Narendra Modi and the BJP appear to be headed for a landslide victory in national elections in India. As polls have showed for months, the ruling Congress Party is headed for its largest defeat in history.
As of this monring, the BJP and its allies were leading with 326 of 543 seats, according to India’s Press Information Bureau, giving the party and its partners in the center-right National Democratic Alliance (NDA) a clear mandate in the next government.
And that mandate came with a massive turnout. A record number of voters participated in world’s largest election, a mammoth five-week process that ended on May 12. Over 66% of eligible voters cast their ballots, compared with 58% in the last vote in 2009.
Modi faces numerous challenges from the start. The first is the lagging economy. India continues to grow, but at a pace far too slow to raise its hundreds of millions of poor into the middle class. Inflation, along with stagnant foreign investment, are key issues the BJP must face in coming months.
Politically, Modi must move past his obvious issues with the large Muslim population. Appointing Muslims to some key positions may cause some internal political strife, but would display a willingness to procede in a purely secular manner.
Because of the massive electoral success, Modi will not have to placate to numerous troublesome local apparatchiks as much as expected. His power of strength hopefully will force the various factions to unite, or choose to leave the ruling coalition all together.
Whether Modi is successful may largely be decided by small, but important, political decisions in the coming weeks. His relationship with Muslim, his relationship with the West, and whether the financial climate improves because of faith of business leaders in the political process will all depend on it.