Friday, May 16, 2014
India's Cataclysmic Election & Narendra Modi
India's poor voted to no longer be poor.
That's the level best I can do in trying to get across to Americans the scope and significance of India's election returns, which started coming in to us last night and continued throughout the day. The scope of Narendra Modi's victory can hardly be overstated. In fact, it left virtually all political observers in and out of India grasping for words, for metaphors, for some image that can adequately convey what is clearly a historical turning point for the world's largest democracy and, consequently, the world itself.
Modi's political party, the center-right Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, won in almost every state, in every direction throughout India, in areas where it hadn't won for a long time and in many cases where it never had before. In India's parliamentary system, a total of 272 seats are needed to form a government and for the last several decades they have been coalitions of various parties, with the Congress Party ruling for the most part. Congress is the party of Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and most recently Sonia Gandhi, who took over after the assassination of Rajiv, her husband. These Gandhis have no relation to India's most famous one, Mahatma Gandhi.
Modi was the former Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat, population 50 million. His achievements there were nothing less than spectacular, ensuring steady power to homes and businesses, clean water, sound education to every level of society and more. In short, Gujarat worked because Modi worked. He took his tested accomplishments to the nation and, fundamentally, asked it if it wanted to stay poor under Congress and its allies or if it was ready for the future, for India's destiny. The answer astonished even the most jaded.
The BJP won a governing majority outright, with 285 seats. Together with parties aligned with it, the number reaches 340 out of a total of 543 seats. India has never seen election results like this. I won't belabor the details here because I wanted to give Americans a quick understanding of this election, the consequences which will play out dramatically in the next five years.
However, readers should know that in the West the backlash against Modi has already begun. Why might this be? Because India has slaughtered liberalism on a scale unprecedented in the modern age. Everything generally liberal or progressive in the West was embodied in the Congress Party. A nation of more than one billion has turned its back on it; from this there is no return.
Consequently liberals in the West, in the media and academe, will say the usual tired things about Modi they said about Reagan, or Thatcher, or to a lesser extent Deng Xiaoping, each a leader who transformed their country.
Don't buy the criticism, especially that Modi ignored communal rioting in 2002 that left many dead, mostly Muslims. That charge has been thoroughly vetted in India and was found to be without merit. This doesn't stop Westernized Indian liberals like the ridiculous Pankaj Mishra from claiming the world's largest democracy just elected a mass murderer. Right. Couldn't he at least have worked in climate change to the mix? In America, the once respected magazine The New Republic was hot off the blocks in making a similar but less pointed case against Modi. Yes, that's all they've got but a wholesale rejection of liberalism in India puts the entire world's liberal agenda in peril. Good.
While I said at the start that India's poor no longer wished to remain so, clearly most other segments of society in the world's most diverse country also saw something in voting for Modi. There is no other way to explain 340 seats in parliament. Remember this when the intellectual thugs and despots of the Left come calling to trash this election and results.
Yet, if you're for the advancement of the human condition, if you're for the dignity of the human person, if you're for compassion instead of suffering, if you're for the equality of women, if you're for the advancement of culture, technology and knowledge, you'll welcome the advent of Prime Minister Modi.
But mostly, here's to the average Indian voter, literate or illiterate, who had the courage and genius to realize that the future does not come often in elections and as a nation seized it with both hands.