CANSA Director Sanjay Vashist, expresses his view on the on the new step in Indian politics and analyses the potential impacts of India PM Designated Narendra Modi’s from BJP…
Dawn of May 16, 2014, India woke up anticipating election results that were to be announced after six weeks of election campaigning and eight phases of voting in 29 States with more than 1 billion voters. With development issues at the forefront and communal / caste related arguments taking a back seat, the 2014 elections marked a historic moment in Indian Politics.
The United Progressive Alliance (the ruling coalition for the last 10 years headed by the Congress) has been defeated. Manmohan Singh will resign on 17 May 2014, after 10 years as the Head of the ruling coalition. People have been unhappy with unspoken Dr Singh and the Government tainted with corruption. Lack of economic reforms, large scale corruption, two political power centres (Manmohan and Sonia Gandhi), Dynastical Rule of the Ghandi family, hostile relations with neighbouring States and the arrogant attitude towards protests, are a few reasons for Indians to vote the Congress out of power. The Congress today is reduced to its least number of representatives in history, unqualified to be the main opposition party or alliance.
Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has emerged as the single largest party in India, with Narendra Modi (in short known as ‘NaMo’) as its new Prime Minister. In the past BJP has always been branded as a communal party, supporting Hindu ideology. But the result of this election has demonstrated that minorities in India have also voted for BJP supporting the ‘development campaign’. BJP is the main party of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), heading towards securing the majority in the House (required 272 / 543) with 283 seats, giving paving way to a Government for the next five years, empowered to withstand pressure from the Opposition (as well as its allies).
The outcome of the majority could be seen either as positive or negative. While a weak Opposition is not good news in a Democracy, the capacity to dominate one’s allies is also not good news. This could create space for domination and hinder necessary reforms while interfering with foreign policy decisions, as has been the case in past as seen through supporting Human Rights Resolution Referendum in UN against Sri Lanka and pulling out of the Teasta treaty with Bangladesh.
Modi and the Climate
With BJP in power, the Climate agenda could get the attention desired from the policy makers. For the last 15 years, Modi, as the Chief Minister of the Gujarat State has prioritised solar and wind energy, initiating innovative ideas like solar panels on water canals to minimise evaporation losses and utilised the space efficiently. Gujarat is also a progressive state in terms of investing in diverse sources of energy with a 17% of its energy being generated through Renewable Energy sources. This could be an indication that Low Carbon Development is a priority for the incoming Government.
After playing a proactive role as the Opposition in the past, the new Government is expected to be receptive to the Civil Society. Modi is known to be taking a very progressive stance on many issues and is very careful in projecting his image, thus will be willing to take leadership in foreign diplomacy and addressing key moments for change such as the upcoming Ban-Ki-Moon Summit. However it remains to be seen on how fast he will be attentive to prepare for the Summit.
On a perusal of the Manifesto of the BJP, it seems clear that India will continue its Mission on Low Carbon Development and Adaptation, while working towards achieving its 20-25% Energy emission reduction target by 2020. The ruling coalition may relax environmental guidelines to speed up the industrial and mining projects, which in turn would impact the ecosystems, which would also lead towards displacement of communities. The BJP is obliged to bring reforms that could increase investments for the corporate sector, which would likely be performed on urgent basis. Thus while there could be investments in renewable energy projects, there will not be any effort to reduce dependence on fossil fuel.
One of the most ‘dear’ projects of BJP in the past has been ‘Inter-linking of Rivers in India’, which has been opposed by the Indian Civil Society due to its ecological consequences. However today’s results could be the revival of such ideas, and be a replacement for focussing on Adaptation.
‘NaMo’ and South Asia
There are many apprehensions concerning Modi’s election as the Prime Minister of India, with BJP being seen as the Hindu Party supported by fundamentalists. Despite this, however, BJP emerging as a single largest party with its own mandate for ruling could be good news for South Asia.
Modi has already shared in one of the election debates that he would like to have two approaches to in India’s foreign policy:
1) Build relations with neighbours
2) Build trade ties with the World
This indicates the progressive attitude towards neighbouring countries. Relations with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh could improve, especially with pressure from regional political parties such as Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and Tamil Political Parties opposing relations with Sri Lanka losing its space. With Pakistan, considering the country’s positive relations during the earlier rule of the BJP, relations are expected to improve with new initiatives. However in an event of a terrorist attack, Modi will be under pressure to take a strong stance and will be forced to live up to his image of a strong ‘Statesman’ that could jeopardise the harmony in Sub-Continent.
‘NaMo’ at Home
On domestic policies, especially for those concerning Economy, Markets have already shown that BJP in power is good news for making India once again the investor’s paradise. The Middle Class is hoping to increase its income through good economic growth. However it is still not clear on how, the new Government plans to distribute the money equitably, to achieve poverty reduction objectives and a decent standard of living for all.
The election of BJP with a full mandate for ruling is an opportunity to demonstrate its secular credentials to minorities. If NaMo, in the next 5 years, delivers policies that share benefits of economic growth with all sections of society and makes necessary infrastructure available to the poor, then the BJP is heading towards a long innings in the Government.
Sanjay Vashist is the Regional Director of Climate Action Network South Asia has worked as International Coordinator for Climate Action Network International (CANI) in Bonn, Germany co-ordinating the activities of ENGOs network and acting as focal point for ENGOs constituency of observers under UNFCCC. Prior to pursuing a career in climate change science, he worked as Natural Resource Scientist in Central India implementing community based projects to strengthen sustainable livelihoods. He has 14 years of experience in Natural Resource Management, Implementation of Adaptation in key sectors and following International Climate Change discussions on various platforms for future climate change regime.