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The Aftermath of India’s 2024 Elections

On this episode of Eurasian Connectivity, host Kamran Bokhari and guest Irfan Nooruddin, professor of Indian politics at Georgetown University, break down the recently concluded Indian national elections. Their discussion touches on the political opposition’s gains, the state of Hindutva, and how the results will affect India’s global relationships.

Kamran Bokhari:

Hello, everyone. I’m Kamran Bokhari, senior director of Eurasian Security and Prosperity at the New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy. Welcome to another episode of Eurasian Connectivity. Today my guest is Professor Irfan Nooruddin. He is the Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor of Indian Politics politics at Georgetown University.

He’s written several books, most notably Coalition politics and economic development: credibility and the strength of weak governments, published by Cambridge University. And today we will be talking about the surprising results of the Indian elections. Welcome to the show, Irfan.

Irfan Nooruddin:

Thank you, Kamran. I appreciate the opportunity.

Kamran Bokhari:

Thank you for doing this. So let’s get started and why don’t you tell our listeners how did this happen? Because people were expecting, and people inside India, people around the world were expecting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party would actually gain more strength.

I mean, there was the narrative from the party that, hey, we’re going to hit 400 seats or something like that. But people were thinking it’s going to be far more than 303, which is what they had out of 543 the last time around in 2019. How come they dropped to 240 and with their allies are sitting at I guess 293?

Irfan Nooruddin:

So maybe take a big step back to January of this year. In January of the year, the BJP looked to have no real meaningful opposition. The Congress Party was still in quite a bit of disarray. Their efforts to begin to cobble together a coalition to take on the BJP did not seem to be going particularly well. There were lots of reports of infighting and disagreement about seat sharing.

And to add to all of that, of course, in January the BJP and Mr. Modi had the incredible photo opportunity and television tamasha of consecrating the new Ram Temple at Ayodhya, which I’m sure your listeners are familiar, was built on the site of a destroyed mosque at the Babri Masjid, a historic mosque dating 500 years old that was destroyed in 1992 by Hindu Nationalists then. So you had a perfect confluence of events. You both had the opposition in disarray.

You also had this signature moment that should really announced the culmination of the Hindu nationalist Hindutva dream of the BJP. And you also had several other factors that seemed to be boding well. India’s star companies rise on the global stage. Modi was coming off high profile state dinner in Washington last June, chief guest of Macron at Bastille Day in July.

There was obviously the big fanfare of the G20 Summit. India was the president in 2023. So a lot of momentum. And I think all of this fed the narrative definitely promoted by the party, but then amplified by mainstream media that the BJP was a juggernaut that really would face no real opposition on its path to winning a convincing majority on its own.

And then with its coalition partners potentially broaching 400 seats in parliament, which would’ve given it an incredible ability to amend the Constitution to pass a lot of legislation that is very big on the wish list of the BJP and of the Hindu right, but that they couldn’t do with the current numbers that they have. So what changed? I think two things really. One is hard electoral map.

The BJP in order to reach those goals would’ve really needed to do two things. It would’ve had to defend pretty gaudy totals that it had racked up in the Hindi heartland, the real beating heart of the Hindu Nationalist movement in North India where they were already winning pretty much every seat in Gujarat. They were defending every seat they’d won them all last time around. They were overwhelming majorities in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh. UP, Uttar Pradesh, sends eight parliamentarians to the Lok Sabha each year. The BJP and its allies had over 70 in 2019. So they had to defend all of those and they had to find ways to make inroads in other states where they’ve not had as much success. The prime targets over there were West Bengal, maybe Tamil Nadu to some extent, maybe Karnataka to another.

What the opposition was able to do really getting serious in February, but in March it all clicked together, was cobble together a somewhat ad hoc coalition, but that they were able to get seat sharing on the docket. So the BJP’s 303 seats on its own in 2019 was achieved with just 37% of the national vote. So 37% of the national vote resulted in well over 50% of the seats.

The only way that really works is because in many of these districts, the opposition was busy cannibalizing itself, splitting up the vote share so that even though the BJP candidate wasn’t securing 50% of the vote, they were still winning the seat. By sharing seats and not competing against each other, they were able to consolidate some of that opposition vote. So they made it much harder for the BJP to run away in seats where they didn’t have the majority of the vote and could just get a plurality.

But I think the other dimension, quite frankly, and this is a little more speculative, Kamran, is that the BJP might have really just overestimated the popularity of Mr. Modi and of the movement. There’s a little bit of that autocrat paradox of at some point everyone around you is telling you what you want to hear and you begin to believe your own news feed a little too much.

By talking about 400 seats, by talking about these pretty societal transformation goals, they opened up an opportunity for the Congress in particular, but the opposition more generally to put democracy and the Constitution on the ballot. So Mr. Gandhi and his colleagues began to talk about this as an election to save democracy. That if the BJP has 400 seats, who knows what they will do to India as we know it?

You have prominent politicians saying on the record and off the record that if the BJP wins with such a large mandate, this could be the last free election India ever has. And I think this did resonate with a lot of voters who admittedly might’ve been quite satisfied with the BJP, might have no particular issues with Mr. Modi, but are definitely wary of any one party having that much power unchecked.

And so this was a little bit of trimming the sails, bringing them back to earth, not allowing them to run away too crazy. And some of what Mr. Modi was beginning to talk about, literally comparing himself possibly to being a divine being in a televised interview, I think just provided a lot of fodder for the opposition to say, “Is this really the kind of thing that you want to be feeding?” So I think you get that.

The end result, of course, as we know is that the BJP secured 240 seats. They’re still the largest single party. As they would point out, the BJP on its own won most seats in the entire opposition alliance put together with its partners. It has the majority. The president of the country has accepted Mr. Modi’s application that he gets to form the next government. And expectation is that on the 9th of June, he will be sworn in for the third time as prime minister.

But the dynamics of running a coalition, which India has a lot of familiarity with, new to Mr. Modi, he hasn’t had to do that either at the center or as when he was chief minister of Gujarat. And so I think one way or the other, the next few years are likely to be quite different in tenor and in content in India because we just are really in a new reality than we were before, and it’s definitely one that many of us were not expecting a month ago.

Kamran Bokhari:

Thank you so much for that comprehensive overview of the situation. I mean, the BJP was and its strength in Parliament, 303 seats just by itself and the steady rise from 2014 to 2019 and the expectation of what was supposed to happen or what the BJP wanted to happen in terms of its growth in this election suggested that India was moving towards a situation whereas diverse as the country is geographically, linguistically, ethnically, regionally, politically, in all terms, it’s a very diverse country.

And for a single party to be able to dominate the country was very difficult. And the BJP pulling that off seemed to go against the conventional wisdom of how India operates, where any party ruling at the center has to deal with coalition allies because it can’t possibly dominate all of the states. And the Indian political system, as you know far better than I do, is one where regional governments have considerable authority and they’re not just subservient to the center.

So now can we say that what was going on with the BJP was anomalous and we’re reverting back to at least the norm that has been the case since at least the ’80s, where you need allies at the center and the states are going to be governed by other forces.

Irfan Nooruddin:

I think so. I mean, in a very generous introduction of me, you mentioned my book, “Coalition Politics and Economic Development.” That is in fact the argument I made there, which is that India post 1985 really had entered with the passage in ’85 of what is called the anti-defection law, and had really entered a new era in its politics in which party fragmentation became the name of the game and regional parties became ascendant. Lots of states have state-specific parties.

If you think about the two parties that are going to make it possible for Modi to be the prime minister going forward, you have in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar parties and leaders who are completely dominant in their own states, but really don’t have any ability to win seats outside of their states. And that’s replicated across the length and breadth of the country and in particular in South and Eastern India.

What the BJP was able to do in the last 10 years was ride the popularity of Mr. Modi and take advantage of the complete disarray of the Congress Party as an opposition to really dominate North India. And North India, unlike most of South India, has fewer state-specific parties. Much of the competition in North India, whether it’s Bihar, Bihar is a bit of an exception, but UP, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Delhi itself was competition that was bipolar and was really between the Congress and the BJP.

So when the Congress fell off the cliff, the BJP just swept everything, just complete dominance across the board, and that inflated its totals significantly. I’m not taking any credit away from them. They ran good campaigns. They were organized. They had local cadres that mobilized the vote. They had a charismatic politician at the helm. But really it was that the Congress fell off. In all the other states where they really had to deal with strong regional or state-specific parties, the BJP has struggled to make similar inroads.

So in Maharashtra, the only way that they were able to come to the government was by forming an alliance with a rump faction of the Shiv Sena. In South India, Karnataka is the one place where they’ve made genuine inroads. But in most of the other states where they face strong state-specific parties, they’re still struggling to really get in. In West Bengal where they have to deal with Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress, really struggling to really make inroads in spite of massive investment over the last decade.

So I do think it was a bit of a blip, but I don’t mean blip as an accident. I think it’s completely systematically organized. Now, whether it proves to have been anomalous or whether it has a return to the new normal will depend on whether the partnerships that the Congress was able to form with the Aam Aadmi Party, with the Samajwadi Party in North India are sustainable or not. Because at some point, all of these parties are once again going to want to assert themselves.

The Aam Aadmi Party has already said that it’ll contest the Delhi Assembly elections on its own and not in a partnership with the Congress. So that is likely to be a three-cornered race between the BJP, the Congress, and the AAP. And whenever that happens, the BJP tends to benefit quite a bit. So if the opposition once again fragments, you could imagine that in 2029, assuming this government lasts a full five years, in 2029, you could imagine that the BJP once again really dominates North India.

And that fundamentally gives it a head start towards forming a majority on its own. But if the opposition can stay united or at least have for the sake of the election unity, I think then we are really, once again, in a period in which coalitions are pretty critical, state parties are the kingmakers, and the balance between center and states swings back to the states in a way that some might argue preserves Indian federalism as well.

Kamran Bokhari:

You had mentioned that post 1985, that we’ve had more coalition governments than what we saw under the BJP. Now, you excellently pointed out that the condition is that the opposition needs to stay on the same page at least for the next few years so that the next election can be shaped in their favor. Let’s look at the challenge of what BJP faces, because now they’re down to 240 seats, and they realize that the emphasis on ideology, right-wing Hindu nationalism and the ideology of Hindutva only brought so much political purchase, and in fact may have sort of turned people away.

So how do you compensate for that? How do you dial that back? Can you dial that back because then you run the risk of losing your base and you want to hold onto that. But at the same time, you want to expand because your fear is, okay, I’m at 240, I don’t want to go down further. Ideally, I want to increase my share of the vote and get back to where I was in the next election.

So what are the challenges to the BJP considering that now they have to do the politics of coalition, can they move the economy forward to where jobs are created, and the whole idea that India is an emerging geoeconomic power translates and trickles down to the common person.

Irfan Nooruddin:

Fundamental questions over there. But before I turn to the potential strategy, I think the one thing that you didn’t allude to that might be worth talking about is that the BJP, of course, is spinning this as a win for the NDA. And so we are already beginning to hear a lot about NDA Sarkar coming back for the third time. They used to refer to it as Modi Sarkar. Now it’s NDA Sarkar. But there is no way in just cold data to spin this as anything other than a loss for the BJP.

They lost 20% of their parliamentary seats. Some 20 members of Modi’s ministry, various ministers lost their seats. They lost high-profile ministers. Smriti Irani running from the very prestigious seat of Amethi lost. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, India’s Minister of Information Technology, Entrepreneurship, et cetera, lost his seat. In most parliamentary democracies of a leader in an election resulted in losing 20% of the seats, they would often offer their resignation.

I’m not suggesting that Mr. Modi should have or whatever, but the point of the matter is that this was a pretty significant beating the BJP as a party took. That’s going to lead to a lot of soul-searching. It’ll happen behind the scenes, but there’ll be a lot of soul-searching within the party about who gets the blame for this. And one thing that is worth noting is that Mr. Modi and Mr. Amit Shah, his right-hand man and seen as the Chanakya, the brains behind the BJP electoral machine, are very feared, even respected, but they’re not liked by their own party in India, by the BJP.

So there’ll be plenty of members of the BJP who secretly will be not entirely displeased that this is a comeuppance for Modi and Shah and will begin to jockey themselves for power, because Modi himself is 73 years old. I mean, by the time the next election comes around, he’ll be 78. Is he still going to be the face of the party? Is the election still going to be run on his recognizance as they try to do it this time around? The guess is probably not. So you have to begin to look to the future.

And at least a couple of the heir apparents are pretty wounded coming out of the selection. Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, in his state, the BJP is now below majority. The Congress and Samajwadi Party have the majority of the parliamentary seats from that state. Devendra Fadnavis, the former chief minister of Maharashtra, another young gun who are seen as the future of the BJP, the BJP did terribly in Maharashtra as well, losing to the original Shiv Sena and original NCP and Congress Alliance.

So if you’re in the BJP, I think at least one of the questions that will be definitely asked is, who’s to blame for this? Who’s to be held accountable for this? And what does the future look like? Don’t want to make too much of that. It’s a little bit of parlor game, kind of who’s in power and who’s sitting closer to the center of table, old school Kremlinnology. But I do think that those dynamics are worth keeping something of an eye on.

The second question then, as you correctly point out, is whether this leads to a bit of a shift in strategy in terms of substance and policymaking. Does it lead them to dial down the overt emphasis on Hindutva and anti-Muslim rhetoric? Immediate expectations are that it should. Both Nitish Kumar and the JDU, N. Chandrababu Naidu and the TDP have very little sympathy for that. They both are parties and states that rely quite significantly on Muslim votes, but also on Dalit votes.

So Nitish’s party has already made clear that they see a caste census, which are a big campaign promise of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party and opposed by the BJP. But Nitish and the JDU say that that’s a definite. They have to do it going forward. So I do think you get some of those sorts of excessively vitriolic comments about minority communities dialed down a bit, and maybe the focus swings back to economic prosperity, developing India’s economy.

And over there they have a really good partner in Chandrababu Naidu. Andhra Pradesh is one of the most economically developed states. He has a reputation for being very, very business friendly, and maybe they get to double down on those and make the campaign and the story that they’re telling over the next five years that we are the guys who can really deliver on the economy, et cetera.

The big challenge over there, and you alluded to this a bit, Kamran, in your question, is that India’s economy has got both structural issues about just can it grow fast enough overall, but the second order of the question is, how do you also deliver the benefits of all of that growth somewhat equitably and in particular to the common person who has really been left behind dramatically? By some estimates, India today is more unequal in terms of shares of GDP than it was during the British Raj.

The inequality is stark. It is evident to anyone who visits India. Gleaming high rises and skyscrapers in cities like Bombay and Calcutta and Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi. People driving the fanciest cars and slums surrounding those very same buildings on the outskirts of those very same cities kind of thing. And that leaves unsaid, of course, the rural distress of farming communities that find it hard to meet the rising food insecurity and food inflation. Both of those things can be true.

India can be growing and there could be lots of wealth being created and inequality can be increasing and lots of people can be left behind. So the BJP and the NDA Coalition has to find a way to keep economic momentum going to generate more globally competitive industry, but also figure out how to make sure that the trickle-down effects, forgive that phrase, are perceived by everyday citizens. And it starts there with jobs. How do you create jobs?

How do you incentivize the creation of jobs in the formal sector that can absorb the incredible numbers of young people who are coming out of colleges and universities with degrees but can’t find jobs? These are very difficult questions. They’re difficult questions for any government. It’s not just the BJP that’s going to be challenged, but they do have to figure this out. And I think what you’re going to see is a lot more emphasis on reforms that incentivize manufacturing, just very heavy emphasis on manufacturing going forward.

I suspect there’ll be quite a bit of quasi-protectionism under the guise of self-reliance, [inaudible 00:21:30] 2.0, if you would, because domestic industry is going to really be worried about bringing in foreign competition and saying, “If you want us to create jobs, we need to be protected a little bit.” And I suspect in that Hobbesian choice sort of thing, the government will favor jobs over free trade. But I do think this is going to be the main tension that the government faces is they need to tell a better story than they have been able to tell.

But they’re also going to have to jockey with a lot of infighting as a lot of these state factions within the BJP face big elections very soon in their states. Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Haryana all have state elections as soon as this October. The possibility that they could lose all three states to a resurgent opposition is a worst-case scenario for them. It changes the narrative completely, a complete nail in the coffin about the BJP invincibility and Modi’s aura.

So I think trying to make sure that they win those state elections will be the first order of priority, and that might mean that they make a bunch of short-term campaign decisions that are not necessarily in the best interest long term.

Kamran Bokhari:

So we’re running out of time, and I want to get to zooming out of India and saying, OK, what does this look like from the outside, particularly in the West that has very high hopes of India, whether you’re looking at the United States, and this is a bipartisan thing here, and of course, European allies as well? But before we do that, I want to ask one more question and something you mentioned to me before we started recording is the difference between political Hindutva and Hindutva at the social level.

And I want to link it to what you just said earlier about the competition, the intra-BJP competition and the sidelining of individuals like Yogi who is seen as far more conservative than Modi himself. So where do you see Hindutva going? We were talking about how it may have plateaued as a political vehicle or as a political project, but we’re now three decades into this phenomenon, and so it has culturally changed India. So what’s the future after this jolt to the BJP?

Irfan Nooruddin:

As optimistic as one might want to be coming out of this election, I think you’d be naive to think that Hindutva has been defeated. I mean, I love the headline of the Dawn, the Pakistani national newspaper, that said, “India defeats hate.” That’s a nice spin, but that’s not really what happened over here, because that kind of religious polarization and the religious prejudice that Modi was trying to exploit in his very overtly anti-Muslim speeches, that still persists and it still exists within Indian society.

I mean, India, big cities are religiously segregated in terms of residential life. There are Hindu-only buildings and Muslim ghettos in most of these cities. Lower caste and Dalit individuals in India are still faced grotesque discrimination in everyday life, whether it’s in terms of their personal lives of who they can marry, but also in terms of workplace discrimination. So those social cleavages are real, and I don’t think we do ourselves any favor by trying to wish them away.

So that’s what I mean when I say that the societal project of Hindutva, which has less to do with the BJP and far more to do with organizations like the RSS, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the National Volunteer Corps, which is the center organization of the broader family of Hindutva organizations. They have a reach that is unprecedented and much stronger and much deeper in Indian society than at any point before. And that really is throughout the length and breadth of the country.

It penetrates all the bureaucracies, penetrates the court systems, et cetera. So I think there the vigilance of civil society and all of that have to continue. And maybe one thing that we should take away from this election is that the blunting of the Modi juggernaut in the elections hopefully creates greater space for media houses to feel a little more independent for civil society to feel like they can stick their necks out a little bit and change the nature of public discourse.

Because right now that has become completely stultified and pretty silent within India. But if you can begin to do that, then you begin to be able to push back on the social prejudices that are still very evident in everyday life in India.

Kamran Bokhari:

So let’s switch gears and put on a geopolitical lens. And if you’re a U.S. policy maker, decisionmaker, what’s your takeaway? You obviously don’t have the bandwidth to go into the details than we’ve gone through, which is fascinating from an academic point of view and just in terms of the evolution of Indian democracy.

But from the point of view of policymakers, what changes in India? Knowing that the United States and its allies would like to see India step up and become a competitor of sorts to China, although the difference between the capacity of China and India is very stark. But nonetheless, that is the hope and that is the future towards which Washington and its allies are trying to walk towards. So how does this help that, change that, or is there no change with regards to that objective?

Irfan Nooruddin:

There will be some change. Whether it’s positive or negative, I think we’ll have to see. But in the most immediate, there’ll be a new set of faces that Washington’s going to have to build relationships with.

For the last 10 years, they’ve had the benefit of a lot of stability in senior Cabinet positions, deep personal relationships developed with people like the external affairs minister, Minister Ambassador Jaishankar, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who prior to being minister was a very successful tech entrepreneur, was the person driving a lot of the digital India policy, frequently in Washington promoting digital public infrastructure, the data privacy laws, all of that kind of stuff. Well, Chandrasekhar lost.

He’s not going to be in that post any longer. And maybe Mr. Jaishankar will continue as external affairs minister or maybe in a Cabinet reshuffle as the coalition partners demand new portfolios as part of their price for supporting the government, there are changes elsewhere. So I do think Washington and its team in India is going to have to quickly get up to speed on a lot of some of the faces that they’re now going to have to deal with that they haven’t had to deal with before.

I do think that the major ministries, finance, defense, et cetera, the BJP will keep control of and presumably will keep the current incumbent ministers there. But nonetheless, there is always going to be some turnover and we have to deal with that. I think the big unknown is whether or not the dynamics of coalition governance force a little more inward looking policy orientation on the part of the government than it has been able to enjoy over the last five years. The last five years, notwithstanding the period of COVID, the BJP really did not see any serious domestic competition for power.

And what that meant is that it could have a lot of the domestic policymaking happen on autopilot. It was all run out of the prime minister’s office. They could push through transformational legislation or policies, demonetization the abrogation of the Kashmirs, of statehood, Citizenship Amendment Act, the attempt pass, big farm bills, Digital Privacy Act, with very little legislative debate, no legislative debate, almost no discussion even in the legislature, voice votes passing these transformative bills.

That’s not going to fly in a world in which the opposition is now pretty organized and pretty vociferous, and in which the coalition partners themselves might want to have a say in some of that policymaking. So you have to imagine more energy being devoted to just the running of the domestic policy space, and that might be zero sum with energy for the international policy space.

The good news for those of us who are slightly more internationalist is that I think on the fundamental questions about India’s role on the world stage, India’s relationship with China, there is pretty broad cross-aisle agreement. Everyone recognizes China is India’s biggest strategic threat. Neither side is particularly overtly antagonistic against China.

Because as you very diplomatically alluded, India is much weaker compared to China. They can’t afford to be directly confrontational with China. I do think there’ll be some differences in the degree to which aligning India closer and closer with the United States is seen as a good thing, unconditionally good thing. And so maybe there’ll be a little negotiation on that.

I think the one place where it’s going to be the hardest, as I said earlier in my comments, is that I do think that having someone like Nitish and the JDU as part of this coalition makes aggressive economic reform that makes India more competitive globally in terms of more global market-friendly reforms, etcetera, harder because I think the focus of that party and of that particular constituency is much more bread and butter issues for the most marginalized and vulnerable Indians.

And negotiating that space, I think, is going to be where the US and its Western partners are likely to be most disappointed. If you’re hoping that India’s economy was about to take a giant step forward in terms of market-friendly reforms, I suspect you’re likely to be disappointed. But I think if you’re just focused on whether India continues to be somewhat frustrating, but nonetheless fairly reliable partner in terms of the broader Western agenda to provide some balance in the Indo-Pacific, I suspect Indian companies to play that role.

Kamran Bokhari:

So my final question, Irfan, South Asia. You’ve touched upon China, but China has deep influence in South Asia through Pakistan. There is a relationship with Bangladesh. In recent years, we’ve seen India project influence in the maritime space in the Indian Ocean Basin. What becomes of that? Is there going to be any change to that, or are we going to see continuity?

What should the world expect, or at least what should the region of South Asia expect? And by extension, you also have Afghanistan and Iran there as well. And this is the most densely populated part of the world, so it does matter. So give us your sense of what to expect with regards to India’s relationship with its immediate strategic environments.

Irfan Nooruddin:

As long as the NDA Sarkar keeps power, I think you get a lot of continuity over there. I don’t know that we get any breakthroughs. South Asia remains the least regionally connected area of the world in terms of intraregional trade. I don’t think that this coalition is going to feel like it has a political capital to make a rapprochement with Pakistan in terms of opening that border for trade, for instance. Mr. Modi and Sheikh Hasina have forged a pretty good relationship.

There is shared understanding in terms of the border and Bangladeshi migrants and all of that, but basically they’ve accommodated each other. I don’t see that changing. The generally Indian Ocean region strategy and in particular the relationships with the Gulf countries, Israel, that’s one you didn’t mention, but India is very keen to build stronger relationships with Israel. That’s on the back burner right now because of the conflict in Gaza on which India has been studiously silent in spite of its historic support for the Palestinian people.

So I think you get a lot of continuity over there. I think the big concern, the X factor, is that Pakistan is a ever convenient target for some saber-rattling as a way of just reasserting the importance of nationalism and national security, which both of which are valence issues for the BJP. And so let’s imagine we’re in September of this year and the pre-polls going into the state elections are looking bad for the BJP. Is there a temptation to raise the heat, do some rhetorical saber-rattling, et cetera, vis-a-vis Pakistan? Or God forbid, if there’s a terrorist attack in Kashmir on the Indian side of the border.

In 2019, an attack in Kashmir led to an Indian cross border air force attack that the BJP milked tremendously for political gain at home. And so those I think are the one place where the political vulnerability that the BJP currently is experiencing and those insecurities makes it, I think, more risky in terms of the potential for some escalation of the things that poking Pakistan has some political gain. So in the immediate region, I think that’s a concern.

But I think in the broader South Asia region and looking to your beat, really the Central Asian region, I think India’s focus goals remain intact. The question is whether it has the bandwidth to really do interesting work in that part of the world, or whether really all that energy now gets redirected to very domestic bread and butter issues as it tries to shore up its coalition and look to the state elections that are upcoming.

Kamran Bokhari:

I want to thank you so much, Irfan, for taking your out to record this episode with us. You really enlightened our audience with the breadth and the depth of your knowledge. Folks, that was Professor Irfan Nooruddin. He teaches Asian studies at Georgetown University, and he is a scholar of Indian politics.

And we were listening to his views on what to make of the 2024 elections, which in many ways is a game changer, and what to expect India over the next five years, considering that the BJP will still be in power, barring any unforeseen circumstances. So I think we will continue to have this conversation. I hope that we can get Professor Nooruddin once again as time goes by and we have new developments. But for now, this is Kamran Bokhari signing off. Take care and see you in another episode.

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