Elections in India: what's the upshot for Modi?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emerged victorious from India's parliamentary elections and is set for a third term in office, but his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suffered major losses. Without an absolute majority in the lower house of parliament it will now have to rely on coalition partners. Europe's press takes stock.

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Grigorii Golosov (RU) /

He must be careful now

Modi's quest for absolute power has been curbed, writes political scientist Grigorii Golosov on Facebook:

“Modi must now tread carefully so as not to antagonise his coalition partners and/or cause a split in his own party, as even a small rift would see him thrown out of office. It is well known that India has steadily moved towards autocratisation in recent years. At the start of the election campaign there were already severe restrictions on opposition parties and targeted political repression. But notwithstanding, Modi was unable to undermine the integrity of the elections.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

A slap in the face for the prime minister

The setback for Modi might put the brakes on his authoritarian ambitions, says Gazeta Wyborcza:

“Modi, who has been at India's helm since 2014, hoped that with a major victory he would finally defeat the opposition, which is united in the I.N.D.I.A alliance under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi's Congress Party. The latter advocates a tolerant, multicultural and multi-religious India as well as social justice. Modi's poor result means that India's progress towards becoming a one-party state has been halted, commentators stress. ... It is a slap in the face for 73-year-old Modi, who succumbed to self-aggrandisement during the election campaign, claiming that he was not born of a woman but sent to earth by a god.”

The Guardian (GB) /

The opposition should be applauded

The election result could help to halt the erosion of democracy in India, writes The Guardian:

“It is possible that Mr Modi will now seek to intensify his authoritarianism ... But without a supermajority he cannot push through constitutional changes, as many feared he might. With his air of invincibility punctured, politicians, business people, officials and broadcasters may be somewhat less eager to dance to his tune. All those who have resisted Mr Modi's encroachment on India's institutions and democratic, secular traditions - courageous activists, journalists, lawyers and the voters themselves - should be applauded. They have given democracy a second chance. It must now be seized.”

Les Echos (FR) /

The end of Modimania

The prime minister has lost his magic touch, Les Echos observes:

“This election marks the end of 'Modimania': a mixture of Hindu nationalist culture combined with a touch of megalomania. The prime minister was seen distributing masks of his own face, appearing as a hologram and giving speeches to the people far more often than voicing his opinion on controversial topics. Now 73, Narendra Modi will be able to continue governing. But the spell is broken. The man who revived the country's economy and put it back on the world stage will have to move quickly to restore the confidence of the financial world.”

Der Spiegel (DE) /

The poor played key role

India's strongest man has been punished by the weakest, correspondent Laura Höflinger comments in Der Spiegel:

“In India, it is traditionally mainly the poor who vote. For them this is often quite literally the only time their voice counts for something. The BJP has lost seats especially among this group and in rural areas. In Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous and therefore politically most important state, it looks as if the Hindu nationalists will have to give up almost half of their seats. Poverty levels are higher here than in other parts of the country, education levels lower and opportunities scarcer. India's voters may be poor in many cases, but they are too smart to be deceived. The inequality that pervades the country is visible to anyone with a mobile phone, which is most people here.”

Der Standard (AT) /

A stronghold of democracy in the region

Democracy in India is more robust than many believe, writes Der Standard:

“The democratic mega-exercise has been a success, as has so often been the case in the 75-year history of independent India. The possibility of electoral manipulation is not a major issue. And the result, which will probably be far removed from what the ruling party wanted, shows that Indian voters know exactly what they want and also have the opportunity to cast their vote as they see fit - no matter how great the pressure from media propaganda or attempts at intimidation. With a voter turnout of well over 60 percent, India remains a stronghold of democracy in the region.”