Democracy in crisis

BJP supporters celebrate Holi and a win in Uttar Pradesh with a photo of PM Modi
In India and elsewhere, politics has become more tied to leaders than fundamental issues. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has contributed to this phenomenon (source: dpa)
  • Leaders of all stripes want to increase state power to achieve political goals
  • They must therefore differentiate themselves based on personality
  • This has polarized politics and led to disenchantment with democracy
  • Populism, based on majority rule, has risen as a result

In mid-March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a landslide win in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. The victory strengthens Mr. Modi’s position as he passes the midway point in his five-year term. After the economic disruption caused by his decision to withdraw 86 percent of the banknotes in circulation (in a heavily cash-based economy), the election had assumed huge significance. Under India’s first-past-the-post system, the BJP won 75 percent of Uttar Pradesh constituencies with only about 40 percent of the vote. Moreover, turnout was only 60 percent. In effect, BJP won a landslide with the support of only 25 percent of eligible voters.

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