Narendra Modi: A ‘Muscular Champion’ of New India

India, the largest democracy in the world, has overwhelmingly voted in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 353 of the 542 seats in the Lok Sabha (Lower House) and decimated its rival the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) who could barely secure 92 seats. By all estimates, NDA victory was a foregone conclusion; however the margin of victory is a reflection of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma or the ‘X factor’, his popularity among the people, and above all his delivery of governance and development during the last five years since BJP came to power in 2014.

The latter is significant and is symbolized by numerous policies that were pro-poor. Welfare oriented programmes such as housing, electrification, cooking gas connections for low income groups, health, hygiene and sanitation schemes, education policies, support for farmers and providing financial security to the poor were the hallmarks of Prime Minister Modi’s initiatives. These were implemented with sophistication and cut across the traditional caste divides to ensure direct benefits to all.

The brutal killing of 40 personnel of India’s Central Reserve Police Force by the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pulwama in the state of Jammu and Kashmir just two months before the elections was indeed a testing time for Modi’s leadership. While playing to the gallery and threatening Pakistan with consequences, he ordered the Indian Air Force to carry out strikes at terrorist training camp at Balakot deep inside the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The Indian public responded with accolades and saw in him a leader who could deliver security to the nation. This brand of aggressive response was perhaps the most electrifying among the masses who endorsed his approach to counter terrorism as also Pakistan.

While it is fair to acknowledge the trustworthiness of Prime Minister Narendra Modi among the Indians, it is worth mentioning that the UPA, a coalition of left and centre-left political parties, could not present a credible political alternative. They were a rag-tag coalition and could not generate enthusiasm among the voters.

Given his penchant for modern technology, Prime Minister Narendra Modi fuelled his political and development discourse through social media by using Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, and other electronic platforms such as television and radio. Besides, BJP’s army of workers led by the charismatic Amit Shah was a catalyst and aggressively promoted the party agenda through a door to door campaigning.

A recurring theme in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches in the run up to the elections was nationalism that is free of caste, religion and gender. Although some in India believe that Prime Minister Modi represents the ‘Hindu juggernaut’, there is no doubt that he is a ‘muscular champion’ of ‘New India’ who advocates a strong sense of nationalism. Significantly, his ‘tough-on-terror’ approach as showcased in Kashmir appeals to the young Indians. The BJP under Modi’s leadership can be expected to pursue its ideological agenda, but it will be conscious of the aspirations and ambitions of the Indian minorities including Christians and Muslims.

At the foreign policy level, ‘neighbourhood first’ will remain a top priority for Prime Minister Modi. New Delhi’s engagements with great powers will flourish, however the biggest foreign policy challenge would be China particular his ability to extract a reasonably good agreement from President Xi Jinping on the boundary dispute. The United States is a strategic partner but India would not overly gravitate towards Washington.

Russia is and would continue to be India’s strategic partner. Both countries should pursue a robust cooperative agenda in Afghanistan, on terrorism through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and take leadership roles in many other regional security mechanisms. India may even explore President Putin’s good offices to impress upon Pakistan to shut terror camps and organizations operating on its soil. In essence, Russia-India relations would gain ascendency and added vibrancy. The positive chemistry between President Putin and Prime Minister Modi would continue given that there are several commonalities in their understanding and practice of nationalism. 

Dr Vijay Sakhuja is former Director of National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi, India.


Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.