Narendra Modi Takes Oath As Prime Minister for the Third Time, This time with “Checks and Balances”

Narendra Modi takes oath as India's Prime Minister for the third time, leading a coalition government after failing to secure a majority in the recent elections, amidst growing discontent and concerns over his party's radical nationalism.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

Today, Narendra Modi of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) took the oath of office as India’s Prime Minister for the third time for a five-year term. He leads a coalition administration after failing to win a majority in recent elections. Fortunately for him, the BJP’s pre-poll allies did a better job of winning votes. The bloc led by Modi is called the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The ceremony was attended by leaders from five minor nations, with some of the opposition staying away.

The prime minister’s swearing-in ceremony has been postponed by one day. The victors did not agree on the new government’s structure and power distribution due to the unfavorable election results for Narendra Modi.

Elections to the lower house of the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) began mid-April and were held in seven phases (one polling day each week for seven macro-regions). They concluded at the end of May. The country has about a billion voters, and a regulation states that citizens should not have to travel more than two kilometers to reach their polling place. Thus, polling stations were established even in the barren mountains and protected forests, where only priests and monks lived. In India, voting is typically done with electronic voting machines. Due to doubts raised over the hacking of these machines, the voter could see printed receipts, which were also used to count if these machines malfunctioned or in case of a recount. 

This entire process cost India five US dollars for each voter, even though roughly half of the population lives on three dollars per day.

This is one of the reasons why residents have accumulated numerous grievances against the government. Instead of modernizing services, investing in technology, and developing new infrastructure, the government strives to redistribute the country’s riches by giving money to various needy groups. The money is quickly spent, but life does not improve—or, more specifically, not as quickly as Indians would like.

Another reason is the ruling BJP’s very radical nationalism, which includes a religious component in Indian culture and is directed against other religions (although not ethnicities or languages), particularly Muslims.

Before the elections, BJP leaders increased their radical rhetoric about occupiers and freeloaders, allowing its primary competitor, the Indian National Congress (INC), to rally minorities and oppressed (for example, caste-based) groups around them. INC is headed by the sixth generation of the Gandhi-Nehru family.

The ruling party used charges of clan corruption, collusion with Muslims, and a misinterpreted past to battle the opposition, not limiting itself to just words. The current Gandhi—Rahul—is under investigation and could wind up in jail after the elections, and some of the party’s money was frozen prior to the elections to prevent its use. Many of the popular leaders from smaller parties are already in jail.

However, the BJP’s major goal was to focus on Modi personally, expecting that part of his popularity (he is a popular leader these days) would be transferred to local candidates. However, this did not work everywhere; it alarmed voters in some regions and social groups. At some point, the situation began to resemble a personality cult, flourishing against the backdrop of threats from the government to seize even more power and suppress all “internal enemies.”

This could have appeared threatening, and ultimately, the country’s electoral system (minus the official one) worked against the BJP. The Indian Parliament, much like the British Parliament that inspired its parliamentary system, consists only of single-member district representatives who win by a simple majority in the very large and very complex constituencies of India. Those Indians who did not align with the “standards” of the BJP preferred the opposition with its inclusive slogans of equality and brotherhood. These were not necessarily INC candidates but often its regional allies from other parties (a total of 26), united in an electoral bloc with the acronym INDIA.

The end result for Modi was good in appearance but devastating in terms of his stated intentions. His campaign slogan was “Now 400!” which meant 400 seats for party members and allies in the 543-seat parliament, but his party only secured 240 seats, falling short of the its prior single-party majority. Both the BJP and Modi have kept power, but they will have to share it with allies, bloc members, including posts and resources. Without them, they would no longer be the majority.

Meanwhile, the Gandhi party quadrupled its deputies, which they saw as a significant recovery in comparison to the prophesied eventual collapse. If a party (but not a bloc) wins more than 10% of the seats, it acquires formal opposition status and additional opportunities. In the parliament on which Modi relied for the last five years, there was no such opposition at all. He may have forgotten what that is. Perhaps this explains why he overestimated his popularity.

Voters entrusted Modi with the country for another five years while sending a clear message that they wanted more. Or perhaps something entirely different, especially when it comes to pressure on non-Hindu communities.

If nothing changes, the Gandhi party will win the next elections as it gains fresh investors and momentum in its campaign to reclaim power. They are currently on the rise, whereas Modi’s party appears to be in decline.


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