Home Analysis Observations of an Expat: Modi – The Winner Loses

Observations of an Expat: Modi – The Winner Loses

Observations of an Expat: Modi – The Winner Loses

Narendra Modi’s Baharatiya Janata Party lost its absolute majority in parliament. But with the help of 23 smaller parties has cobbled together a working coalition.

By Tom Arms

Narendra Modi won and lost India’s general election.

His Baharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost its absolute majority in parliament. But with the help of 23 smaller parties has cobbled together a working coalition.

But more importantly, the BJP lost big in the expectation stakes. Modi’s party was predicted to romp home with 400-plus seats. This would have given the BJP the super majority it needed to complete the transformation of India from the world’s largest democracy to an autocratic Hindu nationalist nation.

As it is the BJP dropped from 303 to 240 seats. And, to add insult to injury, some of its biggest losses were in the BJP heartland of Uttar Pradesh.

Modi faces additional problems. A big chunk of his new coalition partners are secularists. They do not share his Hindu nationalist vision. This will make it difficult for 73-year-old Narendra Modi to achieve his goals in what is almost certain to be his third and final term as prime minister. And because Modi has stooped to cult politics to realize his ambitions, there is no BJP successor in sight.

Modi’s failed expectations has several causes. As usual, economic is near or at the top of the list. At a macro level India looks fantastic. GDP growth is an astonishing 8.4 percent a year.  There are 200 Indian billionaires, putting the sub-continent third behind the US and China. But trickledown economics have failed in India just like everywhere else. Twenty-two percent of Indians live below the world poverty line. The per capita income is $2,023 a year.

The number and quality of India’s higher education institutions has dramatically increased from 723 in 2014 to 1,113 in 2023. But so has youth unemployment figure at 23.22 percent. Many of the young people brandishing impressive university degrees have been forced to return to the countryside and poor paying agricultural jobs. So yes, there is a growing national pride. But its benefits are diluted by growing inequalities.

Another problem is the caste system which has inflicted Indian society for centuries. The British colonials imposed an affirmative action program which was later enshrined in the Indian constitution. This provided a guaranteed quota in parliament, jobs, education and other sectors for the Dalits (untouchables), other low castes and minorities such as Christians, Muslims and Anglo-Indians.

The problem was that no one knew for certain the size of the pool of Dalits in order to calculate a reasonable quota. This is because that there had been no caste census since before independence in 1947. Last September, however, there was just such a census in the Bihar state. It revealed that the size of the Dalit caste was much larger—and thus more of a problem– than expected.

India-Elections-2024-696x342Modi has elevated himself to the status of political demi-god. This has helped to secure his base but failed to broaden it as Indians fear the threat that cult politics has on their proud democratic traditions.

This has resulted in a call for a nationwide caste census and increased constitutional protection for the lower castes and minority groups. Such a move would put the BJP’s Hindu nationalism in a collision course with the Dalits who—up until this election—were Modi supporters. .

There are other areas of concern. Modi has elevated himself to the status of political demi-god. This has helped to secure his base but failed to broaden it as Indians fear the threat that cult politics has on their proud democratic traditions.

The threat is real. To reinforce his increasingly centralized foundations, Modi has introduced crony capitalism and significantly curbed freedom of press and speech. Journalists, politicians and academics who dare to criticize the Indian prime minister find themselves unemployed, harassed by the tax authorities or, in some cases, behind bars. The BBC’s offices were raided by tax authorities after it broadcast a program critical of Modi.

The opposition Congress Party fared much worse. Last year its dynastic leader Rahul Gandhi was convicted of defamation by a court in Modi’s home state of Gujarat. The conviction carried a two-year jail sentence and a bar on contesting any elected office. It required an international outcry before the Indian Supreme Court threw out the conviction.

But Modi did not stop there. Shortly before the election, two chief ministers belonging to the Congress Party were jailed and the party’s bank accounts were frozen by the tax authorities.

Most political pundits expected that the compounding problems would crush Congress at the polls. But the INDIAN Alliance which Congress leads won 230 seats. Gandhi declared the result “a moral and political defeat for Mr. Modi.”

It is too early to say for certain, but momentum appears to have shifted to Gandhi and the Congress party. The coming year will be an important barometer. Swathes of political power are devolved to the state governments. Over the next 14 months there will be five important state elections.

The condition of India’s democracy is important to the world. The sub-continent is neck and neck with China in population size. It will soon overtake Japan as the world’s third largest economy. According to Global Firepower its military establishment is the third largest in the world after the US and China. It is a nuclear power. As a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (along with the US, Japan and Australia), India plays an important role in containing and countering growing Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

It is vitally important that India’s political institutions have more in common with western democracies than with the autocracies of Moscow and Beijing. Certainly, India’s claim to the title of “The World’s largest democracy” was looking a bit dubious—until this week.

World-ReviewWorld Review

Sometimes the most shocking statements are the most obvious. Especially when they are spoken by those encumbered with having to be the most diplomatic.

This week President Joe Biden publicly stated what everyone knows but he has been reluctant to confirm: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dragging out the Gaza War as a way to stay in office.

He might have also added that the war is keeping Netanyahu out of prison as he has been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. As long as he is prime minister he cannot be tried.

The latest Israeli opinion polls indicate that if an election were held in Israel today Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition would win 46 seats compared to the opposition parties’ 68 seats. But, at the same time, polls show strong support for the war and its goal of eliminating Hamas. If Netanyahu achieves the total destruction of the enemy then the voters might just forgive him for creating the conditions that allowed the 7 October attack to happen.

Biden’s comments came in an interview with Time magazine and only a few days before he announced another plan to end the Gaza War. This one is in three phases.

Phase one would last six weeks and include a total ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. Some hostages would be released. Hundreds of Palestinians would be released from Israeli prisons and there would be an immediate and massive influx of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Under phase two the remaining hostages, including soldiers and the remains of any dead hostages would be released and the IDF would complete its withdrawal from Gaza. Phase three would involve reconstruction which would last three to five years. The two-state solution is not mentioned in this latest plan.

Despite the fact that President Biden has made it clear that there would be no future role for Hamas, the terrorist organisation has said that they view the plan “positively.”  Biden claimed that his phased proposal had been endorsed by the Israeli government, but then a spokesperson said: “Israel has not changed its conditions to reach a permanent ceasefire. That will only happen after our objectives are met including destroying Hamas’s military and governing capabilities.” He added that that is estimated to take seven months.

Meanwhile, a new front is opening on the border with Lebanon. Actually, it is an old front, but the fighting between Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel is worsening. Hezbollah is now using explosive drones which are more difficult for Israel’s iron dome to stop and can reach further south. Israel, for its part, is levelling the southern Lebanese city of Sidon. Within the Israeli cabinet there is talk of creating an Israeli-occupied “security zone” in southern Lebanon, similar to the one Israel maintained until 2000.

The US has responded to the Lebanon threat with another three-part plan. First part is a ceasefire to allow residents on both sides of the border to return to their homes. Phase two is US economic assistance for financially-strapped Lebanon and the final phase calls for a newly demarcated border to improve security.

The problem is that the negotiations are with the Lebanese government while the power is with Iran-backed Hezbollah. They are unlikely to accept any ceasefire until a truce is agreed and implemented in Gaza. And, as President Biden acknowledged, that truce is against the political interests of Bibi Netanyahu.


Europe’s far-right is expected to sweep the board in this weekend’s elections to the European Parliament. This could mean problems ahead as a center-left council and commission clash with a right-wing parliament.

This didn’t use to be a problem. It used to be that the European Parliament was a talk shop with limited oversight powers. The real power lay with the member states through the European Council which in turn effectively appointed the President of the European Commission and the 27 commissioners.

But over the years, increasing pressure has meant that more and more power is vested in the directly elected parliament rather than the indirectly elected council. Parliament has progressed from an advisory body to a co-decision maker.

Its largest influence is financial. The European Parliament is involved in the budgetary process at every stage, including approval, implementation and monitoring. A right-wing parliament is expected to clash with the commission on its in climate change budget.

Parliament also has to agree to the accession of any new members which could create problems for Ukraine, Georgia and some of the Balkan states. It has the right to scrutinize foreign and security policy and some of the expected intake of far-right MEPs have doubts about EU support for Ukraine and the isolation of Russia.

The European Commission is the EU equivalent of a cabinet and the parliament can convene inquiries to ask any embarrassing questions that it may feel like posing.

But the biggest problem could come over the election of a new commission president and the commissioners. The president is nominated by the council and elected by the parliament. The current president is Ursula von der Leyen. She is generally regarded as having done a good job during her first five-year term and wants a second crack at the whip.

The problem is that Ms Von der Leyen is a center-right politician from Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). In fact, most of the commission presidents have been pro-EU politicians chosen from Europe’s political center. Europe’s far-right nationalists may oppose Ms. Von der Leyen’s election. And if she squeezes past the likes of Spain’s Vox and France’s National Rally her choices for commissioners may run into difficulty.

The possibility of a clash seems almost inevitable if the far-right does as well as expected. It will be the first time that the Euro-skeptic nationalists will have power in an institution they instinctively dislike and distrust.


The Taiwanese recently voted into office an anti-Beijing president and a pro-Beijing (or at least Beijing-leaning) parliament. Those voters who want a more de facto independence from Mainland China are beginning to regret the parliament for which they voted.

The new president is Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). But parliament is dominated by the Kuomintang (KMT). In one of those difficult to understand ironies of history, the KMT was the party that lost the Chinese Civil War to the communists and is now the party seeking closer ties with the old enemy.

The KMT and its parliamentary partners the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) have used their majority in the legislative Yuan to pass constitutional amendments that give the Taiwanese parliament substantial new oversight and investigative powers. The Yuan can, for instance, now demand documents from any source on any issue. Failure to comply can result in a fine or prison sentence.

The anti-Beijing lobby has taken to the streets of Taipei to protest against the new laws. They fear that the KMT will use its new powers to gather secret information and leak it to the government in Beijing. Some members of the DPP have accused the Chinese Communists of being behind the legislation and say that it could be used against them in much the same way pro-Beijing laws have been used against dissidents in Hong Kong.

The KMT counter that they are just trying to make the government more accountable. They point out that the procedures they are introducing have been used in America for decades. The DPP argues: That is America. This is Taiwan.

Read: Observations of an Expat: Uncharted Waters


Tom Arms Journalist Sindh CourierTom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and the author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War” and “America Made in Britain.” You can subscribe to his regular blog at observationsofanexpat.substack.com



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