The World Today for April 19, 2024

NEED TO KNOW

Kitchen-Table Politics

INDIA

The upcoming parliamentary election in India is expected to go well for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Surveys show that Indians are concerned about unemployment, inflation, and other kitchen-table issues, reported Reuters. But a majority of the billion voters who cast ballots from April 19 to June 4 in the world’s largest democratic exercise will still support Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda, pro-business policies, and plans for further improving India’s stature on the global stage.

In terms of what they supported about Modi’s two previous terms in office, for instance, 22 percent most liked Modi’s decision to build a Hindu temple to Lord Ram in Ayodhya in northern India. An Islamic mosque built by a Mughal ruler in the 16th Century formerly stood on the site. A Hindu mob destroyed it in 1992.

The new temple was Modi’s way of showing how Hinduism came before other faiths in the technically secular country, which is also the world’s largest democracy, Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University political scientist Zoya Hasan told the World.

The BJP is even expected to make gains in southern India, a wealthier part of the country where many folks speak languages other than Hindi and don’t necessarily feel enthusiastic about Hindu nationalism. In Kerala, for example, noted the Financial Times, beef-eating Muslims and Christians comprise half the population. Hindus venerate cows.

Still, critics of Modi abound. Editors at World Politics Review argued that the prime minister has been corroding India’s democracy by privileging India’s Hindu roots. His nationalist agenda has put him on a collision course with Pakistan and China; moved him to attempt to strip Indian citizenship from Muslims of Bangladeshi origins and fast-track non-Muslim immigrants’ citizenship status; and led him to turn a blind eye to Hindu-perpetrated violence.

He has suppressed religious minority communities, sometimes through violence – as the Council on Foreign Relations documented – and silenced journalists with terrorism charges and other assaults on the freedom of the press.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam anthropologist Sandhya Fuchs wrote in the Conversation that Modi has also been seeking to expand his powers through reforms that would increase his influence over the justice system, the kind of moves that so-called illiberal, democratically elected leaders like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán have perfected.

Chatham House researchers, on the other hand, admitted that India’s government had probably become less liberal. But they also thought that the country had become better governed. Modi has instituted digitally based government services that have been remarkably effective and efficient. He’s built millions of toilets to address India’s serious public health problem of open defecation, added CNET. He approved new laws guaranteeing seats for women in parliament, too, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. And he’s toughened penalties for rape, even as sexual assaults have risen during his tenure.

Those, say commentators, are the kitchen-table issues that matter to voters.

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