30.03.2024 Author: Anvar Azimov

Some thoughts on the upcoming parliamentary elections in India

Elections in India

India is a democratic republic with a federal system and a parliamentary government. The highest legislative body is the Parliament, which consists of an upper chamber, the Rajya Sabha (Council of States, 245 deputies – 233 elected by the state legislatures and 12 appointed by the President) and a lower chamber, the Lok Sabha (House of the People, 545 deputies – 543 elected by direct vote of the population and 2 appointed by the President).

Although India’s head of state is the President, executive power is in practice concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister, who is usually the leader of the party that wins the majority of seats in the Lok Sabha in the elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), along with its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has been in power since 2014. In 2019, the ruling coalition repeated its success, winning more than 300 of the 542 seats in the Lok Sabha, and securing a mandate for another 5 years.

Significantly, in the state elections held in 2022-2023, before the upcoming parliamentary elections, Narendra Modi and his NDA allies won in most of the country’s state legislatures, and the NDA is now in power in 14 of the country’s states. (Territorially and administratively, India consists of 28 states, the national capital territory of Delhi and 7 union territories). The largest opposition party, the Indian National Congress (INC), is in power in only three states, while the rest are ruled by regional parties, which traditionally win local elections and enjoy a predominant influence in their states.

The upcoming 18th Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases between April 19 and June 1, 2024 and the results will be declared only on June 4. This will be the largest election in the world, involving almost a billion voters. They will also be the longest (44 days) and most representative elections, with more than 60 parties participating. The main contest for power will be between the ruling BJP and a 26-party opposition bloc led by the INC, called I.N.D.I.A. – the Indian National Inclusive Development Alliance. The core of this bloc consists of the INC and other opposition parties, primarily regional ones. Despite agreements to form a broad bloc to stand against the BJP, divisions and infighting persist between the parties, and the bloc lacks a strong charismatic leader capable of leading it to victory. The INC continues to face difficult times, with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s widow and INC leader Sonia Gandhi not standing for reelection and her children Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi failing to emerge as charismatic and popular leaders of India’s oldest political party, which ruled the country for decades. Indeed, the INC is no longer what it was under Jawaharlal Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi and grandson Rajiv Gandhi. It has lost ground at the center and at the local level, in the states, it has largely surrendered its status as an indispensable political force, is gripped by a long-term crisis and is increasingly losing credibility among the general public. The party lacks consensus on future strategy and tactics, and its activities are overly focused on criticizing Narendra Modi’s government without offering any constructive program of action. In the last parliamentary elections, the INC won only about 50 of the 245 seats in the Lok Sabha and appears unlikely to improve its position significantly, let alone lead its motley alliance to victory in the upcoming elections. The position of the INC will largely depend on the ability of its leaders to overcome its internal divisions, find a worthy leader, and develop the most effective model for cooperation with its coalition partners and the regional political forces, which are more interested in reinforcing their own positions in the states than in strengthening the status and influence of the INC.

Unlike the opposition, the BJP is clearly in a strong position and has a better chance of success. If this happens Narendra Modi will lead India’s government for a third consecutive term. He and the other capable BJP leaders who are consistently, and most importantly effectively, steering India towards socio-economic self-reliance and boosting the growth of its GDP (which currently stands at 7%) through the national programs Make in India and Self-reliant India. The most important achievements of Narendra Modi’s government include the dynamic growth of the national economy (which is now the third largest in the world), easing of social tensions – at least to a certain extent, and ensuring law and order in the country.

The BJP continues to put its stakes on consolidating its position in the key and dominant states of the so-called Hindi-speaking belt, in line with its Hindutva ideology, which prioritizes to the Hindu cultural and historical tradition. It is in this context that we should view the major religious and nationalist extravaganza that accompanied the inauguration of the monumental temple to the god Rama in the holy city of Ayodhya, which took place in the run-up to the elections in January this year. The temple was rebuilt on the birthplace of the god, on the site of the original temple which was barbarously demolished in the 16th Century by the Mughals, following their invasion of India. A mosque was erected on its ruins, which stood for many centuries. Skillfully choreographed and held with great pomp, this major event, which was clearly intended to form part of the election campaign, significantly strengthened the image of the authorities among India’s overwhelmingly Hindu population, and further increased the already unprecedented popularity and authority of the Prime Minister.

The government’s economic and domestic political successes in recent years have been matched by its foreign policy achievements. India has, with great diplomatic skill, held a series of international presidencies, including that of the G20, and this has significantly contributed to its growing authority and influence in regional and world global affairs. The leading international powers regard India as an important and, most importantly, independent center in the emerging multipolar world order, to which New Delhi, along with Moscow and Beijing, is firmly committed. The multi-directional foreign policy conducted by Indian leadership, and its desire to strengthen partnerships with both the East and the West, adds weight to New Delhi’s status as the capital of a country that is not merely an Asian power, but one that aspires to global status. And in this, Russia fully supports India, seeing it as an important potential member of an expanded UN Security Council. India’s uneasy relations with China and Pakistan do not prevent it from cooperating with these states within the context of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and BRICS. New Delhi’s policy of developing ties with the United States and the West in general is not an obstacle to the further expansion of its privileged special strategic relations with Russia, which have stood the test of time.

Significantly, and this is a crucial issue for India, the various different political forces in the country all agree on the most important areas of its foreign policy. As a result, Russia is confident about its future relations with India as both the leading political forces of the country, the BJP and the Indian National Congress, have consistently stuck to their policy of prioritizing the country’s strategic partnership with Moscow. Most importantly, this also reflects the sentiments of the general public in the country, who regard Russia as their most loyal ally – a tried and trusted friend who has never failed India. Unlike other major powers, particularly the USA.


Anvar Azimov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Senior Researcher at MGIMO, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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