What do Indians expect from 2014
Vaishnav: "Indians Expect Rapid Economic Turnaround"
DW: The BJP is the first party in 30 years to achieve an absolute majority in India. What does victory mean for the country?
Milan Vaishnav: It is a truly historic victory. The fact that the BJP managed to get an absolute majority in parliament is completely unprecedented. Since India's independence, only the Congress Party has managed to do this.
What expectations do the Indians have of a government under Modi?
The expectations are very high. Modi crossed the country tirelessly, promising to revive India's economy, create millions of new jobs and curb persistently high inflation after an election victory. A quick economic turnaround is now expected of him.
What are the challenges for the new government?
There are several economic hurdles. Initially, the BJP only controls the lower house of parliament. In the House of Lords, however, there is no majority. The second limitation concerns the Indian political system. Because the country is increasingly governed by its states instead of the central government in New Delhi. That means Modi will have less leverage as prime minister than some of his predecessors to kickstart an economic reform agenda. On social and political issues he will have to send a clear signal to show that he is the prime minister of all of India and not just the Hindu majority. Many minorities will view him with great skepticism because of his BJP's connections to the extra-parliamentary, Hindu-nationalist movement Sangh Parivar - not to mention the unrest in Gujarat in 2002, which took place under his very eyes as prime minister of this state. In any case, only a third of Indians actually voted for the BJP. The rest of the vote went to the Congress Party and many smaller regional parties. He still has to win over these citizens.
What were the main topics in the elections?
It was mainly about economic content. According to polls, the country's declining economic strength affected most voters. In addition, there was a lack of development, jobs, corruption and high inflation. Issues such as law and order or questions of identity were less pronounced, but should not be neglected.
What factors contributed to the success of the BJP?
First, the party agreed early on Modri as a candidate. This enabled her to build him into a credible leader with great charisma - in contrast to the Congress Party, which Rahul Gandhi, vice president of the party and heir of the Nehru Gandhi dynasty, did not make its candidate. The Indians also like the message of the BJP. At least at the national level, it stands for strong government and development. The general orientation of the party around the development of India is largely congruent with the concerns of the voters. Modi was also careful to target the party's message to Indian youth and the growing urban population - populations that the Congress Party had ignored. And if not, she promised them social assistance rather than growth, employment and social mobility.
Modi, who has been Prime Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat until now, has been praised for its economic success there. Can the Gujarat model really be implemented across India?
It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible. With New Delhi's limited state power, sprawling central bureaucracy and the need to forge coalitions, Modi will have to make compromises that he simply did not have to contend with when he ruled Gujarat for the past twelve years.
What impact will Modi's anticipated prime ministerial appointment have on neighboring countries like Pakistan and China?
Modi's mandate is first and foremost a domestic one. I think that in foreign policy, at least in the short term, we can expect more continuity than change. Modi realizes that hostilities with China or Pakistan would be bad for the markets, which in turn would undermine his own domestic agenda.
Unlike previous governments, the BJP will govern without the support of unruly partners. What impact could this have on the implementation of the urgently needed reforms?
The BJP will still have coalition partners that are part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). However, Modi will be in a much stronger position to plan cabinet meetings and dictate political priorities. But it would not surprise me either if the BJP tries to expand its alliances, be it by taking on new partners or external support to facilitate the work of the BJP in the House of Lords - and especially in the states.
Milan Vaishnav works for the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace in Washington. You can follow him on Twitter @ MilanV.
The interview was conducted by Gabriel Domínguez.
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