Indian Elections

Article by: Razel S.

Edited by: Woosuk K.

Visual by: Yana P.

Around 900 million voters are awaiting April 11th, the day in which they could have their voices heard in one of the globally largest elections. Some citizens around the world may be intimidated by the complexity of the Indian elections with its multitude of states and cultures and may choose to tune out. Many would say this is a mistake. The Indian elections could very well shake up the global economy and geopolitical landscape.

The majority Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader, Narendra Modi, will be seeking reelection after its landslide victory in 2014. In recent years, the administration has been faced with a variety of issues such as increased unemployment, sectarian violence, frustration from local farmers, and a growing disillusionment towards politicians by the general public.

Despite assertive cover-up attempts by the government, in 2017, the unemployment rate was leaked. The 6.1 percent unemployment was triple the rate five years earlier, which translates to over 30 million people who cannot find jobs. Recent reports by the Human Rights Watch have also stated that 90 percent of religion-based hate crimes in the last decade took place while Mr. Modi was in office. The organization has accused the Indian government of letting most murders of religious minorities go unpunished. The farm crisis in India has also deepened as the election nears. A rise in input prices and a fall in domestic product prices have occurred in India due to rising yields and abundant harvests. Diesel prices have also surged by 26 percent last year, which has made tilling fields, harvesting and transporting products more expensive for India’s 263 million farmers who use diesel tractors. Finally, the Pew Research Center has found that “most Indians see little progress on key issues over the past five years”. Statistics have shown that “Just one-in-five (21%) say job opportunities have gotten better, while 67% think things have gotten worse (including 47% who say much worse). A similar share believes prices of goods and services (19%), corruption (21%) and terrorism (21%) have gotten better.”

With an array of challenges, the BJP faces large opposition from the Congress Party, headed by Rahul Gandhi, who belongs to the country’s most influential political dynasty. However, other regional parties also wield significant influence across the country, which may determine Modi’s chances for reelection.

Senior Tanvi A. believes that she has gained significant insight into Indian elections as she gained a more global outlook. “I’ve gained a lot of open-mindedness and international exposure by living outside of India because I’ve interacted with people from different countries, so my approach to elections in India is pretty balanced.” She talked about the growth of her analysis into the elections and how she differentiated candidates. “I’ve realized over the years that there are more things to take into account than just the charisma of politicians, but also their plans and ideologies as they can really shape the future of the country and always need to keep in mind what the citizens need.”

Sophomore Suman P. thinks that these elections have implications beyond a national level. “I mean, it’s a turn of a new era for Asian politics, as many Asian countries gain global influence, and with the deteriorating China v. US relations, and how Pakistan and North Korea, and other such nations, gain more international condemnation, it’s certain that the latter half of the 21st-century geopolitics will take place in Asia. And in such regions, leaders define their country’s policy and it’ll be very interesting to see India’s take on this.”

Senior Harini R. especially knows that she is impacted by her country’s elections even though she lives internationally. “I don’t get to see the first hand consequences as those who reside at home, but it nonetheless impacts me because each candidate has a different agenda for our country. For example, addressing the growing rape culture is critical and that’s something I’m terrified of when I go back. We’re ranked as the #1 unsafe country for females, and that’s my population demographic being affected. Whether I’m there to feel the direct consequences or not, as a citizen it’ll always terrify me because at the end of the day, that’s my home.”

She also thinks that the international community should be aware of the elections due to its influence on global politics. “The international community needs to understand this more. The India Pakistani conflict had been a silent, forgotten feud over the decades and it’s roots stem from religion, culture, and colonisation. It was a messy split and the fighting never ceased. With such hatred comes rash actions with civilian lives being affected. The threat of a full fledged war is so close by, and as a country who contributes a lot to global trade and GDP, the consequences of India going to war are gonna have an economic toll on other countries. People need to understand this. It’s not an isolated conversation, it’s a global one. These politics can get messy, and that’s even more incentive to know what’s happening.”

The Indian elections should definitely be an event that all global citizens watch closely due to its effect on the global economy and geopolitics. The implications of these elections cannot be understated and people from all aspects of the ISM community regardless of their passport should analyze its results closely.