By: Marko Ulvila, Policy advisor of Satu Hassi MEP (Greens/FI), Member of Green League Finland
The results of the one month long Indian parliamentary elections were announced 16 May. The Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) increased its vote share to 31 % and got a simple majority in the lower house (Lok Sabha). Ruling Indian National Congress was devastated and left only with 44 seats out of 543, though attaining 19 % of the vote. Regional parties in Tamil Nadu, Orissa and West Bengal did well but the ones in Hindi heartland lost badly. Also the Communist parties lost significantly. The electorate had become frustrated with the Congress rule and only the BJP with Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate was able to mobilise support in significant parts of the sub-continent.
The new Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that rouse from the anti-corruption/pro-democracy movement did very well for a first timer, but fell short of the unrealistic expectations. It got 4 MPs from Punjab, 33 % of votes in Delhi, second place in Varanasi and became number 4..5 in several places. However, the miracle performance in Delhi Assembly elections in December (28 seats out of 70) was repeated only in Punjab. The national vote share was 2 %.
The turn-out increased significantly to 66 %, some 540 million citizens vent to vote. Though by and large the elections would be rated as free and fair, there were significant number of irregularities and violations of the Model Code of Conduct, some of them have led to corrective measures. Election funding was estimated to be around 5 bn$, three times more than five years ago. Most of corporate funding went to the BJP. Direct violence and election related murders were estimated to be at a lower level than before. Small parties are questioning the first-past-the-post electoral system, but there is no major debate on more democratic/representative alternatives.
Narendra Modi will now become India’s 13th prime minister. He enters the position from long-term chief ministership of Gujarat where he is known for two things: inability to prevent large scale pogrom against Muslim communities and to bring to justice the organisers and culprits in 2002, and promoting fast modernisation and growth by effective pro-business governance.
The new government is expected to focus almost single-mindedly on growth agenda. This means push for high-ways, high-speed railways, transversal of river flows, energy production from all sources and faster and easier access to natural resources for the industries. Given the high population densities and huge disparities, this will cause displacement with inadequate compensations of hundreds of thousands of poor people, particularly from indigenous, minority and low-cast/dalit communities.
Although Modi has promised inclusive and pro-people governance in his initial speeches, the Hindutva agenda will be pushed strongly by the religious organisation that has created the BJP party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Polarisation among religious line (Hindu vs Muslim mainly) and to some extent on caste lines (upper casts vs dalits) is likely to increase and can take also violent forms. Also relations with the neighbouring Muslim countries are likely to become tense, and Hindu politicisation in Nepal my also bring further instability.
Though the priority for growth will cause increasing greenhouse gas emissions and destruction of natural habitats, there are some positive indications on environmental front. To clean up the holy river Ganga, Modi is likely to promote modern sewage water treatment regime in the watershed. Secondly, to reduce dependency of fossil fuel imports there will be push for improved efficiency and renewable sources.
05/21/2014 – 00:00