The reelection of Narendra Modi and his right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) with a huge majority in India has baffled many both inside the country and within the Indian diaspora.
Since the general election that ended on May 19 was his second chance after being voted into power as prime minister in 2014, his critics were expecting him either to be defeated or to lose a significant number of seats in the parliament.
However, their predictions were proven wrong as Modi not only won, but increased his party's number of seats in the house.
Out of total 542 seats, the BJP alone bagged 300 seats, which was more than the total number of 272 seats required to get a clear majority. In 2014, BJP won 282 seats—10 more than the magic figure.
It appears that even the anti-incumbency factor did not work against Modi who was being accused of failing to deliver on many issues.
The most challenging part of this election was that it was considered a referendum on the sectarian politics of BJP. Attacks on religious minorities, especially Muslims, grew under this government over the past five years.
Those opposed to Modi warned that if BJP got another chance, India will be transformed into a Hindu theocracy. It's now a matter of time as people have already made their choice.
This happened despite the fact that Modi and BJP intensified their assault on the secular fabric of the Hindu-dominated country.
Modi himself has been widely accused—though never charged—of complicity in an anti-Muslim massacre in 2002. The pogrom followed the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, leaving more than 50 people dead in the western state of Gujarat.
Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat back then, blamed Islamic extremists for the incident and there were allegations that he incited violence against Muslims to polarize the Hindu vote-bank.
During the 2019 election, the BJP nominated Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur—a controversial Hindu ascetic who faces trial in the bombing conspiracy against Muslims—as its candidate from Bhopal.
Modi defended the decision by claiming that she was arrested under malicious charges laid by the previous Congress government. He went to the extent of portraying Thakur as a symbol against Congress, which he categorically said was involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre.
Thousands of Sikhs were killed following the assassination of the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984. The slain leader's Congress party officials engineered the violence that helped her son, Rajiv Gandhi, come to power with a heavy majority as the next prime minister.
Like how the Modi government and BJP have repeatedly "othered" the Muslim community, the Congress scapegoated the Sikh minority to make electoral gains in the name of national security.
Even though the Indian constitution guarantees religious freedom and equality and is close to the Indian ethos of secularism, the majority has repeatedly voted for men like Rajiv Gandhi and Modi.
Whereas, the BJP openly advocates for Hindu theocracy, the Congress has mostly played the Hindu card for pragmatic reasons. But the end result has always been the same and has helped both parties to consolidate a Hindu majority against minority communities.
One can understand the results of the 2014 election: Modi was helped because of the lack of leadership on the opposition side and the desire for a leader to pursue an aggressive economic agenda.
But over the past five years, many atrocities were committed against minorities with impunity and yet the majority chose to give Modi another chance.
On principle, voters shouldn’t have let the country go to Modi even in 2014, but after having seen the social environment being vitiated over the past five years, their verdict should have been against this government.
Yet the Congress shamelessly pandered to the majority by trying to prove themselves as better Hindus than the supporters of BJP during the campaign.
As if this wasn’t enough, reacting to the attacks from Modi on the issue of 1984, a senior Congress leader, Sam Pitroda said: “What happened happened.”
This showcases the majoritarian mindset of both parties.
Meanwhile, the BJP has repeatedly tried to make people forget 2002 similar acts of violence against minorities committed by their party insiders in the past.
This proves that India has always been a majoritarian Hindu state and Modi has only made this truth more apparent.
By openly polarizing Hindus against minorities and fielding an accused terrorist like Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, this government clearly indicated its intentions. The voters aren’t fools. Their acceptance of such a recipe means they have imagined a different India that won’t be pluralist anymore.
If the people in a majority choose to ignore the cries of the victims of violence committed by majoritarian goons, the message is very loud and clear that India was a Hindu state, is a Hindu state, and will always be like that.
If one includes the story of Dalits (so-called untouchables) in this narrative, then there is a little doubt left to believe this conclusion.
Dalits have been subjected to oppression for centuries under a brutal caste system practised by the Hindu theocracy. This brutality has never subsided even under non-BJP governments guided by a constitution that banishes the caste system.
That leaves us with no other choice but to accept this ugly reality.