Narendra Modi (left) has been re-elected as prime minister of India. Photo: Sina

The victory of Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, in the recent election was not much of a surprise. Looking back, the enormous scale of the election campaigns, the strong participation of female voters, the complexity of the election battles and the fact that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won an overwhelming majority in the Indian parliament are the highlights of this election.

Local elections were held in five states at the end of last year, serving as warm-up games of this year’s general election. Initially, it seemed that the BJP would fail this year when it lost three important states, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

Protests and strikes in late 2018 and early 2019 also cast a shadow over the election. All these factors showed that opposition parties such as the Indian National Congress (INC) and other local political groups would threaten the BJP regime while Modi would face stronger monitoring from the public.

Modi’s biggest opponent was Rahul Gandhi of the Congress party. The INC tried to boost its popularity by proposing policies to provide underprivileged people more allowances and cheaper agricultural prices. The party also accused the Modi administration of failing to meet their promises made during the last election campaign in 2014.

The Modi administration was blasted for its poor economic record.

In his campaign, Modi avoided talking about the economy but constantly stressed his toughness and bravery when dealing with Kashmir and the surgical strikes against Pakistan, placing national security above all other topics. He also highlighted the success of the anti-missile satellite test, which helped boost his public support.

Modi reiterated the target of “development” and vowed to make India “the world’s third-largest economy” by 2030. He promised to improve the living standards of farmers, increase investments in infrastructure projects, reduce taxes and promote women’s rights in his grand blueprint.

He stayed in a Hindu temple in the state of Uttarakhand and meditated in a cave in the mountains on the eve of the election. Although he was attacked by opponents, he successfully reinforced his public image as a hard-working and pragmatic “monk.”

In all senses, Modi was confident that he could renew his term as prime minister, and that the people would decide that the current government should continue to govern.

The Modi administration ultimately won more than half of the seats in Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, before the votes were even fully counted. Modi promised to build a “strong and inclusive India.”

Here are the three key factors that led to Modi’s victory:

1. While Modi’s macroeconomic reforms may not have met his promises, he made many impressive and innovative decisions and launched a lot of policies and plans about affordable housing, electrification, national health care and taxation. The results of these plans may not be satisfactory but they showed the government’s efficiency and mobility, which were praised by the Indian people.

2. Over the past five years, Modi’s government has made a lot of efforts to try to push forward his “New India” plan that aims for a modern economy, an efficient government and a leading global status on top of the country’s traditional values and customs. In addition, India has strengthened its ties with other nations while maintaining an “India First” mentality. At the same time, Modi has committed to spreading Indian values to neighboring countries while advocating India’s soft power.

3. Modi and his party are driven by Hindu nationalism. Modi added the title “Chowkidar” (Watchman of India) to his name in his Twitter account, emphasizing his role as a protector for the people. While the notion of Hinduism reigning supreme is a double-edged sword, it provided a sense of security and belonging to the population, 80% of whom are Hindus. Modi is a natural-born politician who knows how to use an election strategy to inspire voters and build popularity.

In all, the vision of a “New India” gained support from the voters. However, Modi will definitely face more challenges in his second term. We will see how he can lead the rising India with his strongman image.

This article was first published on and was translated by Kamaran Malik.

Cai Jing is an associate professor at the College of International Relations at Huaqiao University. She holds a PhD from the School of Foreign Languages at Peking University. She is knowledgeable in fields involving Sino-Indian cross-cultural exchanges as well as Indian religion and cultural studies.

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