The Sad Arc of Indian Democracy

In the largest election year in history, with over 2 billion voters already gone or set to go to the polls in 50 countries, nearly 970 million Indians are expected to cast their ballots in what will be the world’s largest democratic exercise. India’s general elections kick off today and will be held in phases through June 1, with results to be announced on June 4. Despite a decade-long erosion of rights and the hollowing out of democratic institutions, most polls predict a victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party for a third consecutive five-year term. What does an India heading to the polls look like in 2024? How has ten years of BJP rule shaped the world’s largest democracy?

An introductory piece by Maria Tavernini looks at how the BJP is attempting to mold the electorate through shady practices. An interview by Giancarlo Bosetti with Jean Drèze underscores India’s significant lack of economic progress compared to its neighbors, while Abhijan Choudhury delves into the complex interplay of caste, class, and regional factors in shaping the electoral landscape. Mujibur Rehman comments on Modi’s efforts to create an “India for Hindus” by eroding the rights of India’s religious minorities. Ashaz Mohammed analyzes a specific case of Muslims marginalization: Indian school history textbooks are erasing Mughal history. Finally, Chandra Mallampalli explores the potential implications of the BJP’s agenda under Modi’s leadership, suggesting that his re-election could herald significant constitutional changes aimed at advancing a Hindu-centric vision for India.

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