A New Leader for the World’s Biggest Democracy
More than 540 million people chose Narendra Modi to be India’s new leader
India, the world’s largest democracy (a government in which leaders are elected by the people), has a new prime minister. Narendra Modi, of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will be sworn in as the country’s new leader on May 26. He won the recent election by a landslide, giving him the most decisive victory in India in 30 years.
With his historic win, Modi knocked the Indian National Congress (INC) party out of power. The INC has been the dominant party in India since the country became independent from the United Kingdom in 1947. But in this election, the INC received the least number of votes ever in its history.
“The time has come to rewrite India’s success story,” BJP chief Rajnath Singh said after the May 16 victory.
AN ECONOMIC FOCUS
Modi appealed strongly to younger voters during a time of deep change in India, a country of 1.2 billion people. The BJP campaign focused on increasing economic growth, an important issue to younger Indians.
Throughout his campaign, Modi promised to revive India’s sagging economy, help businesses, and create more jobs. He also said he plans to crack down on corruption that has plagued the government and to strengthen the country’s strategic partnership with the U.S. After the election, President Barack Obama called Modi to congratulate him on his win and invited him to Washington.
Not everyone is happy about Modi’s election. Although the majority of India’s population follows the Hindu religion, the country is also home to 177 million Muslims. Many of them were not happy with decisions Modi made while he governed the Indian state of Gujarat. Critics worry that Modi’s election could worsen tensions between the government and the country’s Muslims.
A FRESH START
A record number of people voted in the six-week election, which began April 7. About 66 percent of India’s eligible voters—roughly 540 million people—cast their ballots. By comparison, about 58 percent of eligible voters participated in the 2012 presidential election in the United States.
After Modi’s win, celebrations broke out outside the BJP’s office and in the streets of Gujarat. Supporters danced, sang, played music, and even brought in elephants. India’s stock market surged immediately following the victory.
“This is a huge change for our country,” supporter Surinder Singh Tiwana told reporters. “[People] have voted for a progressive, stable government.”
In his victory speech, Modi promised a fresh start for India. He pointed out that he will be the first Indian prime minister born since the country gained independence from Britain.
“While we did not get to fight and die for independence, we have the honor of living for this nation,” Modi said. “Now is not the time to die for the nation but to live for it.”