India has a new prime minister after a month-long election that attracted a turnout rate of 66.4 percent and 136 million first-time voters.
Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat for 12 years, won the popular vote.
Modi hails from a segment of the population that India’s government identifies as other backward class (OBC), a caste that traditionally has been educationally and socially disadvantaged.
Prior to his election, the secular establishment and chattering classes viewed Modi as unelectable, a divisive figure who lacked national appeal.
Not only was Modi refused entry visas by the US and other high profile democracies, but his opponents also vilified him, likening him to a ruthless autocrat.
Nevertheless, Modi guided the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a landslide victory.
All told, the BJP won an unprecedented 282 of the 543 seats in India’s parliament, eclipsing the 244 obtained by P.V. Naraimha Rao’s Congress Party in 1991.
India’s bureaucracy is large, convoluted, and corrupt. The country’s weak central government has enabled the powerful chief ministers of individual states to impede national reform initiatives in the name of local politics.
Given these political realities, Modi will need to form a strong central government to implement the changes necessary for India to maximize its economic potential.