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Countdown to the Indian General Elections: What Should We Expect?

8 April @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

In the state elections in December 2018, the big loser was the BJP, which had won 62 of 65 Lok Sabha seats in these states in the Modi Wave of 2014. But the BJP’s loss was not just Congress’ gain. Other parties also gained at BJP’s expense. Looking ahead to the 2019 General Elections, the BJP is still in pole position. But they will have to fight harder than they had expected just a few months ago, even in the core Hindi belt in the north of India, and focus on the sound economics that brought it to power in the first place. Given that it received 95% of the electoral bonds issued last year and remains by far the richest party, with the best-established grassroots network across the country means its has a significant advantage over rivals – that is, unless the rivals can successfully get into a mahagathbandhan, or Grand Coalition.

What should we expect from the elections this time? What will be the key themes? Is it Modi vs Gandhi or is it simplistic to classify it in this manner?

The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to join expert panellists for a talk about what we should expect to see in the General Elections in India in 2019.



John Elliott is a Delhi-based journalist and author, “Implosion: India’s Tryst with Reality”. John Elliot has over 25 years in covering Asia, initially for the FT, then The Economist, New Statesman, and Fortune magazines.



Rahul Roy-Chaudhury leads the IISS’s South Asia research programme. He researches and publishes on India’s neighbourhood foreign and security policies; Pakistan, Afghanistan and regional security; counter-extremism and terrorism; regional nuclear matters; and the Indian navy and the Indian Ocean. Rahul gives select policy-relevant talks and briefings, and organises several ‘track 1.5’ meetings. These involve top South Asian government and intelligence officials, and focus on regional stability, nuclear doctrines and India’s foreign policy, and take place annually in Muscat, Bahrain, New Delhi, Islamabad and London.



Ashwin Kumaraswamy has over nine years’ venture capital experience. He is responsible for a number of technology investments. He is a member of the NPIF – Mercia Equity Team and part of the Electronics, Materials, Manufacturing & Engineering sector Investment Team. He has been involved in all aspects of creating venture backed businesses, including sourcing new opportunities, working with founders and management teams to build valuable propositions.



Pratik Dattani is Managing Director for boutique economic consulting firm EPG, specialising in economic analysis, strategic communications and market entry assistance with India, with offices in London, Bangalore and East Africa. He was additionally, until August 2017, UK Director for the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the premier and largest industry body in India. He is also the co-founder of a tech start-up in the CSR space. Previously he worked in Economic Consulting at FTI Consulting and Deloitte in London and Abu Dhabi, with a focus on public policy and international arbitration. He was Chairman for a not-for-profit membership organisation with several thousand members for three years. He studied Economics at Warwick University, where he was awarded the Prize for Excellence, and LMU University of Munich.



Dr John Hemmings is Director of the Asia Studies Centre and Deputy Director of Research at the Henry Jackson Society and an Adjunct Fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. Prior to his doctoral studies, he was a visiting fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS and a research analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall, working on Northeast Asia security and defence policies.

The event is co-organised with Bridge India. Bridge India is a progressive non-profit think tank dedicated to discourse on public policy and political ideas for the betterment of India.







On the 8th of April the Henry Jackson Society hosted a panel discussion with Dr. John Hemmings entitled: ‘Countdown to the Indian General Elections: What Should We Expect’. The panel consisted of Rahul Roy Choudhury, John Elliot, Ashwin Kumarasuary and Pratik Dattani.

Dr. Hemmings opened the discussion by stressing that the world’s largest democracy was now at a turning point, will India chart a path as a primarily Hindu nation with Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or choose a secular, tolerant society with their opponents?

Much of the discussion focused on assessing Modi’s achievements since taking power. Many on the panel noted that Modi had made significant improvements to public infrastructure, primarily in the construction of new highways and toilets, and that his ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana’ (PMJDY) scheme had allowed 330 million Indian citizens to set up their own bank accounts. Despite these achievements, however, attention was also given to areas where Modi’s success seems exaggerated. A key example given was access to electricity across the country, where it was noted how the government’s success in expanding electrical power seemed exaggerated in light of the fact that only 10% of houses needed access to electricity for a village to be considered electrified.

A key topic of discussion was naturally the rise of Hindu nationalism with the BJP. Ashwin Kumarasuary was keen to emphasise that the fathers of modern India rejected the notion of India as a Hindu nation and had stressed the importance of all of the nation’s faiths. He went on to describe how India’s diverse regions and communities suffered from diverse problems, arguing that the choice for the Indian people was between tackling these issues with a diverse and inclusive form of government in the Indian National Congress, or through a centralised authority with the BJP.

Pratik Dattani spoke next, arguing that for most Indian voters such discussions would be irrelevant. Dattani noted how most of India’s journalists lived in cities and so were detached from the problems facing most Indians, who in turn pay little attention to the news media or party manifestos. Dattani contended that this election would not be decided by the issues, but rather by how the candidates made them feel, emphasising the pride that many Indians felt in the country since the BJP took power.

Rahul Roy Choudhury went on to note how in discussions with a contact from the BJP he had been told that the BJP would win the same number of seats as last time due to the popularity of Modi and the lack of a credible alternative. Choudhury also emphasised the significance of India’s ‘bold’ retaliations against terror attacks from Pakistan. His contact from the Indian National Congress by contrast, argued that many of the BJP’s social policies had been implemented unsuccessfully, and as such it would hold fewer than 200 seats after the polls closed.

The event then closed with a round of questions and answers.


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John Elliott


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