Francisco A. Laguna & Annapurna Nandyal
India’s general elections, conducted this year from April to May, created a foray of buzz among world leaders, top business investors and last, but not the least, the common man of India. India gained independence in 1947 and had its first free election in the year 1951-1952. Never in the period of sixty years of elections had this euphoria built upon the entire process. People held their breath as the time for transition in India began.
The election contest was mainly between two major national political parties: the Indian National Congress and its allies, collectively known as United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by Rahul Gandhi; and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies, collectively known as National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by Narendra Modi. The choice was between the former who belonged to one of the world’s most famous political dynasties, and the latter, a controversial political figure and elected head of a province. India’s fundamental problems like growing inflation, instability, corruption, job creation, tackling terrorism and alleviating poverty were, and continue to be, widespread and challenging to both the central and state administrations. UPA, the ruling party since 2004, undertook major reforms and policies but struggled to contain growing dissatisfaction among all classes of Indians. The current electorate wanted better governance with an able administrator who could revive the economy once again.
Narendra Modi’s party emerged victorious with a clear mandate. It was a huge landslide win the country had not seen in thirty years. People cutting across economic classes voted for Modi who promised clean governance and quick economic revival. His campaign slogan “Acche Din Aane Wale Hai” (Good days are here to come) struck a right chord with many.
Our TransLegal team conducted an anonymous survey among different strata of society who voted in this election. The questions ranged from whether they voted for the NDA, what expectations they had from Narendra Modi’s government if elected, and what reforms India needs to revive its world standing.
People, with annual income of less than US$2,000 formed a major group who voted for the NDA as they could relate to Modi, who is a hard worker and rose from a humble background. The majority of them defied the legacy of caste- and religion-based voting, sending a strong message that India’s political equation was slowing changing. This group echoed for better healthcare facilities, improvement in electricity supply and creation of jobs which could substantially improve their standard of living. Realizing this group formed the backbone of India, Modi promised to implement the same policies he successfully used during his tenure as Chief Minister in the state of Gujarat.
Next was the rising urban middle class of India, who have been historically disinterested in politics. During the period the middle class has emerged as an important electoral force, this election was a true litmus test for them. Many were apprehensive about Modi: his critics describe him as a religious intolerant. At the same time, however, the middle class were disillusioned about lack of governance, corruption and a rise in prices identified with the UPA administration. Keeping aside their apprehensions, a good percentage of them voted for Modi as social media and his supporters presented him as the panacea for revival of economic growth. Few others voted for local candidates, irrespective of their political party outfit, giving importance to the development of the middle class constituency and local issues. Further, Modi has won over the middle class with promises of tax reforms, encouraging private and foreign capital, and focusing on fast growth rates rather than government welfare spending.
Finally, the high-salary class consisting of doctors, scientists and the business community, displayed great enthusiasm for BJP party and, in particular, for Narendra Modi. Unlike others, this group was more vocal on international issues such as being a business-friendly nation and threat from external forces. In its election manifesto, the NDA promised to improve India’s internal security by tackling terrorism, but it lacked a defined foreign policy. They believed Modi needed to focus on foreign policies like cross-border terrorism, improving ties with India’s neighbors and turning India image around internationally.
This election was considered historic in many ways. There was a record turnout of 66.38 percent of the 814 million eligible voters casting ballots during the six-week contest held in stages across the country. Modi’s charisma was widespread and backed broadly by the common man to big investment banks to corporate houses. Only time will tell whether this euphoria will turn out to be true or will phase out over the course of administration’s time. For India and the people who voted for him, we hope Modi is able to deliver on some of his campaign promises.
TransLegal assists clients doing business in India in the biotechnology, corporate, franchise and pharmaceutical sectors. Call us with your questions concerning India.