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Parliamentary elections started in India on April 7th. Due to the will of people, the number of voters promises to be record. Around 814 million of people might attend this election which is 100 million more than in the previous elections in 2009. Parliamentary elections will be held in nine phases until May 12th in 930 thousand polling stations. Vote counting will be held on May 16th. According to the results, the House of the People (Lok Sabha), the lower house of parliament in India will be formed. In order to form it on your own, the winning party will need to obtain a minimum of 272 seats out of 543.
The main contenders are the ruling Indian National Congress (INC) and the largest opposition party in the country, “the Bharatiya Janata Party” (BJP, Indian People's Party). Despite the fact that the INC will be led by Rahul Gandhi in the elections, the fifth generation representative of the famous political dynasty Nehru-Gandhi, it is predicted that INC has a little chance to win. This is explained by its failure during economic problems in India, so for the voters this Party symbolizes stagnation, corruption and nepotism. According to the estimates of the Ministry of Finance in India, in 2013 the GDP growth was only 4.9 per cent, instead of the planned 9 percent per year. These figures are considered to be "catastrophic" to the country and to the ruling party. Public dissatisfaction is caused by the continuing rise of prices for consumer goods, particularly, on the onion and gasoline.
Experts and various polls predict a victory of the BJP led by Narendra Modi. A potential prime minister stands for denationalization of economy and consolidation of the market mechanisms. During the election campaign N. Modi has positioned himself as an administrator-technocrat. In a position of a chief minister (mayor) he managed to bail out Gujarat, one of the most backward states in the country to the economic leader. Today, there is five percent of the country’s population which accounts for a quarter of the total country’s export.
Despite predictions in favor of the BJP, the election outcome is far from clear. Firstly, we can bear in mind year 2004 when the Indians voted exactly opposite to all predictions and polls. Secondly, the BJP is not likely to get the necessary 272 mandates that would allow it to form a government on its own. This means that Narendra Modi will need to look for allies among regional parties to create a coalition, which in turn will influence the future of the BJP policy.
The form that will be taken by the future coalition depends on the election outcomes. However, it can be already assumed that in the case of the BJP victory, there are two most possible forms of coalition. In the first case, if BJP scores 230 seats in Lokh Sabkh it can cooperate with some regional parties. And the price for this union will be not so high for Naredra Modi. Probably, it will be necessary to pass allies several seats in the Parliament committees, or for example, some non-key ministerial portfolios. In the second case, BJP might take less than 200 seats in parliament and face certain difficulties. The party and its leader will need the support of at least one of the “Three Ladies”, so called key regional women leaders. They are Jayalalithaa Jayaram, the leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party; Mamata Benerjee, Head of the West Bengal and Mayawati Kumari, the former leader of the Uttar Pradesh state which has a power in this most populous state. The complexity of such a union is that each of women will require key positions in the government and promote independent policy in department, which may diverge from the main line of the BJP. Nevertheless, at the moment, it is difficult to say what will be the object of the bargain and a price for a political union.
However, there are more problems to discuss. In case if N. Modi’s party gets less than 200 mandates, there is a risk that the head of the BJP will not take the post of a Prime Minister. It will depend on the number of seats taken by INC, as well as of the popularity gaining “Aamaadmi party” (Common man Party), headed by Arvind Kejriwal. For instance, in December 2013 “Aamaadmi party” took the second place in the elections to the National capital territory of Delhi. It managed to beat INC and concede only to BJP. As a result, “Aamaadmi party” agreed on forming a coalition government with INC, and Kejriwal became a chief minister of the Indian capital.
Nonetheless, the preliminary results indicate that the BJP can expect 230-240 seats in the Parliament. Thus, it is better to try to understand what kind of changes are waiting for Indian domestic and foreign policy when the new government takes the office.
The main difficulty to be faced by the new Prime Minister is to ensure economic growth. The drop of the GDP growth to 4,9 per cent has caused problems to the Indian economy, while the growth has an inflationary nature and happens mainly due to the increases in government spending, prices and interest rate. Narendu Modi is ready to cut the public sector, sequester social spending which reaches 2,2 per cent of GDP. Half of the savings will be spent on the development of infrastructure, transport and energy. Moreover, N. Modi is willing to attract foreign investment, but firstly he needs to stabilize prices in the country, the growth of which negatively affects the profit of companies and investors. In general, the economic success of the BJP leader as the mayor of Gujarat gives investors’ confidence that on the Prime Minister post he can return India to the previous levels of economic development. Investors’ positive sentiment regarding the outcome of the elections has led to the increase of stock prices for Indian bonds.
Today, to predict Indian foreign policy appears to be quite difficult. As a mayor of Gujarat, Modi proved himself as a nationalist politician. Therefore, there is a risk that his rise to power could create conditions for the escalation of relations between Pakistan, China and the USA. In one of his campaign speeches, Modi promised to return to the “Kashmir policy” of the previous Minister Atal Bihari Vadjpai, which provides the recovery of the “historical justice” and return of the part of Pakistani part of Kashmir to India. Clearly, these statements caused anxiety in Pakistan.
Potential Prime Minister of India holds a pretty tough line towards China. During a recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh, there were clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in 1962, Modi asked Beijing to "discard the expansionist aspirations" and not to think about "picking up a piece of territory of India". Modi’s possible victory will also become a challenge for India-U.S. relations, because this politician is under U.S. sanctions. He is banned from entering the United States due to the tragic events of 2002 in Gujarat. U.S. authorities accused Modi to a standstill during the communal violence between Hindus and Muslims. Muslims became sufferers in this event, where the number of victims estimated about one thousand.
However, the leader of the BJP is a pragmatic politician and understands that the deterioration of relations with neighbors can lead to destabilization of the region, and therefore can raise concerns of potential investors, many of whom live in China and in the United States. For example, China is the main investor in Gujarat, the BJP leader’s native state. Tough stance towards Beijing and Washington will not improve the economic situation in India. Namely, this is the main task of Narenda Modi. Consequently, it can be assumed, that these statements are just campaign rhetoric and the potential leader of India will not go against the main trade partners. A relation with Pakistan is likely to undergo changes, but the sharp increase in tensions between two countries is also not in the interest of India. As the Head of Gujarat, Modi was actively involved into the process of assistance to Afghanistan, where he interacted with the Pakistani side. This can be a hope to a constructive dialogue between them.
Nonetheless, there is always a case when the BJP leader may try to play the nationalist card, if he does not succeed in realization of his campaign promises regarding economic growth. Image of an external enemy might distract the Indians from possible economic failures of Modi.
It is very likely that elections in India can lead to a shift of political and economic policy of the country. But they will not affect the stability of the general situation in the largest democracy in the world. All the time, India poises between governmental capitalism and liberal approach to the economy, between nationalism and liberalism, between multiplicity of national and religious groups, between West and East. However, India always retains its originality and is influential and independent player on the world stage and in the regional affairs as well. Therefore, Kazakhstan will always be interested in the experience of India and stay in a good relationship with this country.