It’s finally Friday May 16, the day India’s 1.25 billion residents have been waiting on for at least the past five weeks. While election officials have not yet finished counting the 550 million votes that were cast, the Congress Party has already conceded defeat to the controversial Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
After just two hours of counting, it became clear that the Hindu Nationalist BJP was going to win more than 272 seats, which means that Modi will take power in the biggest landslide win India has seen since 1984.
The Indian National Congress has run the government for almost all of the country’s post-independence history, so this shift is a milestone for India. The party has been plagued with corruption scandals in recent years, which have caused it to fall out of favor with voters.
But with a BJP win, India is now looking at a government that doesn’t exactly promise anything better.
A major party in the Indian political system, the BJP is believed to be the political wing of the Hindu militant nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — which rose to infamy in 1948 when one of its members assassinated Mahatma Gandhi over his tolerance of Muslims. Since, the party has been responsible for various ethnically motivated acts, such as the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya — which led to nationwide riots between Hindus and Muslims — and as many as 2,000 fatalities. Modi is rumored to have joined RSS when we was just 8 years old.
In 2002 Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat during the mass riots, in which hundreds of Muslims were killed. Modi has vehemently denied instigating and organizing the Hindu rioters and allowing them to attack. He was investigated for his part in the conflict, but found not guilty.
Needless to say, he is an unapologetic Hindu nationalist — and to many, a mass murderer. Today it has become a reality that this man will be the leader of one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse countries in the world.
If you walk the streets of any major city in India today, many are seemingly pleased with the results — happy for a change, and with the possible steering away of India from corruption. Modi has promised economic growth, which was something the Congress Party had waned from. However, electing a party and man widely known for intolerance is not the kind of progress the country should be striving for. If anything, this is a step back.
Will India be okay? Probably. Only time will tell, and I’m happy to be proven wrong. But should we be worried? Definitely.
Follow Neha Shastry on Twitter: @NehaShastry