In a few weeks time will take place the largest democratic exercise on the planet. India will be voting in its parliamentary general election. In a country of 1.3 BILLION people, a whopping 900 MILLION people will be voting. In contrast, in the 2016 US election- a tiny 137 million Americans voted. Indian electoral process is vibrant and Indians take a lot of pride in their democratic right to vote and let their voices be heard. It is a real feat, fair and free elections for almost a Billion people. Utilizing a remarkable cutting edge technology, it is the only country that uses predominantly an electronic voting system, for casting and counting of votes. Almost a Billion votes and the results can start to take shape in a matter of hours!
Which brings me to my point, why this particular election is so crucial and effects not just the future of India but the entire world by proxy. We are living in an interesting conjuncture point in the evolution of our country. People who may not know much about the history of Indian polity, will be surprised to know that in the 70 years post colonial invasion, 60 of these years have seen one political party, called the Congress party, in power. This is a dynast party and includes past prime ministers like Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi and Dr. Mahmohan Singh. There has been a hegemony for governance in this country, which has had negative consequences such as corruption, lack of accountability, fascist rule and dynastic elevation.
Only in 10 of those years did we see another party at the helm namely the current government- Modi’s party, The BJP- Bharatiya Janata Party which is a nationalistic party, which takes pride in Indian history, values and culture and puts the country first. It also happens to be the largest party in the world by size due to its 110 million members.
Lets not make any qualms about it- India needs a strong mandate moving ahead in 2019. You may think it is a shoe in for a strong global leader like Modi, however, anti- incumbency and negative media propaganda as well a common obsession to unseat Modi from power has bought a lot of regional parties together on one side. This opposition is spearheaded by the Congress party, which is a mere shadow of what it once used to be. All these opposition parties offer no solutions and only share a common disdain of the party and leader in power.
A strong mandate will let important laws and issues to be debated and passed in parliament. With a weaker mandate and fragmented coalition government, several regional parties will be fighting for space for their own state level issues and the larger national issues like national security, economy, job creation, will be neglected. There is a growth momentum now which will come to a halt.
The 2014 general elections saw the biggest mandate over the past 70 years for Narendra Modi’s BJP Party. They got 305 seats out of 550 and crossed the needed 272 mark on their own ensuring that they don’t need to appease smaller parties for the sake of votes.
A lot has been done in the last 5 years, during Modi’s reign. India is shining on the global stage, Modi seen as one of the strongest leaders globally, fastest growing economy, becoming the global leader not just in AI and space programs but also as a spiritual teacher of the world.
Perhaps the one issue that affects the world at large is the fight against terrorism. Particularly radical Islamic terrorism by groups such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Mohammed and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen which have an active base in Pakistan and have been known to harbor and train known terrorists like 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden, 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar. These terrorist organizations have killed hundreds of thousands of Afghans, thousands of US troops in Afghanistan and surprisingly Tens of thousands of their own Pakistanis as well.
At the wake of dastardly Pulwama attacks in Kashmir in February, the worst ever in 30 years, where 45 Indian armed forces have been martyred, the threat of radical Islamic terrorism is at its height. The involvment of state funded terrorism, Pakistan, has alarmed the world with most international leaders condemning this attack and pressuring Pakistan to take drastic steps to curb this terrorism.
Religious terrorism is the biggest hurdle towards global peace that is facing the planet today and more needs to be done to address this problem. We have seen a new India rise to the occasion that retaliated by using air strikes and wiping out 350 of the jihadists in at these training camps. It showed the enemy and the world that we have a zero tolerance to terrorism policy and that serious actions will be taken. A strong message has been sent out and a different election result in the 2019 may push back this military stance back several years where there was absolutely no response to the famous Mumbai terrorist attacks
India is at an exciting point where the size of its population is finally an asset instead of a liability. In the next 10 years, India will move to being the 3rd largest economy, with one of the strongest militaries and second largest consumer market. It is in India’s interests that it appoints the right kind of decisive, strong forward thinking leadership to see it through the future.
Hopefully common sense will prevail and the people of India will vote for their future. Regardless of which party comes to power, important to get a strong mandate so that parliament can govern on the issues that matter the most. Will it be “Phir Ek baar, Modi Sarkar”? Time alone will tell.
By Preity Upala, freelance Journalist from Los angeles, California, USA.