Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP party have won India's general election. On the way to victory, Modi has completely changed the country and ushered in a new era for Indian politics, DW's Mahesh Jha writes.
India's general election was a fight between the leadership of a sitting prime minister and the ambition of an opposition leader. It was a fight between the forces of nationalism on one hand and regionalism and caste on the other. The middle has been pushed aside.
It was also a fight over defining the vision for India's future.
During the election campaign, Narendra Modi once again proved himself to be a master of politics. He left his competitors behind through his political one-upmanship, rhetoric and social media abilities.
Anyone who thought that the poor state of Indian industry, record unemployment, the plight of farmers or the economic impact of demonetization would affect the fortunes of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has surely learned a bitter lesson in campaigning and voter behavior.
Modi regularly changed his rhetoric during the election, switching between security issues and national pride. By doing this, he was able to distract voters' attention away from day-to-day issues and redirect it toward fear of external and internal threats. He convinced them of his government's ability to guarantee security.
Never before in India have security issues been so instrumentalized during elections, especially on this scale. Modi launched airstrikes against Pakistan in response to a militant attack in Kashmir, and later used this military campaign for electoral gain.
Modi has also been able to untangle and break feudal and caste-based political loyalties in India, and used this to his advantage by refocusing the narrative on economic development, national security and Hindu nationalism.
A lesson in democracy
The results of this Indian election are also a lesson in democracy for India's opposition parties. Like Modi's BJP, opposition parties also depend on the personality cult of their leaders. However, opposition parties lack the strong grassroots organization supporting Modi and the BJP. Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the rival Congress party, promised secularism and a new India, but failed miserably to unite voters behind him.
In winning a second term as prime minister, Modi has changed not only the fortunes of his BJP party, but also the mindset of India. Turning away from a secular political tradition, Modi has been able to convince a large number of Indians that the BJP is the savior of Hindus and Hindu-majority India.
As the head of an emboldened Hindu nationalist India, Modi will also represent a more assertive foreign policy. Moving forward, this could have consequences, particularly for Pakistan and China.
Although India's foreign policy toward the West is not expected to change considerably, a more aggressive India in the next few years could emerge in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific.
With all of the euphoria surrounding the BJP's victory, Modi's challenge is to create job opportunities for millions of young and unemployed Indians. Modi also faces the challenge of transforming India's agrarian-based economy into an industry-based economy.
However, the past five years have amply shown that India's economic and social progress is only possible in an atmosphere of peace and harmony. To ensure social stability, the biggest challenge facing Modi's government will be to provide security and inclusion to minorities.
With his phenomenal victory, Modi has succeeded in consolidating power — and the Indian people have given him the next five years to fulfill their expectations.