Talk Radio News Service: “India Completes World’s Largest Democratic Election”, 16.05.2014 – Interview with Gurharpal Singh,

“I think we will see a major transformation in India’s foreign policy with this government,” Singh said. “It will be more assertive, more directly promoting India’s interest, and it will be interventionist.”

Link to the article and the recorded interview: http://www.talkradionews.com/top-stories/2014/05/16/india-completes-worlds-largest-democratic-election.html#.U3nVddJdUsJ

The Indian Election and going beyond ‘the Road Shows’-a note by Sumit Roy

The heat in Kolkata, West Bengal and most of India has been oppressive. This, however, has not sapped the enthusiasm of politicians and people to forge ahead with the largest election in theworld. Over 800 million have been eligible to vote with the percentage casting their vote ranging between 50-80% exceeding even the one in US Presidential elections. Indeed, the capacity of the nation to put democracy into practice has dazzled, mesmerized, and puzzled domestic and international analysts of all shades. The glittering ‘Road Shows’ of the major rival parties- the BJP and the Congress-as well as the smaller ones such as the CPM (Communist Party of India Marxist) and the AAP (Am Admi Party) have been trying to reach out to the ‘masses’with their respective strategies to move the nation forward and curb poverty.

The media including television and the press have been lapping it up and trying their best to highlight the rival claims and infighting of the parties. The political language used has embraced securalism, governance, corruption, and development with the parties espousing their own interpretations of such concepts. Narendra Modi, for instance, the leader of the BJP, has focused on ‘good governance’ which he sees as ‘minimum government and maximum governance.’

This suggests the pursuit of  conventional economic policies which centre on a reduced role of the state and major emphasis on the market, albeit an Indian BJP one, while paving the way for bureaucratic changes. His ideas of spreading the professed successes of  the ‘Gujarat model’ to the rest of India has been underscored by his reiteration of efficient administration, eliminating corruption, improving infrastructure, tackling terrorism, and more recently, sending back illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. He has much support from the Indian corporate sector, Hindu religious groups, and sections of the young who are desperate for a change. His opponents spearheaded by the Congress, and Rahul Gandhi, and progressive parties have vehemently challenged Modi and the BJP on grounds of anti secularism, anti minorities, the Gujarat riots, being pro business and anti poor. Moreover, they have questioned the relevance of the ‘Gujarat  model’  for the rest of India. Congress in turn has fallen back on its performance of having taken the economy forward, and pursuing securalism, and promises of creating jobs and lifting millions from abject poverty. However, despite differences between the parties the scope for coalitions has been kept open in case no one party gains a majority.

The political drive to win over the hearts and the minds of voters has been interspersed with mutual recriminations though critical concerns over India’s economic and social concerns have been increasingly prominent. Political inertia has yet to creep in. All over the country rival parties have been forging ahead with their thirst for power, and maximizing their efforts to entice voters who remain bemused, somewhat irritated and confused by all the performances. In the streets of Kolkata, for instance, rival party posters and flags fill the narrow roads as auto rickshaws snake their way through the crowds with loudspeakers broadcasting the virtues of  the parties. Alongside, they hold their meetings in street corners in different ‘paras’ (neighbourhoods) to explore and discuss key economic and socio-political concerns. Predictions of the outcome are fraught with problems.

Ultimately, of course the ‘masses’ may be unmoved by the smart campaigns and the media hipe. They are likely to weigh up the pros and cons of rival parties though caste, class, tribe, religion and specific needs of different regions are likely to be decisive in how they cast their vote. This has to be firmly set in the context of India’s perennial and contemporary economic and socio-political challenges-stimulating growth, accelerating industrialization, reducing poverty, inequality and injustices, creating jobs, and building infrastructure while tackling corruption, demands of groups wanting more state autonomy, and terrorism. The obstacles are formidable. Hence, in the post election phase the party which comes into power has to evolve a vision and policies which go beyond the ‘Road Shows.’ This has to focus on genuinely improving the lives of the majority.

Indian election 2014: Domestic economic constraints and the external impacts of the world’s greatest exercise of democracy by Lawrence Saez and Elena Hoyos Ramirez

Starting in 7 April and continuing for five weeks, Indians are casting their votes to elect the representatives to the 16th Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament.  Early voter sampling suggests that this general election may be one of the most atypical elections in India’s political history given the high number of young, first time voters.  Such voters are demanding a change amidst the inability of the Congress Party-led coalition, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to address India’s most pressing needs including energy and transport infrastructure, inflation, women’s rights, and mismanagement of the nation’s general budget.  In addition, the issue of corruption has taken center stage prior to the election.

Under this scenario, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi is widely expected to win a plurality of the seats in the election. However, it is equally certain that the BJP will not win a majority of the seats and that it will be forced to form a coalition government.  Based on the prior experience of a BJP-led coalition in government, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), it is likely that the new government will have to act within some constraints.  Nevertheless, a BJP-led coalition government will represent a shift in both domestic economic policies and in international relations. However, given the gravity of India’s economic malaise, it is uncertain to what extent pressing domestic economic considerations would allow a BJP-led coalition to focus on its external policy goals.

Indian voters seeking credible alternatives

Since 2009, India has experienced a slowdown in real GDP growth, from 8.5 percent to 5.4 percent in the first quarter of 2014.  Likewise, despite a nominal commitment to fiscal discipline, India’s fiscal deficit as a proportion to GDP has approached 4.6 percent in 2013-2014.  A more worrisome indicator has been India’s current account deficit, which reached was equivalent to 1.9 percent of GDP in 2009 and reached 4.7 as a percent of GDP in 2012; though it appears to have rebounded in recent months.  India’s macroeconomic downturn combined with rising inflation has generated a decline in consumer confidence and to a growth in popular discontent against corruption.  The strength of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement in 2011 and 2012 followed by the impressive performance of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the 2013 Delhi legislative assembly elections suggests that voters across all social classes are fed up with corruption. The BJP has been quick to attempt to seize on the popularity of the anti-corruption issue, though once in power it is unlikely that it will be effective at addressing this issue any better than the Congress Party.  Corruption in India is pervasive, structural, and endemic and no large scale political party has an incentive to eliminate it from within its ranks.

The BJP’s election manifesto is surprising in its lack of attention to foreign policy and external security issues.  Only two pages (in a 42-page manifesto) are devoted to foreign policy and external security.  Compared to previous version of BJP election manifestoes, the 2014 version uses bland language and offers anodyne solutions to India’s foreign policy challenges.  For instance, the 2014 BJP election manifesto makes no direct mention of Pakistan or China.  Instead, it suggests that “in our neighborhood we will pursue friendly relations.”

The main foreign policy concern if the BJP reaches power is the evolution of US-India relationship.  In previous BJP-led coalition governments, India managed to enjoy closer relations with Washington.  This time around there is a great deal of uncertainty as to what a BJP-led coalition government will mean for the pursuance of India’s foreign policy objectives. Despite Modi’s embrace of globalization in the form of foreign direct investment, he is still banned from entry to the United States due to his alleged involvement in the massacre of Muslims during the 2002 riots in Gujarati riots. This is one of the reasons why the BJP has been avoiding confrontational positions on the subject.  No references to the US-India relationship are to be found in the 2014 BJP election manifesto.

However, the BJP’s emphasis on creating a business-friendly environment is likely to shape the direction of the country’s foreign policy.  This will translate in the development of closer commercial and diplomatic ties with North and South East Asian countries, largely in order to counteract China’s growing influence in the region. At the same time, closer ties with Japan will indirectly improve the relationship with the US, given the fact that Japan is the main US ally in the region. With respect to China, a BJP-led coalition government will have to find a way to balance China’s expansionist aspirations, both regionally and globally.  Nevertheless, India’s new government will have to understand the importance that China represents in economic terms. Although the volume of bilateral trade between India and China has grown tremendously in recent years, this has resulted in growing trade deficits for India. The BJP has offered no concrete solutions to this fundamental challenge to India’s macroeconomic stability.

Finally, with respect to Kashmir and Pakistan, the BJP manifesto has pledged that “where required we will not hesitate from taking strong stand and steps.”  This forceful language could lead to the conclusion that a BJP-led government will be less hesitant to respond to provocations from its neighbor. Fortunately, there have been no flare-ups in the India’s relations with Pakistan since the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai and there is no evidence that bilateral relations could not continue on a positive footing.  Nevertheless, the BJP has announced a strong commitment to enhanced defense manufacturing, therefore a surge in military spending is a likely scenario.

There are well-founded concerns that a BJP-led coalition government could embolden extreme Hindu nationalists and ignite communal tensions within India.  However, given the overwhelming importance of domestic economic issues and good governance in the electoral campaign preceding the general election, it is unlikely that the BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda will gain much traction after the election.  Similarly, much remains unfinished in India’s foreign policy aspirations. The new government should attempt to regain its comparative advantage in terms of trade in services.  This will require a more pro-active role from India’s diplomatic front.  Ultimately, India will face to the same dilemma it faces with China: normalize and stabilize trade relationships while protecting the nation’s interests in the region.

 

‘The Muslim Vote: A View from Delhi’ by Heewon Kim

On 10th April 2014, on a hot and sultry summer’s morning, Delhi’s Muslims queued up outside polling station at Jamia school of Jamia Millia Islamia, a public central Muslim university located in Jamia Nagar (Muslim-concentrated area of Delhi), to cast their vote. While it has been said that Indian elections are colourful and festive, the road to Jamia Nagar was peaceful and quiet. One after another Muslim men and women began to appear at the site. Some people greeted each other but no one laughed or joked. The mood was sombre. The voters at Jamia Nagar did not seem energised or enthused. Rather they appeared subdued and perplexed. One Muslim man, who wanted to remain anonymous, said ‘Actually we are confused. We don’t know to whom to cast the vote.’

Photo: Voters at Jamia School in Jamia Nagar (taken by author).

This bewilderment needs to be understood against the background of the UPA’s record in government since 2004. The election of the UPA marked a major turning point in the efforts to improve the equality of opportunity for religious minorities in India. In the 2004 Congress election manifesto, the minorities featured prominently. The party promised positive measures, such as increasing employment opportunities in public sector undertakings and providing better equal opportunities in education. It promised to implement affirmative action for religious minorities, particularly on the model of Kerala and Karnataka, with reservation in government employment and educational institutions. After the formation of government at the centre, the UPA reaffirmed its intention to provide ‘full equality of opportunity’ to Muslim community, appointing two expert groups: the Sachar Committee and National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, also known as Ranganath Misra Commission, to examine the socio-economic and educational condition of Muslims, and to recommend policy measures, including reservation, respectively. The appointment of Sachar Committee to collect religion-based demographic data for development of policies was an unprecedented government policy response to the need of Muslim community and was an official recognition of the development deficit it had long suffered. The promises of the UPA appeared to gain momentum when the Prime Minister officially announced in the parliament that ‘recommendations of Sachar Committee will be implemented’. In brief, the recommendations of Sachar Committee report centred on the positive action, which does not challenge the constitutional norm. In contrast, the recommendations of Ranganath Misra commission made a clear case for reservation, criticising the existing constitutional norm as both ‘discriminatory’ and ‘exclusionary’. Using the recommendations of these expert groups as a reference, the UPA initiated a range of programmes and schemes for the development of Muslim community.

However, ten years after the UPA came to power, there has been no significant improvement in the condition of Muslims, and large sections of the community are still lagging behind in almost every socio-economic indicator. After mid-2007, the political momentum for policy change and implementation waned. It was not until March 2014 that an interim official review of the Sachar Committee report was undertaken, and so far this review has been kept from the public domain, though media reports appear to confirm the generally negative assessment of the UPA’s record so far.

Similarly, the policy process around the recommendation of Ranganath Misra commission was no better: it has never been discussed in parliament, and since the submission of the report no Congress MP or Muslim MP has raised this issue in the parliament for discussion, despite the fact that no new constitutional amendment is required for its implementation. The prospect of implementation is highly unlikely. In February 2014, Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, declared that if he comes to power the recommendations of Ranganath Misra commission would never be implemented because they would make backward Hindus more insecure and vulnerable.

Photo: Muslim voters leaving the polling station (taken by author).

India’s Muslims, who have in the past voted en bloc for the Congress until the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya in 1992, no longer appear to be a monolithic vote-bank. While large sections appear to be confused and indecisive, others, notably some elite leaders, are joining the BJP. Despite his life-long opposition to BJP, M. J. Akbar, a leading Indian journalist and ex-Congress MP in Bihar from 1989 to 1991, joined the saffron bandwagon to the dismay of many Muslims. Such decisions have further added to the confusion of Muslim voters, who appear to be struggling to make the right tactical choice – both nationally and regionally – to defeat the BJP. The Congress, UPA-allies and the other secular parties seem to be the only practicable option. As one Muslim voter at Jamia School declared: ‘We are disappointed with Congress. But it is still true that we don’t want Modi for the next Prime Minister. We feel we do not have any alternative.’

‘Development’ and the Indian General Elections by Subir Sinha

‘Development’ has become a key criterion for a substantial and vocal section of the Indian electorate to decide for whom they will vote in the Indian general elections. Particularly for the supporters of Narendra Modi, the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, his USP is that during three continuous terms as Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat, he has been an exemplary developer, and that this makes him the right man to lead India out of its perceived current developmental impasse. What is needed, they argue, is that the author of the ‘Gujarat model’ be allowed a similarly continuous tenure as Prime Minister so that he can scale up his achievements in Gujarat across the country.

To those of us who teach Development Studies, ‘development’ has numerous, sometimes contradictory meanings. Prominent among the definitions would be ‘the development of productive forces’, that is, ‘growth’, commonly understood as increases in the size of the economy, GDP and GDP per capita. Analysts often disaggregate it further by sector: agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure, etc. This was the standard definition of ‘development’ until the 1970s. Since then, other criteria have become important: basic needs provision, freedom from absolute poverty and hunger, development of capabilities, ‘social development’ including of health, education reduction of inequality, improved employment and livelihoods, increased participation in decision-making, security and so on.

That developmental performance should gain salience in deciding whom to vote for is, of course, a sign of a new sensibility in Indian politics. However, since there is wide diversity in the very meaning of ‘development’, it makes sense to ask what ‘development’ is implied in the Gujarat ‘model’, whether it is the ‘best model’ among competing sub-national ones (for example the Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar models). It also suggests that depending upon which meanings are given more weight relative to others within a ‘model’, one model can be shown to be superior to another.  So the fact that for the ‘new middle classes’ and for influential media commentators, as well as for a section of the Indian and transnational capitalists the Gujarat model comes tops is worthy of explanation. Simply put, given that Gujarat’s developmental model is not unambiguously ‘the best one’, what explains the political momentum behind the claim that it is, indeed, superior to competing ones?

In their assessment of the Gujarat model, economists Maitreesh Ghatak and Sanchari Roy (http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-gujarat-model-of-development-and-other-growth-stories-1973622) make a number of observations. On per capita income, Gujarat stands not first, but third, behind Maharashtra and Haryana. Gujarat’s is among the highest growth rates, together with Haryana and Maharashtra, with Gujarat having a high rate of growth in decades preceding Modi’s Chief Ministerial innings as well. On the human development index, Kerala and Delhi head the list, while Gujarat ranks 11th as per the Institute for Applied Manpower Research, and 8th in the UNDP’s report. On environmental sustainability, Gujarat ranks among the bottom five states. In terms of reduction in absolute poverty, states like Bihar rank better than Gujarat. There is low unemployment, but then Gujarat has led the way in deregulating labour markets, and has low and declining rates of workers’ organization. Despite its claims of being conflict-free, Amitabh Dubey has shown that Gujarat has a higher rate of casualty in communal conflict than the national average. (http://www.firstpost.com/politics/gujarat-not-riot-free-since-2002-heres-the-proof-1468735.html#disqus_thread) Modi’s supporters have claimed that he is the embodiment of ‘good governance’, but the CMR index ranks it 4th, with Delhi coming out on top. Only if one favours ‘economic freedom’ and ‘ease of doing business’ in making an index of good governance, does Gujarat rank first.

So, if it turns out that Gujarat is not the top performing state, and that its performance is high in some measures of development but also very low on some other equally important ones, then what do we make of the wide acceptability of the claims of the supremacy of the ‘Gujarat model’ among the vocal sections of the India’s new middle classes and Indian and transnational capitalists? Is it the case, as Rohini Hensman and Shivam Vij have recently argued, that this is down to the PR firms acting on behalf of the Modi machine, or because corporate media has been very accommodating to Modi’s campaign? Or can we understand this another way as well?

One cannot minimize the role of the media in building up the Modi model. There has been a shrinking space for the model’s critics in the mainstream media, including on TV: this is partly due to the eclipse of the party-left and associated intellectuals in the past five years. Claims on behalf of the model are rarely contested on superficially argumentative shows on TV. Because the standard media narrative holds the claims on behalf of the Gujarat model as being self-evidently true, skeptical and dissenting voices are received with incredulity and derision from Modi’s core supporters. Claims of competing models are also not seriously entertained. Delhi and Maharashtra’s performances under UPA coalitions are waved away as having come with corruption and kickbacks, though these same criteria are not used to make sense of the Gujarat trajectory.

It is also the case the far more media resources have been used by Modi’s campaign to champion a developmental model than the UPA’s or other state models. The UPA Prime Minister, derisively labeled ‘Maun’ Mohan Singh (or ‘silent’ Mohan Singh) has been successfully labeled in the media as someone who is not his own man – in contrast with Modi who is the undisputed leader. UPA ministers, when they have come on TV, have taken it as self-evident that they have done a great job with rights to employment and food, construction of infrastructure, and delivering high growth rates across their two terms. But they do not realize that, in a way, the very success of their policies has changed the terrain on which this election is being fought. It is true that the UPAs’ programs had a deep impact, despite substantial corruption in all of them. But by succeeding to reduce absolute poverty, in a situation of rapid growth and large scale migration, they have produced aspirations of greater and quick social mobility among the less-poor, for whom the economic slowdown is unacceptable, and for which they blame the UPA government squarely.

But more than anything else, I believe that it is the composition of the new middle class that provides the politics of support for the Gujarat model. Those who have become employed in the private sector in the past 10 years – years of high growth – believe that continuous high growth is possible, and, whatever its human and environmental costs, desirable. For them development IS growth, and human and social development indices, on which Gujarat has performed poorly, are seen with suspicion, in the most extreme cases even as a sort of global NGO conspiracy to sully Gujarat’s good name. So the success of the Gujarat model is not due to objective criteria. It is due to the success of creating a narrative at the centre of which is Modi, whose ‘leadership’ alone is credited with high growth. The declining standards of social science education has produced a middle class that accesses and consumes data but is unable to understand development either as a historical process or as a societal good. Perhaps it was to this segment of the population that a prominent Indian magazine was referring to some years ago, when it claimed that its survey showed 30% of the Indian middle classes wanted to vote in an authoritarian government for a 20 year period to usher in rapid growth and to politically control the dissent it would inevitably unleash.

What about for Indian and transnational capitalists? One common criticism of the Gujarat model is that it exemplifies ‘crony capitalism’, and the model’s critics will point to Adani, Ambani and Tata business houses that received public lands for a pittance, who were given very low rates for electricity and other inputs, and who were given tax breaks. Legendarily, their projects were cleared by ‘Modi himself’. Capitalist development in India today requires the transfer of public property to private ownership via state intervention, a task that Modi has achieved in Gujarat not without conflict, but with less conflict than in other parts of India, such as Bengal, Odisha and Chhatisgarh. This expansion of the sovereignty of capital – at the cost of labour, the environment and the public’s property – is a major reason why capitalists love Modi, and why international credit rating firms have given him high marks, predicting a rapid bounce-back of the Indian economy once he is in power, whatever the dynamics of the global economy. In all this, his highly problematic pricing of gas and electricity provided by business houses close to him have never been publicly debated.

We have, therefore, an interesting and contradictory development project underlying the Modi model. Its salient features are as following. Growth IS development, everything else – those pesky development indicators on which Gujarat does not perform well – is an inevitable consequence of growth, and growth alone can generate the solutions to these problems. Insofar as Modi is seen as a ‘nationalist’, in today’s context nationalist development involves making the most of national and transnational capital. Modi has lampooned the UPA for making a business out of poverty, and in his speeches there is contempt for the poor and programs directed at the alleviation of their poverty, but the much-delayed BJP election manifesto seems reluctant to discontinue the UPA’s flagship anti-poverty programs, or even its subsidies, despite having fulminated against them on the campaign trail. The model has done very poorly for women, who have high rates of malnutrition in Gujarat and about whom Modi had commented that they were thin not because of malnutrition but because they were ‘figure conscious’. Still, ‘women’s empowerment’ features in Modi’s development agenda. We find the social and cultural conditions of Dalits in Gujarat to be bad, with the prevalence of manual scavenging and caste-based exclusions and oppressions, but the agenda promises to include them in the growth story. And finally, in desiring a model of growth fronted by an authoritarian and authoritative (albeit elected) leader, as in Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s, and East and Southeast Asia of the 1980s 1990s, the model is both out of place and out of time.

With so many internal contradictions in the BJP’s development agenda, one can see Modi as an empty receptacle into which the new middle classes pour in their desiderata of development, and which reflects back to them these desires. The persona of Modi as a supreme leader into which his followers dissolve – witness the sea of Modi masks in any rally – and the taken-for-granted, only rarely-articulated Hindutva background that is his make-up suture into an unwieldy unity the myth of the Gujarat model today, and its applicability to the whole of India if Modi was to come to power tomorrow. By talking of development as the national project and himself as its capable helmsman and chowkidaar of the eonomy, Modi has tried to lift himself above the criticism of him as Hindutva hardliner, even to erase the memory of his previous avatar as a Hindutva warrior. Can this narrative of the model convince the victims of rapid growth in India, and those residing in regions where the history of development and its social dimensions have been very different? That is one question that will be answered on May 16, when the general election results are declared.

Indian faces a critical general election? By Gurharpal Singh

As the world’s largest democracy goes to the polls, the question everyone is asking is who will lead a nation of 1.2 billion after 16th May 2014. According to opinion polls, the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is unlikely to be returned to power, with Congress recording its lowest ever tally of seats in parliament. After a decade in government, under the leadership of Dr. Manmohan Singh, the UPA’s achievements have been overshadowed by widespread public anger against massive political corruption, high levels of inflation, and political drift which has characterised the government since 2012. The price of onions, a staple diet in Indian food, and a good barometer of political fortunes, has long been against the UPA. Even the induction of Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Minster elect has failed to inspire the electorate.

The political wave – if there is a one – appears to be in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its coalition partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, who has cut his teeth as a foot soldier of the Hindu Right, does not come from the patrician wing of the movement.  He has been doing his best to make virtues of his humble origins in a political establishment dominated by the anglicised elite.  So far he has skilfully deflected the fire of his opponents   concerning his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots by using development as his key election agenda. This week however the ideological mask slipped, with the Election Commission charging his lieutenant, Amit Shah, for inciting hatred against a minority community; and on the day voting commenced, the BJP finally produced its manifesto, pledging to revise India’s nuclear doctrine of no first use.

Seasoned observers of Indian politics will probably caution against opinion polls. The Indian electorate has a habit of throwing up surprise.  The polls were wrong in 2002.  Although the Congress is unlikely to return to power, the many regional parties, which are the real brokers in India today, might yet cobble together a Third Front to frustrate the BJP.  Some parleys among these parties took place before the campaign started, but  nothing concrete has materialised to capture the imagination. The Third Front, if does emerge, is likely to remain a coalition of convenience of parties without a national following.

There is still over a month before the polling is over and election campaign could yet become more animated, especially if the contest appears close. Certainly the exchanges between the main parties have become much more acrimonious in the last few days with allegations and counter-allegations of dirty tricks.

So what kind of changes in Indian politics can we look forward to after May the 16th?

If the BJP comes close to winning an overall majority in 545-seat parliament, these elections could change the landscape of Indian politics for ever.  A  Modi led BJP/NDA government is likely to be more strident, vocal and India-first administration. If the experience of the previous BJP/NDA administration is anything to go by, it will place cultural nationalism at the heart of its agenda, whatever the compromises with the regional parties over Jammu and Kashmir, Ajodhya, and a uniform civil code. In foreign affair the rhetoric of talking tough will be matched by a more forthright approach towards Pakistan – at time when considerable effort has been expended to build a détente – a faceoff with China over the long and disputed border, which might also lead to a hefty hike on defence expenditure, and a more assertive posture vis-à-vis India’s other neighbours (Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bangladesh).  While corporate India appears to be welcoming Modi with open arms, in economic policy the push towards second and third generation of economic reforms is likely to be moderated by the agenda of controlling the cultural fallout from further uncontrolled economic liberalisation.  For those nations, like the UK, seeking to do business with India, such an administration might be a mixed blessing.

A Third Front government is unlikely to survive very long. Again, going by experience, such administration last about two years and are accompanied by chronic instability and economic crises. In many ways, a non UPA or NDA government is the least desirable outcome the Indian economy needs right now as it recovers from low growth, high inflation and a chronic balance of payments deficit.

Finally, the elections are likely to be followed closely by British Asians, notably the Indian-born generation, for whom politics often remains the main subject of conversation.  Importantly this time, however, given the sizeable Gujarati community based in the United Kingdom, the election of  Modi is likely to have profound implications for intra-Asian community relations  as his opponents will no doubt want to draw attention to his record as Chief Minister of Gujarat.