Dissecting the Election Results: What Is Next for India?
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Dissecting the Election Results: What Is Next for India?
5 June @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
The BJP had an impressive victory in the 2019 General Election, emerging as the single largest party garnering more vote share than it had in 2014. The opposition Indian National Congress, failed to improve on its dismal 2014 showing and now faces an existential crisis. The BJP’s win came as a personal vote of confidence in PM Modi despite a fraught election campaign. What should one expect from the election results this time? Now that the election exercise is done and dusted, is this another chance to bring in the ‘achche din’ (good days) as promised five years ago?
The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you for discussion with Arnab Kumar, Dr. Mukulika Banerjee, Radhika Iyer, John Elliott and Dr. John Hemmings on the outcome of India’s General Election.
Arnab Kumar is leading India’s Government’s strategy and implementation of Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, FinTech and Blockchain initiatives at National Institution for Transforming India (NITI AAYOG). Arnab Kumar is a former Investment Banker with a knowledge of Asia and Americas.
Dr. Mukulika Banerjee is Director of the South Asia Centre at LSE. She is currently completing a book manuscript based on 15 years of ethnographic data of rural voters and their multivalent engagement with elections and voting activities in West Bengal, India. As part of this interest, Mukulika also prepared a BBC Radio 4 documentary on ‘Sacred Elections’ for the Indian national elections in 2009; and a current grant from the Indo-European Networking Programme in the Social Sciences entitled EECURI (Explanations of Electoral Change in Urban and Rural India) has allowed her to expand this analysis to cover state and Panchayat elections.
Radhika Iyer is NDTV’s Chief Correspondent.
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.
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.
On Wednesday June 5th 2019, the Henry Jackson Society was pleased to welcome Delhi-based journalist John Elliott, program director at NITI Aayog, Arnab Kumar, and Radhika Iyer, NDTV’s Chief Correspondent to discuss their key takeaways from the recent election in India. The event was moderated by HJS’s Dr. John Hemmings. Modi’s recent victory highlighted profound implications for the Indian democratic system. This election was the largest and most expensive democratic election in history, outspending the 2016 US election by 2.2 billion dollars. Each speaker addressed their insights from the election and suggestions for India’s future.
John Elliot began the discussion by describing Indian political trends that he and others witnessed during this election. He first emphasized that although Modi won with an overwhelming victory not everybody you voted BJP actually really supported Modi. He said, “many, especially the young, voted BJP because they saw no alternative.” The overarching theme of Elliot’s remarks was that India needs an alternative, a viable opposition party. He also discussed how politics in India is becoming increasingly openly discussed. Open political discussion on actual policy implications rather than just the politics itself is something that has never occurred in the past. Elliott suggested that this is creating a momentum that the country desperately needs to maintain a healthy democratic system. Elliot finished his remarks by stressing again that there needs to be an alternative leftist voice to emerge at the top of the opposition.
Arnab Kumar was the second to speak on the panel. He discussed his personal opinions about the government’s priorities before and after the election. From his experience from working in government, he talked about India’s goal of financial inclusion and hearing the voices of people who are not heard. Kumar indicated that the addition of specialized credit companies and the power of creating infrastructural financial institutions help people at the larger scale. Kumar also discussed the priority of the government to increase the “access, availability and affordability of quality healthcare.” He said the current government’s mandate had the continuity and momentum needed for infrastructure-building. Lastly, Kumar described the government’s initiative to foster an efficient innovative system and startup ecosystem. In closing, he underlined his optimistic outlook on the direction India is heading with the help of these government initiatives.
Last to speak, Radhika Iyer, focused her remarks on the influence that social media had in the election. She first emphasized the magnitude of the election, with 900 million citizens who were eligible to cast their vote. Iyer said that the influence of the tech companies – Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Google, and so on – was unprecedented. The first “social media election” was in 2014, and at that time India had 200 million internet users. In 2019, the number of internet users jumped to 648 million. Iyer mentioned how the explosion of social media has made the technology almost indispensable which exacerbates the influence that politicians have but can also be cause for concern. One concern she mentioned was the increase in the dissemination of fake news and misinformation. Other concerns Iyer voiced were the challenges of unemployment and alike Elliott, the lack of an opposition.
After their remarks, the floor was opened for questions. The audience provided a range of very insightful questions and remarks. The speakers discussed topics including the “dirtiness” of the election system, how the government might engage with tech companies, businesses funding Modi’s campaign, and so on. Despite differences in opinion and diverse political views, the panel discussion provided very intuitive takeaways and pressing concerns from the recent election and the future of Indian politics.
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