India’s Party Power Struggle

By Rhea Arora
Elm Staff Writer

It’s a hot summer month. You’re craving a cold bowl of strawberry flavored ice cream. You go to the ice cream machine in Hodson Hall to check out the flavors: chocolate and vanilla.

You’re sick of vanilla. You always eat vanilla ice cream during the summer, but you’re absolutely tired of it now. You’re not a fan of chocolate either, but you’re fed up with vanilla. So, you decide to get chocolate ice cream for dessert, not because you like it, but because it isn’t vanilla.

This is called anti-incumbency in politics: you vote for the opposition party not because you particularly believe in their policies but because you’re registering discontentment with the current government’s administration. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the 2014 Indian Lok Sabha elections (House of the People) by a landslide, in part because of anti-incumbency. India voted for the BJP because they got tired of the Indian National Congress (INC).

India’s people were frustrated with the INC for three major reasons:. Firstly, with rampant corruption, the INC failed to deliver on a majority of economic policies and couldn’t maintain a steady growth and development pace for India’s vast population.

Secondly, the issue of Vote Bank politics, which implies that a political party favors certain sections of society to ensure a ‘bank’ of votes. This point is highly debated and quite controversial because communal tension runs deep in Indian society. INC supporters say that the Muslims have to be given attention since India has the second largest Muslim population in the world, whereas INC non-supporters say that because the Muslims make up a significant portion of the population, the INC favors the Muslim community over the Hindus, and not out of genuine concern for the community. Since the majority of the Indian population is Hindu (80.5 percent according to the Ministry of Home Affairs) the Congress lost votes because Hindus believes that the INC is biased towards the Muslims.

Lastly, the INC is run as a dynasty, or a hereditary organization. The Gandhi family has been the center of the Congress and its working. Other qualified and efficient leaders don’t get the opportunity to come to the forefront because of this dynastic dominance. India felt monotony in political thought due to the Gandhi concentration of power and demanded a change of policy and methods.

Let me explain another concept I believe in: you’ve decided that The Rolling Stones is your favorite band. You talk at length about the great stage presence, musical skill, and dance moves Mick Jagger possesses rivaling that of Paul McCartney. Your friend then brings up a criticism about Ronnie Wood and you say, ‘Who is Ronnie Wood?’… You then realize that you love the Rolling Stones not because of the band’s work as a unit but because of Mick Jagger.

This is how India voted- for Narendra Modi (the prime-ministerial candidate of the BJP) versus Rahul Gandhi (the INC’s prime-ministerial candidate).

The process in Indian elections is different; we don’t vote for a single person as a president or prime minister. We vote for a political party. The party with the most seats from all the constituencies composes the majority of the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and this House votes into power a prime minister. The Indian Prime Minister is equivalent to the American president in terms of authority. However, the prime minister isn’t directly voted for by the people, as is the president.

The BJP is The Rolling Stones and Narendra Modi is Mick Jagger. Modi’s brilliant oratory skills and command of crowds enamored the Indian population. People voted for Modi as an individualrather than for the BJP as a political party because Gandhi came off as inferior and inexperienced in comparison. Voters made a choice based on a prime ministerial candidate, which isn’t how the system is supposed to work.

The BJP declared Modi as their prime-ministerial candidate, although it’s customary to do so after elections, which people took that as a guarantee and voted for the BJP.

Modi seems to be a determined leader. He’s on his way to improving Indian-Chinese relations and strengthening the Indian economy. He ensures disciplined work ethic in government offices, which is a welcome change from the lax attitude of bureaucrats. Modi, as an individual, is focused and professional in his work and was a good choice to be the face of BJP.

What I’m trying to say is that a large part of why the BJP is currently in power is because of anti-incumbency and Modi’s charismatic personality rather than the actual policies and goals of the political party itself. It makes you doubt whether the BJP, who now holds the majority of the House, really deserves to hold the kind of power it does as a party, and if it would be enjoying the status it currently does if it weren’t for Congress’ failure and Modi’s personal success.

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