Why are these elections important?
The Indian elections are important on two levels. First, the Indian elections are the biggest democratic event in history. This year, around 900 million Indians will be eligible to vote and around two-thirds of them are likely to do so.
Second, these elections are of particular importance because they are likely to determine the type of country India will be over the next decade or two. The opposition parties argue that they celebrate India’s diversity — of religions, languages and ethnicities. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, argues that this emphasis on division — a colonial legacy — has weakened India. It claims that the opposition parties first target the Muslim vote while side-lining Hindus in what is a Hindu-majority country.
The BJP’s aim is to consolidate all the Hindu votes although the party is not immune from playing ‘caste politics’ at the local level. Its intention to ‘strengthen’ India by prioritizing Hindus, however, by default makes the position of religious minorities — which account for around 20 per cent of the population — less secure.