Election results will resonate globally The Statesman 12 Dec 2023
The recently concluded elections in five states, where the BJP won in three, were being closely monitored across the globe. The ruling BJP and its arch-rival, Congress, fought on opposing strategies, in what was considered as a semi-final before next year’s national elections. For the world, a BJP defeat in primary states would have meant a change in stance towards India, as it would have signalled a possible new government in 2024. Economic cooperation with India, investments and long-term defence collaboration could have witnessed a slow-down.
The rise of India has never been appreciated across the globe. In Jun this year, prior to PM Modi’s visit to Washington, TIME magazine in an article titled, ‘India’s worsening democracy makes it an unreliable ally,’ mentioned, ‘India has always been a flawed democracy.’ Freedom House, which evaluates democracies terms India as ‘partly-free,’ while the V-Dem project of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden describes India as an ‘electoral autocracy.’ At the same time, a Pew Research Survey shows that PM Modi has the highest global ranking as a national leader.
The official US government views on India are vastly different from that of its biased media. Commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, described PM Modi as the world’s most popular leader, terming him ‘unbelievable’ and ‘visionary.’ The White House defined India as ‘a vibrant democracy.’
The elections, conducted without any major incident, displayed that criticisms on India’s democratic credentials are ill-founded. There were no reports of large-scale rigging or fake voting as has happened in most parts of the world, including the US.
Stuffing ballot boxes and voter fraud is prevalent in the US, but it is Indian democracy which is questioned. Preventing the new leadership from taking office by violent means occurs in Washington, but India has a poorer democracy rating.
In India, the farmers protest was resolved with the government backing down, while in Canada, protesting truckers were manhandled, fined, bank accounts frozen and assets seized under Canada’s draconian ‘Emergency Act.’ Yet, India lacks human rights. Trump faces multiple court cases, largely fabricated, but if an Indian opposition leader is questioned for corruption, India faces global criticism.
Democratic principles and policies vary country to country and comparing India with the western model of democracy, which is flawed in its own way, is illogical.
Reasons why India faces global scrutiny are multi-fold. Firstly, some Indian journalists, who despise the ruling BJP for denying journalistic privileges, pour their frustration in writings for western media outlets as also in talks on global platforms, accusing the current dispensation of suppressing democratic rights. Secondly, few senior Indian politicians, frustrated by failures, criticize the current leadership of not adhering to democratic principles. When insiders project this view on the global stage, it is considered factual and hence carries weight.
Finally, what has hurt the west has been India’s foreign policy approach based on its national interests. India has disagreed with the US on their perceptions on Bangladesh and Myanmar as these are India’s neighbours and relations with them are based on national interest and not on US invented ‘rules-based order and democratic principles.’ India has also disagreed with the US perception on the Russia-Ukraine war, maintaining a neutral profile. Similar has been its approach on the Israel-Hamas clash.
India as a growing power, adopting an independent policy can impair western global leadership. Contrary is India’s rising military and economic might which cannot be ignored. India remains the only Asian nation to challenge Chinese hegemony and hence must be wooed. It is a major western partner in the Indo-Pacific as also possesses the economic might to support weaker nations, keeping them away from Chinese influence. Thus, while the west may dislike India’s independent strategic viewpoint, they are compelled to keep Delhi in humour, which is not a satisfactory setting.
The BJP victory has also resonated in Pakistan, which considers the party to be anti-Pakistan. The Dawn published an article titled, ‘India’s Modi seems unstoppable after state polls sweep.’ It mentioned, ‘India’s opposition faces a herculean task in next year’s general elections.’ The article signalled abject frustration. Simultaneously, an editorial in the same newspaper stated that India is ‘out of touch with the world despite claims to unparalleled adulation from everyone.’ An editorial in the Friday Times, titled, ‘India’s drift into electoral autocracy,’ mentions that the victory will move India into the ‘realm of electoral autocracy.’
For the world, the current Delhi dispensation cannot be written off. It remains most likely to retain power implying continuation of current policies. However, anti-India elements, critical of India’s rise, would now enhance their efforts to damage New Delhi’s global standing.
The Khalistan factor, both in Canada and the US, will witness a jump in tempo, backed by state intelligence agencies. It is possible that there would be increased protests threatening Indian diplomats and assets, hoping to influence Indian electorate in specific regions. Similarly, the timing of the Pannun accusation is just when the nation gears up for next year’s elections. The subject will be raised frequently. Neither the US nor Canada will accept India’s extradition demands, nor would curtail anti-India rhetoric.
In Feb this year, in an address at the Munich Security Conference, George Soros, known for his anti-Modi bias had stated, ‘Modi and business tycoon Adani are close allies. Their fate is intertwined. (The Hindenburg report on Adani) will significantly weaken Modi’s stranglehold on India’s federal government and open the door to push for much-needed institutional reforms.’ Interestingly, Adani was a major opposition ploy in the recently concluded elections, with little impact. Many organizations, including NGO’s, funded by Soros, would now begin projecting that India needs a change.
Global bodies conducting comparisons of nations have always placed India way below its true position, intending to lower its image. An example is the global hunger index which placed India at 107, below Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal, ignoring the fact that India was providing grains to Nepal and Sri Lanka. For a country of 1.4 billion, the sample size in the survey was just 3000.
As 2024 elections draw near, anti-India lobbies, desperate for change at the helm, will increase their traction. But the Indian voter will not be fooled easily.