whether Indians favour Modi’s anti-Pakistan rhetoric

With a continuous threat from their neighboring country, Pakistanis have their eyes fixed on the Indian elections. This election will gauge public sentiment towards Pakistan and determine whether or not Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dangerous strategy, which risked the lives of 1.906 billion South Asians (roughly 25 percent of the world’s population) with nuclear war, will give him a new lease on the prime ministership.

In the aftermath of the Pulwama Attack, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi not only campaigned within India, but also aggressively “campaigned” along the Line of Control in a series of ceasefire violations. The notorious Balakot air strike and these violations were intended to avenge the terrorist attack.

Up until the Pulwama Attack, Modi’s popularity was on the decline with repeated attacks by Congress on his role in the Rafale scandal. Congress was strategically campaigning across India, swaying the rural classes with promises of supporting farmers and small business, as well as cutting unemployment in half. Congress prime ministerial hopeful Rahul Gandhi was calculatedly appealing to the Indian rural class that was already losing faith in Modi’s unfulfilled promises.

As a result, Prime Minister Narendra Modi desperately needed to salvage his reputation. What other better method would there be, than to unite the nation by pitting it against its “mortal enemy,” Pakistan?

Modi is appealing to the masses with Hindu nationalist policies just as he did in the previous election

The Indian government and military received serious backlash for the air strike, and the tall claims of destroying a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Balakot were criticized by both the domestic and foreign media. However unpopular this move was on the global stage, it was undoubtedly an instrumental move by Modi’s government, especially given the backdrop of the Rafale scam and upcoming elections.

If there’s one thing Modi is right about, it is that “the Congress party has become like the main protagonist in the Ghajini movie. They don’t remember the promises they have made in earlier manifestos.” The truth is that Modi’s main rival, Rahul Gandhi, seems to have forgotten why his Congress party was ousted in 2014 in the first place; it was due to unfulfilled promises to the rural classes and several mega-corruption scandals.

Gandhi has been heavily relying on the Rafale scam to lead him to victory, but many Indian analysts rightly point out that Congress has no business in speaking out against corruption. Additionally, what was once a political advantage in India, dynastic loyalism, has lost steam and Gandhi’s elite family background puts him at a disadvantage, just as it did in 2014. The Rafale scam and the Nehru-Gandhi background is simply not enough to secure a solid victory in the 2019 elections.

At this moment, the general perception in this region is that the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is losing support and the Indian people are becoming disenchanted with the ruling government. But if we isolate the elite, urbanized classes and focus on rural India that is a different picture altogether.

The largest voter demographic in the “largest democracy” in the world is its rural class, which is over 70 percent of the population. According to a pre-election survey carried out in March by Lokniti, a research programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in Delhi, “four of five respondents were found to have heard or read about the Balakot air strike, and among them preference for Mr. Modi as the next Prime Minister was found to be at 46 percent.”

The CVoter polling agency has predicted that the BJP and its Modi-led alliance can win 267 of 543 parliament seats. Although this number is five seats short of a clear majority, the fact is that it is still a considerable majority that can easily give Modi the second term he has been trying for.

Furthermore, it is important to look at the Indian elections within a larger global context in order to better predict its results. In the past few years, people have become increasingly disillusioned with liberalist policies. Liberal democracies have failed to address their failures. The growing disparity between the rich and poor has shown just how flawed liberal capitalism is. The idea of liberalism and globalization used to be so attractive, but now they are fast becoming dirty words.

While observing these geopolitical transformations, it is evident that many key countries including the USA, Turkey and Malaysia, have shifted away from liberal progressivism towards nationalism.

Dynastic politics and loyalism, especially in the subcontinent where dynastic political rule was once deeply rooted, has lost its charm and has been rejected by the people. The reigning era of the Bhuttos and the Nehru-Gandhis has come to an end.

Across the spectrum people, are reacting to economic tremors and the failure of liberal policies. Political “strongmen” are taking the reins by instrumentally capitalizing on anti-liberal, right-wing ideology.

Narendra Modi is one such “strongman” and he is appealing to the masses with Hindu nationalist policies just as he did in the previous election. The only difference now is the timing of the elections and they couldn’t have come at a better time for Modi. He has been conveniently using the Pulwama Attack as a political crutch to woo those previously disenchanted with him, and it might just work!