The Platform

Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigning.

Narendra Modi’s narrow victory for a third term highlights deep socio-political and economic challenges, raising concerns about the future of democracy and minority rights under his leadership.

As Narendra Modi secures a third term as Prime Minister of India, the aftermath of the recent elections paints a picture far from triumphant. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may have claimed victory, the margin was narrower than anticipated, revealing cracks in the seemingly impenetrable facade of Modi’s leadership. This underwhelming victory holds significant implications for India’s socio-political landscape, raising pressing questions about the nation’s future trajectory under Modi’s rule.

Central to the discourse surrounding Modi’s tenure is the relentless targeting of minorities by the BJP, a trend that has only intensified in recent years. From the implementation of controversial citizenship laws to the propagation of Hindu nationalist rhetoric, Modi’s government has fostered an atmosphere of fear and marginalization among minority communities. Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and Dalits have all found themselves increasingly vulnerable amid rising communal tensions and discriminatory policies.

One of the most contentious moves by the Modi government was the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in 2019. This law fast-tracked citizenship for non-Muslim immigrants from neighboring countries, sparking nationwide protests and accusations of religious bias. Additionally, the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) threatened to disenfranchise millions, particularly Muslims, who could not furnish sufficient documentation to prove their citizenship.

Furthermore, incidents of mob violence and hate crimes targeting minorities have become alarmingly common under Modi’s rule. Lynchings of Muslims and Dalits by cow vigilante groups have instilled a sense of fear and insecurity among these communities. Religious conversions and attacks on places of worship have also risen, exacerbating religious tensions and fracturing the social fabric of the nation.

Economic growth, touted as a cornerstone of Modi’s governance agenda, has failed to translate into tangible improvements for the country’s impoverished masses. Despite India’s impressive GDP figures and claims of industrialization, the benefits of economic development have remained concentrated in the hands of a privileged few. Millions of Indians continue to grapple with poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to basic amenities, underscoring the persistent disparities that plague Indian society.

The Modi government’s flagship economic initiatives, such as “Make in India” and “Digital India,” have failed to address structural issues and create meaningful employment opportunities. The informal sector, which employs a significant portion of the Indian workforce, has been particularly hard-hit by demonetization and the hasty implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Small businesses have struggled to adapt to the new tax regime, leading to closures and job losses.

The case of Meghalat in Maharashtra serves as a microcosm of the BJP’s underwhelming performance on the ground. Despite promises of development and progress, the reality for many residents of Meghalat paints a starkly different picture. Basic infrastructure remains inadequate, healthcare facilities are substandard, and unemployment rates soar, exposing the hollowness of the BJP’s rhetoric of prosperity.

Moreover, Modi’s government has faced mounting scrutiny on the international stage, particularly in the wake of allegations of extrajudicial involvement in the killings of Sikh leaders abroad. The revelations of Indian government agencies’ purported role in these incidents have strained diplomatic relations with key allies such as the United States and Canada, casting a shadow over India’s global standing and reputation.

As Modi embarks on his third term, the looming question on everyone’s mind is whether this tenure will deviate from the patterns of the past. Will minorities continue to live under the specter of persecution and discrimination? Will economic inequality persist, exacerbating social divisions and unrest? Will dissent be met with increasingly authoritarian measures, further eroding democratic freedoms?

The answers to these questions remain uncertain, but the stakes could not be higher. Unless substantive changes are instituted, Modi’s India risks descending further down a dangerous path of division, inequality, and authoritarianism. The onus is on Modi and his government to heed the voices of the marginalized, address socio-economic disparities, and uphold the principles of democracy and pluralism.

Modi’s underwhelming victory in the recent elections serves as a sobering reminder of the challenges facing India as it navigates the complexities of governance in the 21st century. The narrow margin of victory, coupled with mounting domestic and international scrutiny, underscores the urgent need for introspection and reform within the corridors of power. As Modi embarks on his third term, the choices made in the coming years will shape the destiny of the world’s largest democracy, with far-reaching implications for its citizens and the global community alike.

Zahra Batool teaches International Relations. Her areas of interest are Pak-India relations, Pak-Afghan relations, and South Asia.