Can keep BJP Rajasthan
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The Indian Union elections regularly outdo themselves. How is it possible that this huge, always chaotic country can hold elections, which despite certain compromises are still generally astonished and respectfully recognized as somewhat legitimate elections worldwide? Countless are the curious stories about remote villages to which the electronic voting machines are transported in marches lasting days, about the elderly and the disabled who are carried to the election offices by election workers, about people who are on the move for hours and then into one to be able to queue up an endless line of people in front of the election office. Shahabuddin Yaqoob Qureishi, 2010-2012 chairman of the powerful National Electoral Commission, wrote in his recently published book entitled "The Making of an Undocumented Wonder" collected many such curious details and reported on them in a typically Indian balance between self-deprecating conversational tone and civic pathos. In the pictures of the voters from all classes, who with amused pride hold their index fingers up in the air, marked with the special ink after the election process, the view of the camera portrays an inwardly united society for a happy moment in a democratic consensus.
The gigantic dimensions of this latest and once again largest election in the world, the election of the 16th Lok Sabha, can best be read from the statistics. 814 million voters were called to one ballot in eight ballots in different regions of India. The 1.8 million electronic voting machines were moved from one region to the other, well guarded. 551 million votes for a total of 8,251 candidates were counted in the past few days in 968 centers in the presence of trained observers - that is, 66.38% of Indian voters actually voted - the highest voter turnout in union elections since 1984, as Rajiv Gandhi after the murder of his mother Indira Gandhi, he was lifted to the throne of the Prime Minister's office as a great beacon of hope and a major modernizer of the nation. At the time, voters trusted Rajiv Gandhi to get India out of stagnation "Hindu rate of growth" with an average annual gross domestic product growth of 3.5 percent and turn it into a modern superpower. From Rajiv Gandhi himself comes the winged word of India "on the way into the 21st century". His government promoted the development of large computers, had modern sewage treatment plants built and began tentative steps out of the "mixed economy" towards economic liberalization, which in the 1990s saved India from bankruptcy at the last moment and economic growth rates of sometimes over 10 percent produced per year. A development, of course, which benefited the urban middle class above all and which more or less bypassed the poor. The gap between rich and poor has widened over the past two decades.
The historical context
Much in India has changed dramatically in the past 30 years. The metropolises have once again grown tremendously, both in width and in height. But districts that are far away are moving closer together thanks to remarkably effective rapid transit systems. Construction and construction is taking place everywhere at an unbelievable pace - offices, apartment buildings, roads, railways and airports are springing up like mushrooms. The bottom line is that the supply of electricity and water has clearly improved. The widespread adoption of gas-powered engines and certain measures to control industrial emissions can be seen as a serious attempt to reduce the miserable air pollution in large cities. The enrollment rates are much better than 30 years ago, even if the quality of the state education system from elementary school to university leaves a lot to be desired in many places. Due to the high willingness of the Indian middle class to invest in the education of their own children, private schools and colleges are emerging all over India, even if, in addition to internationally competitive elite courses, a great deal of inferior quality is offered on the education market.
In general: the list of deficits is long, and many Indians have no hope whatsoever in the state. In 2004 the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led its national election campaign under Atal Bihari Vajpayee for a new edition of its coalition government under the slogan "Shining India". The voters no longer took this demonstrative national pride away from him and promptly re-elected the old Congress Party, controlled by Rajiv Gandhi's widow Sonia in the background, as the strongest party in government responsibility and reaffirmed it in 2009 - not because the voters were the nationalist nationalist Opposition party BJP rejected for ideological reasons, but mainly because they punished the ruling coalition under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. That benefited the good old Congress Party. Today, on the other hand, popular discontent is directed against the Congress Party, which is completely undressed.
Corruption scandals and, above all, economic growth falling below five percent have cast their shadow over the second legislature of Manmohan Singh. After ten years in the prime ministerial office, he now looks old and worn out. In the early 1990s, as Minister of Finance, he was the initiator of economic liberalization. As Prime Minister, on the other hand, he developed a reputation for procrastinating and blessing who was unable to take further steps towards liberalization or to deal with cases of corruption in his government. In addition, the rumor persisted that in reality Sonia Gandhi pulled the strings and systematically built up the next ancestor of the dynasty, her son Rahul Gandhi. The economic signals sent by the Singh government were not consistent. On the one hand poverty reduction programs, on the other hand economic liberalization, the foreign trade deficit has grown steadily in recent years, while the value of the rupee has fallen drastically.
Much has been written in the press around the world in recent months about future Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 63-year-old Narendra Modi is a die-hard political activist. His election campaign was an unequaled effort. Indian newspapers report that he held 437 election rallies and covered more than 410,000 kilometers in the election campaign. He gets the energy for this from his celibate life, it is rumored with respect. As Prime Minister (chief minister) he ran his home state of Gujarat, as it is called, like a company and, thanks to the above-average economic success in his home state, conveyed the reputation of the impartial doer, even the modernizer.
In this he seems a bit like the Rajiv Gandhi of the 1980s. Unlike Gandhi, however, who entered politics as an outsider from his mother after the death of his brother Sanjay, Modi has laboriously worked his way up politically over decades. But similar to how Rajiv Gandhi and his mother Indira Gandhi already dominated the Congress Party and led strongly personal election campaigns, Modi is now the undisputed leading authority in the BJP after this election campaign and the high election victory. Modi's authoritarian style was probably also the reason why the former party leader Advani had spoken out against his nomination as a top candidate. In the splendor of this extraordinary election victory, however, the internal party resistance to Modi no longer plays a role for the time being. Modes is the BJP, and the BJP is Modes.
As prime minister, Modi will have to reinvent himself. During the election campaign, he succeeded in presenting himself beyond the Hindu nationalist camp as an energetic advocate of the national consensus. The optimists among his opponents hope that it will stay that way. Rahul Gandhi, the leading candidate of the Congress party, was not even able to counter this self-confident image. Modi did not allow himself to be fooled by political opponents or journalists. The ideological background of the BJP's top candidate is undoubtedly worrying. Modi, who comes from a humble background, joined the Hindu militia "Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh" (RSS) as a teenager, where he worked his way up to "Pracharak" - a full-time appointment for a fully available employee. As such, he went into politics, became Prime Minister in Gujarat and is now moving to the top of the Union. Modi's political home is thus what is commonly understood by the term "Hindu nationalism".
So is Modi at heart a dangerous zealot who wants to remodel the entire state in the spirit of Hindu nationalism? There is some cause for concern. When Modi did not take a stand against the troublemakers and murderers in 2002 in view of the pogroms against Muslims after the arson attack on a procession with Hindu pilgrims coming from Ayodhya, what was known about him seemed to be confirmed: that he was in the minorities Saw foreign bodies in India, against whose collective punishment he has no serious objection. The guilt for weeks of inaction by the security forces remained on the shoulders of his Interior Minister at the time, who was serving a long prison sentence.
Modi's peculiar passivity at these events earned him international ostracism. In Europe and the USA, the Prime Minister in Gujarat was appointed persona non grata. It was not until October 2012 that the British High Commissioner James Bevan received him demonstratively in Delhi, which was tantamount to an act of rehabilitation, to which Modi submitted without objection. Later, the ten-year entry ban in the European Union and the USA was tacitly lifted.
Arvind Kejriwal's new "Aam Aadmi Party" (AAP) - the "common man's party", which emerged from the mass protests against corruption under the leadership of Anna Hazare a few months ago, would have been expected a few months ago to become a new nationally significant one To become a force in the Indian political circus between Congress, BJP and regional parties. As Prime Minister in Delhi, however, he acted clumsily and threw in the towel after 49 days in power when the BJP and Congress joined forces in opposition to his anti-corruption law for Delhi. In doing so, he has gambled away his sympathy with the voters. But he showed unusual courage when he dared to stand as a candidate in Varanasi of all places and run there against the overpowering Narendra Modi. Kejriwal puts his finger on the sore points of the political system like no other. Politics is quite a dirty business in India, which is about money, power and influence and often less about the real issues. It is a sad fact that around a fifth of the candidates for Lok Sabha, the Indian parliament, are involved in criminal justice proceedings, including murder.
As a party symbol, the AAP has the broom with which it wants to muck out this stable. Kejariwal accuses Modi of representing the interests of entrepreneurs and of not applying strict standards in the fight against corruption. Indeed: Modi is considered to be a modernizer and business promoter, but the issue of corruption is a hot topic that is easy to burn your fingers on. The high level of aggressiveness with which Modi led his counterattack against the little Kejriwal makes it clear that Modi senses a real challenge here. Kejriwal is in league with the Maoists, the Americans and other rabble.
Will Modi drive such aggressive tirades as prime minister? The Congress Party has so far been practically unable to stand up to him. She will now slide into a painful phase of self-reflection and above all be preoccupied with herself. Rahul Gandhi is politically finished, but there are no new leaders in sight - at least not those who have what it takes to challenge the BJP. He will probably soon be traveling to the Muslim pilgrimage site of Ajmer in Rajasthan, as many of his predecessors did at the beginning of their terms in office. He will now try to allay the fears of the minorities, also to get his back on his economic policy. At the same time, however, he must also keep the radicals in his own party in view.
It is unclear how he continues to pursue the catalog of demands of Hindu nationalism on the state, for example in education or in foreign policy. Is he going to act confrontationally against China and Pakistan and increase the military budget even further? If, by chance, economic growth rises again from below five percent to at least eight percent, the voters will hold the rod for the time being and perhaps also enjoy a more aggressive demeanor. In light of the prevailing political conditions, the minorities will in any case endeavor to disappear under the radar of the new Prime Minister.
This comment was also published in a similar version on the homepage of the Südasienbüro e.V. Bonn.
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