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Smart Take | India's General Elections 2024: Prime Minister Modi Seeks Third Consecutive Term

April 23, 20242:08

Voters have begun casting ballots in India’s general elections, which will continue for the next six weeks until concluding on June 1. This is the largest-ever election in history, with approximately 970 million people out of a population of 1.4 billion eligible to vote. Michael Kugelman provides insights into why Narendra Modi remains popular despite high inflation and unemployment, what a Modi win could mean for democracy and secularism, and whether the opposition has been able to appeal to enough voters to end Modi’s decade in power.

Video Transcript

  • This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

    It's been a decade that Narendra Modi has been in power. He remains quite popular. This, of course, has been his second term that he's about to complete. He remains quite popular, despite how controversial he has been, in the eyes of many. And I think that if he is reelected and it's a very strong chance that he will be back, for a third term. The concerns that many have had about India will grow. 

    It's very well known that we have seen during Modi's term in power space for dissent shrink. We have seen growing crackdowns on dissent. And what's particularly concerning, for many observers of India, is that the country's secular traditions, which are constitutionally protected, appear to be, under peril due to Prime Minister Modi's strong emphasis on what is widely regarded as Hindu nationalism. 

    It's not surprising that many opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, the head of the Congress party, have built a campaign plank around this idea of needing to move forward and build an India that actually is supportive of all Indians, regardless of religion and so on. And that clearly is taking a very strong, you know, a very different position, from the one that that Modi has taken. 

    But the opposition, I would argue, in India is at the end of the day, relatively weak and divided. And you don't have any really strong, charismatic opposition leaders that can capitalize on these vulnerabilities for the Modi government and use that against the Modi government. If he wins, he'll have a fresh mandate, likely a very strong mandate to continue to carry out the policies that he has been putting out there over his decade in power. And that suggests to me that this trend that we've seen that includes, a, a significant threat to democracy, we will see that continue.


Michael Kugelman

Michael Kugelman

Director, South Asia Institute
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The Indo-Pacific Program promotes policy debate and intellectual discussions on US interests in the Asia-Pacific as well as political, economic, security, and social issues relating to the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region.   Read more