Did everyone cast a vote? Maybe they did or maybe they didn’t. On paper, a registered electorate of 800 million set out to nearly a million polling stations in India over the course of thirty five days. Today, the results are out and it looks like the Indian Nationalist Party, The Bharitya Janta Party, commonly known as BJP, has won- bringing an end to the decade long tenure of the The Congress Party in government.
The last ten years have seen monumental changes in how the world works; particularly, how information is exchanged and frequency in global catastrophes. Yes, India jumped on the carbon finance bandwagon, saw social progress and economic growth, wiped out polio completely and, like everybody, faced the global financial crisis. In fact, under The Congress Party, spending in the social sector increased almost six fold from 2005 to 2013. Simultaneously, India’s ranking on the UN Human Development Index slipped from 127 in 2004 to 136 in 2012.
So, Modi is in and we wonder what is in-store for India now. He is a politician that made river clean-ups a metaphor for his campaign- touching upon not only environmental concerns but also social issues by focusing on Hindu/Muslim togetherness. He is also known for “Modinomics”- Modi-economics, which is an economic growth model he rolled out as Chief Minister of Gujarat. Transforming it into a business-friendly region that welcomes multinationals through reduced taxes and other neo-liberal policies. Was that a pilot for how he hopes to run the country? The consensus is divided.
The Hindustan Times hints towards the BJP government being a “development disaster”, based on the ecological damage and marginalisation of people in Gujarat. According to the author “Modi’s ‘developmentalism’ includes sidestepping all norms to make land and water available to corporate houses.”
However, as CM of Gujrat, Modi invested heavily in renewable energy- for example, by launching Asia’s first solar park back in 2011. The BJP party’s manifesto also mentions “Inclusive and Sustainable Development” as one of their pledges. Could coupling that with Modi’s track-record in Gujarat mean a transformed India? I am afraid not. A more detailed reading reveals energy security to be a top priority, so far so good, but this will be tackled by maximising the potential of coal and oil as well as cleaner fuel sources. Yes, the perfunctory declaration of “climate change mitigation will be taken seriously” is added. However many, such as environmental activist Rishi Aggarwal, believe this to mean “absolutely nothing”. Not to mention, his role in the devastating Hindu/Muslim riots of 2002 in Gujarat have repeatedly been flagged and examined.
In a country where appeasing minority communities can decide whether or not one reaches the helm of political power, Modi and his PR team have worked hard to restore his tarnished anti-Muslim image. However, some stay strong and go as far as saying just because it worked in Gujarat, doesn’t mean it will work for all of India. Modi may have won over industrialists with his neo-liberal policies, lured the yuppies with his charisma. However, 70% of Gujarat is engaged in farming activities and lets not forget the expansion of Bt Cotton there and subsequent farmer suicides.