Indian elections in focus amid border tensions

News Analysis

Pakistan-India tensions have been making global headlines in recent weeks with the two nuclear-armed neighbours on the brink of conflict. Experts have speculated that Indian PM Narendra Modi has increased hostilities deliberately to create a “rally-around-the-flag” effect and bolster his own popularity. The question then arises how the recent tensions will affect the elections.

India, being the largest democracy in the world, will have elections in May this year and it’s important to analyze and assess the current workings of the government. Modi’s actions in recent weeks may signal a need to consolidate his voterbase sensing perhaps a loss of popularity over the last few years.

The two front runners for the Indian general elections are of course the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC). According to polls conducted in January, PM Modi had a significant lead in both popularity and the re-election of seat that he currently holds, however, as a result of the Pulwama incident and the tensions between Pakistan and India, Modi has received some backlash.

The BJP also founded the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which is a center-right coalition of parties in India. The BJP, itself, is a far-right party and has held office in 1998, 1999 and 2014. Historically, whenever the BJP government has been in place, India’s ties with Pakistan have always been strained. This is because much of the BJP ideology revolves around anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan and pro Hindu nationalism sentiment. The party advocates Hindu nationalism, conservatism, economic nationalism and Modi’s own leadership is classic populism. These ideologies have served to be extremely troublesome for Pakistan as any leeway in moving towards talks is thrown out the window.

In the current government, the BJP holds 271 seats out of 545 in the Lok Sabha, giving it a majority over the other parties.

In contrast, the INC has held office several times with the last term ending in 2014 when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister. Unlike the BJP, the INC a more centrist ideology incline towards the left. They advocate social democracy, democratic socialism, progressivism and secularism.

The INC founded the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), a coalition of center-left political parties in India, formed after the general elections in 2004. The INC only holds 47 seats out of 545 in the Lok Sabha, however, they are likely to win more seats this time.

The elections are very important because they will determine the future of India-Pakistan relations. Under the condition that the INC wins the upcoming elections and Rahul Gandhi becomes the PM, it may be seen as a step towards a more positive relationship between India and Pakistan.

It would be in the interest of both countries if a leader like Rahul Gandhi takes the mantle, as having a hot-headed leader like Modi only pushes a warmongering agenda. It is important for Pakistan that India elects an INC government so the two nations can move towards peace.

Alarmingly though, several polling agencies have shown the NDA taking a lead in the parliament. However, others have predicted that following the tensions of the last few weeks the BJP has actually lost popularity as voters have not been satisfied with Modi’s handling of the situation. Whatever the outcome may be, let us hope that the winner will move towards improving ties with Pakistan..

India’s Legislature

The supreme legislative body of the Republic of India is known as the Parliament of India. India’s parliament is a bicameral legislature, in which the legislators are divided into two assemblies or houses. In India’s case the upper house of the legislature is known as the Rajya Sabha, while the lower house is known as the Lok Sabha.

The Rajya Sabha is the Council of States and the Lok Sabha is the House of the People.

Under this parliamentary system, the Prime Minister of India is the ‘executive’ (the one who holds authority and responsibility) of the Government of India. As well as being an advisor to the president, the Prime Minister is also the head of the Council of Ministries. However, to be a Prime Minister, a candidate must have a majority in the Lok Sabha and has to be a member of a political party.

The elections for the candidacy for the Prime Minister take place every 5 years and mainly constitute the Lok Sabha.

Lok Sabha

The Indian general elections are expected to take place in May, for the constituency of the 17th Lok Sabha. The result of these elections will result in a new Prime Minister for India.

The Lok Sabha includes 543 total seats and 272 are needed for a majority. The members of the Lok Sabha are elected through general voting. In case of a majority vote, both the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers resign together. Therefore, under the current circumstances, if the Modi government fails to accumulate the majority of the votes, than Modi and his ministers will have to resign.

The house meets at the Lok Sabha Chambers of Sansad Bhavan, New Delhi.

Elections for the legislative assembly, known as the Vidhan Sabha, are also scheduled to take place during the same time. These elections will be held in different states, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha Sikkim and Jammu and Kashmir.

Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi hails from a long line of prominent politicians known as the Nehru-Gandhi Family. The son of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul is the president of the Indian National Congress (INC) and is a formidable candidate for the role of Prime Minister in the upcoming elections. He also operates under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

Rahul’s father Rajiv Gandhi and grandmother Indira Gandhi were both prime ministers of India. His great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the founding fathers of India and served as the first prime minister of the country. Indira Gandhi was a powerful leader who served as PM twice for over 15 years. She was assassinated while in office, while her son Rajiv was also assassinated.

Rahul Gandhi was initially home schooled due to security threats but later attended Rollins College. Rahul has obtained degrees in International Relations and Development Studies from Rollins and Cambridge. In 2017, he took over as the president of the Congress.

According to polls taken by the India Today, in both 2018 and 2019, the best alternative amongst the opposition leaders was Rahul Gandhi, who held a massive percentage of popularity amongst all other opponents.

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