PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT: INDIAN LOK SABHA ELECTIONS 2019

Election results to encourage Modi to be tougher on Pakistan, Indian minorities

ISLAMABAD, May 23, 2019: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a second consecutive term in office by rallying its hardline Hindu nationalist base and highlighting the national security element, and this winning strategy could encourage Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, in its next tenure, to persist with its harsh policy for Pakistan and pursue domestic policies that will be prejudicial to the interests of minority communities, especially India’s 190 million Muslims.

This was stated in preliminary assessment of the elections issued by Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI) that carried out an in depth research on the Lok Sabha Elections 2019. The think tank would shortly release the detailed report titled ‘BJP Election Victory: Implications for Indian foreign policy and Pakistan’.

“BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has scored a massive election victory after a grueling and rancorous campaign that left India divided over sectarian and political issues as it has never been in recent decades. Modi’s campaign that placed the majority Hindu community first and put emphasis on robust national security scored with voters,” the report said.

It noted that BJP’s success, despite doing little in its first term to tackle growing unemployment, distress among farmers and lackluster economic growth, may embolden it to fan the fires of religious hate and jingoism, out of its understanding that it appeals to the party’s hard-core supporters. It could, therefore, possibly go for controversial steps like construction of a Hindu temple on a disputed site, and legislate for life sentence for cow slaughter fanning religious hatred. It will adopt policies that put Hindus first, IPI suspected.

BJP, the think tank feared, instead of addressing the grievances of Kashmiris in the Occupied Valley could take a harder line and go for a change in the special status of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and policies.

On foreign policy front, the report maintained, Modi government will continue an approach that is similar to the one seen over the past five years – growing cooperation with the US on defence and security issues despite differences on trade and economic ties and matters such as climate change; and more cooperation with China, notwithstanding, a long-standing boundary dispute and rivalry in Asia. “As things stand, an immediate breakthrough in relations with Pakistan appears highly unlikely. It is anticipated that BJP government in its second tenure would adopt a more aggressive posture towards Pakistan, because of its belief that it was ultimately its anti-Pakistan credentials that earned it another term despite poor performance over the past five years,” it added.

Dr. Muhammad Mujeeb Afzal, editor of the upcoming report ‘BJP Election Victory: Implications for Indian foreign policy and Pakistan’ in his comments noted: “BJP victory will provide a popular sanctification to the correctness of its policies for the last five years both at the regional as well as international level.” He believed that BJP would increasingly rely on the support of the hardline elements of the Hindutva forces.

BJP could, he warned, continue its policy of suppression of the Indian Muslims in the name of fostering cultural homogeneity, violent suppression of the Kashmiri Muslims’ struggle for self-determination through human rights violations and by enforcing demographic changes, and forcing Pakistan to accept a new strategic normalcy of the Indian regional hegemony.

Executive Director IPI Prof Sajjad Bokhari said the election results would take away from BJP government, whatsoever, incentive it could have for treating its minorities better or correcting the course of its Pakistan policy.###

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