On April 11th, India, the world’s largest democracy, started its walk towards the polling stations. The election of the lower house of parliament of the second most populous nation is estimated to continue until the 19th of May, with the vote expected to be counted on the 23rd. While the outcome of the election is yet to be seen, a significant chain of events could prove fateful for the vote. On February 14th, Indian-administered Kashmir experienced the most fatal attack in the last three decades. A minivan, filled with explosives, drove into an Indian military convoy and killed 46 paramilitary soldiers in Pulwama. New Delhi responded with a retaliation airstrike at Balakot, Pakistani territory, on February 26th.
Five years ago, incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi led his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to an immense election victory, with the party gaining an absolute majority of the votes. A repetition of such a successful campaign seemed unlikely at the beginning of 2019. The Indian economy is currently experiencing rising unemployment rates, along with falling crop prices within its huge agricultural sector. There is certainly room for disappointment with the BJP’s conservative, Hindu nationalist rule. In the last quarter of 2018, the Indian annual growth rate of GDP fell to 6.6 percent, which is lower than the former government’s average annual growth rate. Exports are going through a positive trend, with investment, although starting to decrease during 2018, ia projected to keep rising.
With the election process in motion and the results becoming official at the end of May, it remains to be seen who is going to challenge the BJP in the current political landscape. Regional parties in various Indian states could potentially mount a resistance to Modi’s regime, while Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the rival Congress party, is another challenger to take into account.
On the horizon, there remain additional questions lacking clear answers.
One important question that can be posed for the future is how the development in Kashmir and Indian-Pakistan relations will be influenced by the outcome of the Indian election. Prime Minister Modi, whose BJP party has asserted that nationalism is one of its fundamental segments, leads an administration which has openly taken the role as a hawk against Pakistan.
In the end, with the election result not expected until late May and the difficulty of predicting the next moves of the two nuclear weapon powers, the world may have to hold its breath a little while longer.