Pro-Business or Anti-Muslim?

Which strategy brought Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party success at the state level?

By Rajendra Prabhu

Asia’s most stable democracy, usually praised for its strong secular political tradition, took another step towards majoritarian Hindu rule in this spring’s provincial and local elections in several parts of the country. India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, with a population of 120 million, overwhelmingly voted for the state-level branch of Prime Minister Naredra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. The results were dramatic, with significant implications for the state’s business climate as well as its Muslim minority.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has scripted another spectacular political triumph,” wrote eminent intellectual and President of the Centre for Policy Research Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who has been a strong critic of several missteps Modi has taken over the last three years. The first great countywide swing for the political movement was in 2014, when the connected Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Modi’s powerful leadership won 274 seats out of 542 in the lower house of the India’s Parliament, making Modi the Prime Minister. This spring in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP won 324 seats out of 403 in the state’s legislative assembly, among several other state elections. Except in the state of Punjab, which was won by the National Congress, cheers of “Modi, Modi” echoed throughout the five states that went to the polls for their state-level legislatures.

Modi needed this political boost to counter his apparently declining popularity over the past year. The reason: the …

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