Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi won his second term in office by a landslide victory last week. The votes were tallied and announced the same day on May 23rd.
His party, the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), India’s right-wing nationalist party, which led the National Democratic Alliance, took 353 out of 542 seats in the 17th Lok Sabha (House of the People), or the lower house of the parliament, and surpassed its tally of 336 seats in the 2014 election.
In an election that saw the country’s highest-ever voter turnout ever with just over 67% of the 900 million eligible voters making it out to vote, including the highest ever number of women voters, the citizens made it clear that they chose Modi’s brand of Hindu-Nationalism.
His electoral victory was so decisive considering that he only needed 272 seats for majority, and that his biggest opponent, the National Indian Congress party, which led the United Progressive Alliance, failed to secure its position as the official opposition party with only 52 seats, three seats short of the 55 they had needed. In fact, their leader, Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, even lost his own race. Modi’s win has given India its strongest government, at least institutionally, that it has probably ever seen.
The election was held across the country in a series of seven phases from April 11th to May 19th, with different states voting at different times. India uses the ‘first-to-the-post’ electoral system, whereby citizens vote for the candidate of their choice and the one who receives the most votes wins.
And the clear winner here was Modi. His message of staunch Hindu-Nationalism against the secularist flavor of his opponents combined with his cult personality that he managed to build and strengthen over the past few years was a hit with the voters.
Putting himself forward as the “chowkidar” (watchman) of India, as the man who would not be soft on the Pakistani threat, nor on the perceived internal threats to Hindutva – or “Hinduness”, worked in his favor with the masses.
His Bollywood strategy was quite successful too. Cozying up to Bollywood, or perhaps more accurately allowing Bollywood to cozy up to him via selfies, summits, and “informal chats” definitely did not hurt his approval ratings either.
While, not a unanimous favorite by any stretch, many Bollywood stars have shared their support of Modi over the years in interviews and social media, a medium Modi is well-versed in and deploys frequently to speak directly to the masses. Some like Akshay Kumar, the biggest stars in the industry, have utilized that star power to practically campaign for him. While another staunch supporter, Vivek Oberoi took it up a notch and played his hero in a biopic of the Prime Minister, which had its released deferred to after election time amid concerns and calls of propaganda.
Others took it a step further and entered the political field to either contest elections as BJP candidates; Sunny Deol, Hema Malini, Kirron Kher, Smriti Irani (she defeated Rahul Gandhi!), and Jaya Prada, or used their incredible star-power to run against BJP candidates; Raj Babbar, Shatrughan Sinha, and Urmila Matondkar.
The election is over, and India has overwhelmingly picked Modi once again. He is “one of the originals in the current wave of global populism” and he will now have another five years, amounting to a decade in power. While many are happy about this, there are others, the country’s minority groups, the marginalized people, the journalists and academics who are not, and have grown increasingly worried due to the divisive rhetoric.
Only time will tell how Modi will lead the country for the next five years.