Published:  12:18 AM, 11 March 2019

As India prepares to vote . . .


As we write this editorial, the Indian Election Commission prepares to announce the dates for the next general election in India. There can hardly be any question that the electoral contest this year promises to be close and indeed unpredictable, with all the alignments and breaking of alliances that has been taking place.

One cannot also deny the degree of virulence which has come into the state of politics in India, with the BJP and the Congress adopting increasingly tough statements about each other's policies and programmes.

To a very alarming degree, politics has gone rather personal, with the parties and personalities not losing any opportunity to hit out at each other over such issues as the procurement of Rafale aircraft and the recent air force raids inside Pakistani-controlled Kashmir following the Pulwama attacks.

The election this year will therefore be a vastly different proposition from the one which propelled the BJP and its allies to power in 2014. For the Congress, which has largely been seen to be looking for issues to pelt the government with, the voting will be a test of whether its recent moves to deploy some of its leading figures in the campaign for votes will succeed.

At another end, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee quite clearly is one of the very few politicians in the country who have held out against the BJP machine which otherwise has in the past five years gained increasingly larger swathes of support across the country.

But the BJP knows too that its policy of Hindu nationalism has polarized the country in a way that has been disturbing for politicians and broad sections of the Indian population. The opposition will certainly seize on the fact that secular institutions in the country have been under assault, a plan of action the ruling party and its allies will find hard to beat back.

Elections in countries like India have an impact not only on the region but also in the rest of the world. In the past, when the Congress enjoyed an unassailable position in Indian politics, it was easy to predict the range of the party's victory and its continued dominance of the state.

That does not happen to be the case anymore, for today it is a situation where the Congress is a rather weak image of its earlier self, to the extent that it is in need of allies to mount a challenge to Narendra Modi and his team.

That is not to suggest that the ruling BJP is in a happy state either. The coming campaign will reveal the extent of its preparedness for the voting through convincing Indians across the board that it means to pursue an inclusive agenda if given a fresh term in office.For South Asia, the election in India will be watched and waited for with a huge degree of interest.


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