Opposition candidate Narendra Modi just won the Indian elections with an overwhelming margin of victory. Although the final vote count isn't yet in, it's all but assured that Modi and his party will take the first majority victory since the 1984 elections, avoiding the need to form a coalition government, as the Associated Press reported. That will make Modi India's next Prime Minister, with a strong mandate to govern on his campaign platform. So who is Modi, and what has he promised for India's future?
Modi, first of all, is a regional leader of a Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party. He's also a conservative, and has an image as sort of a strict teacher-type. That's important, because Modi was challenging the Congress Party, which has been plagued by a series of scandals during its long rule over the country. Essentially, Modi has positioned himself as someone who will sweep the corruption out of government. But, as the Washington Post reported, he also promised to build bullet trains. Via hologram.
On the stump, Modi promised a new India, with an efficient government free of corruption. He pledged to build bullet trains, hydroelectric power plants, manufacturing hubs and dozens of cities, enabling India to rival China, the economic powerhouse next door. A lover of technology, Modi even addressed several rallies as a holographic image.
That, along with a promise to create a lot of jobs, is how Modi helped to get the growing youth vote in the country, as the AP noted. He also relied on his reputation as a strong regional leader. He has been the leader of the Gujarat region for several years, overseeing economic growth and development there. His strong-arming style, however, has also prompted some to wonder how his experience will translate to a national position. The New York Times explains:
He is blamed by many of India’s Muslims for failing to stop bloody religious riots that raged through his home state in 2002, leaving more than 1,000 people dead. Others fear he will try to quash dissent and centralize authority in a capital that has long been dominated by the Indian National Congress and the liberal internationalists around it.
Isaac Chotiner at The New Republic goes even further saying Modi is "secretive" and vindictive" with "creepily authoritarian tendencies." The AP adds that the U.S. actually denied Modi a visa in 2005 because of his alleged complicity in the riots. However, they note, that won't be a problem for him any more, now that he's Prime Minister. (Obama invited Modi to visit when he called to congratulate him on his win.)
As CNN notes, not everyone agrees with the popular interpretation of Modi's record. Indian political analyst Mohan Guruswamy told CNN that Modi's pro-business style of policymaking could simply "favor people who already have access to things like education and business possibilities."
In any case, the voters in what turned out to be the largest election in world history have made it clear that they want a change from the Congress Party. Modi, for better or for worse, is positioned to give them what they asked for.