February 25, 2024

Meeting expectations


About a year ago Narendra Modi sat down with some of India’s best and brightest to mount what one election strategist called a “shock and awe” campaign.From an unmarked office in Gandhinagar, the capital of Modi’s home state of Gujarat, the young men and women, some on sabbaticals from firms like JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank, worked on turning a fragmented parliamentary election involving 543 seats into a presidential-style referendum on candidate Modi.In doing so, Modi cut loose from the traditional Delhi-based structure of his Bharatiya Janata Party and its apparatchiks and adopted the language of a youthful country eager for change, using everything from holograms to WhatsApp.The modern approach worked: just an hour into the counting, it was clear that the 63 year old Modi was heading for a stunning victory with the strongest mandate any Indian government has enjoyed for 30 years. On Monday, he was sworn in as India’s 15th prime minister.The BJP and its allies won 336 parliamentary seats, far ahead of the 272 majority required to rule. Even on its own, the BJP had crossed the halfway mark.So great appears to be the desire for change, especially among India’s middle class some 300 million strong, and so firmly has Modi stayed on message, that a dark chapter of violence against Muslims on his watch has mattered less and less to many voters.Modi, a Hindu nationalist, has long faced allegations that he looked the other way when Hindu mobs went on a rampage of revenge against Muslims in Gujarat after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was torched in 2002.He has denied the allegations and a Supreme Court ordered inquiry absolved him of responsibility.Modi has refused calls for remorse for the lives lost, most of them from the sizeable Muslim minority of more than 150 million people. Instead he has donned the mantle of an economic moderniser, building on Gujarat’s mercantile traditions.”Development is the only agenda that can save the country,” Modi said in a victory speech in Gujarat last week during which he also called for an end to divisive politics.”Development is the solution to all problems, development is the cure for all diseases,” he told thousands gathered there.


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