After 25 years of coalition governments, India has elected one of the strongest majorities in its brief history as a democracy. The question now is: Can prime minister-elect Narendra Modi deliver on his ambitious promises to get the economy of the world’s second-most populous country back on the growth track? The betting is that he will; the stock market in India jumped considerably higher on Friday after the Bharatiya Janata Party closed in on 300 seats in Parliament. “India has won!” Mr. Modi tweeted, and he may be right.
The scale of Mr. Modi’s victory is stunning. But then, everything about India’s democracy is off the charts. There were 814 million people eligible to vote during the five-week election period; more than 550 million used their franchise to elect Mr. Modi’s party. That outcome is a stark break with the past and a rejection of the Indian National Congress, the party that has dominated Indian politics for better or worse since independence in 1947.
In victory, Mr. Modi has captured the aspirations of a younger generation of voters who turned out in record numbers and for whom the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has controlled the Congress carries little currency. These are voters born well after independence and for whom that historic struggle is ancient history. What they see is a country that has failed to keep pace with its economic competitors, whose GDP is closer to the size of Canada’s than it is to that of the United States, China and Japan, in spite of its immense population and potential. They are fed up with the over-regulation of business in favour of interest groups and with systemic corruption. In Mr. Modi they see a self-made man, the son of a grocer rather than a scion of the establishment, who reined in corruption and bureaucracy as chief minister of his home state of Gujarat. Mr. Modi represents the opportunity to rise into better conditions, and they want a piece of that.
There are concerns that the darker side of Mr. Modi’s authoritarian streak and his party’s Hindu nationalism will surface now that he has a majority. But that is only speculation. Party officials say they intend to govern for all Indians, including the country’s 150 million Muslims. And it makes more sense for a prime minister who is committed to economic rejuvenation to provide unity and stability than division and fear. Mr. Modi and the BJP have gotten the world’s attention. This is India’s moment, and they should seize it.
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