"Is jeet ki gunj bahut door tak jaegi" — the echoes of this win will go far — said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) karyakartas after a comprehensive win in 2023 state elections of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
And he is not wrong. The echoes of this victory have already engulfed the Indian political landscape. Opposition lies scattered and demotivated.
I.N.D.I Alliance is struggling to organise meetings. Opposition analysts seem to have switched the debate to all is not lost and finding silver linings in what increasingly indicates a doomsday election for them in 2024.
To be sure, historically, these state elections have not always indicated who will win in the subsequent Lok Sabha elections. But the size of the win in Madhya Pradesh (2/3rd majority) and the surprise upset in Chhattisgarh has put paid to the best hopes of even the most optimistic opposition members.
All that is immensely visible. What is more interesting, though, is that these echoes have also reached foreign soils, and pretty fast at that.
"India's BJP wins three of four state polls months before the national election,” ran an Al Jazeera report, terming the BJP's poll victories "historic and unprecedented.”
It immediately followed it up with an analysis of “Four reasons why Modi’s BJP swept key India regional elections.”
Reuters dubbed the poll victories as a "big boost" for Prime Minister Modi. The Washington Post praised the BJP's huge wins in crucial polls. The New York Times acknowledged that the BJP expanded its dominance of a key region ahead of general elections. Ram Mandir was also featured in its article as a big plan to galvanise the base further.
The Financial Times declared, “Narendra Modi’s BJP triumphs in India state elections”. China Daily was not far behind, with "Poll win in 3 states a boost for Indian PM,”
It is perhaps these reverberations from beyond the borders that Prime Minister Modi was also referring to the far distance in “… bahut door tak jayegi.”
The Emergent Global Dimension Of India And Its Politics
For keen watchers of India and the world geopolitics, this should not come as a big surprise.
India’s rapid economic growth and expanding strategic interests have thrust it into a more prominent role in global geopolitics in recent years.
India, acting as a balancer between the US-North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Russia-China blocs, has supported Russia amid US sanctions and engaged with BRICS, while also participating in QUAD, supporting Israel, and engaging in significant arms deals and G20 trade agreements.
It is also increasingly being seen as an important voice of the Global South. This balanced diplomacy has helped stabilise delicate global situations.
In fact, India’s presence and strength are a major contributor in making the new world order increasingly multipolar, rather than bipolar. Questions like which side will India be on, and how would its national polity behave now, have a much-increased global geopolitical dimension to them.
And herein lies the outsized importance of the Indian elections of 2024, and the indicators received about it in the 2023 state elections.
Domestic Politics Influencing Global Perceptions
Geopolitical strength and rise stems from various factors like cultural and economic might, and sometimes even time and luck. However, the effective utilisation of these strengths largely depends on the political leadership of the time.
Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar have proven adept at the same. This is a good chunk helped by the Indian economy's strengths, being an oasis of stability in the economically boiling world of today and firmly positioned to become the growth engine of the world in the future.
But the very next, or perhaps even more important factor on how effective the leader is in global geopolitics is, how much of political strength it carries domestically.
That India has delivered strong majority governments after decades in the last 10 years has played a very important role in giving the strength and conviction to Prime Minister Modi to deliver at the global scale and for India to emerge as an influential world leader.
Importance Of Political Strength In Geopolitics
In the realm of international relations, the strength of a nation's government significantly influences its global standing.
Countries often prefer interacting with weaker states, as it allows them to advance their own interests with less resistance. A government perceived as fragile or divided, typically exemplified by coalition administrations, often finds its voice and influence diminished on the world stage.
Strong, decisive leadership is therefore crucial for a country to assert itself effectively in global affairs.
The re-election of Prime Minister Modi in 2019 with an expanded majority sent a clear message to the international community: India's current leadership is stable and resilient.
Looking ahead to 2024, the stakes are higher. A potential, and unprecedented, third consecutive term for Prime Minister Modi and the BJP would not only solidify their position in India's political landscape, but also project India as a steadfast and influential player in global geopolitics.
Implications Beyond Borders
The 2024 Indian elections carry significant weight beyond domestic politics, deeply influencing geopolitical dynamics.
The sweeping victory in the 2023 state elections is seen as a precursor to the 2024 general elections. This perspective has gained traction among foreign media, investors, and strategic analysts, who view these results as a bellwether for India's political and economic future.
The international community's keen interest in these elections, marked by extensive coverage and analysis, underscores India's growing prominence on the global stage.
The 2023 election outcomes have bolstered Prime Minister Modi's government, enhancing its authority both within India and internationally, at least till 2024 general elections.
Prime Minister Modi's acknowledgment of the far-reaching "echoes" of this victory suggests a strategic awareness of its impact. It is anticipated that his government will leverage this momentum in both domestic and international arenas, as it approaches the next general election.
Having said that, the journey to the 2024 elections from here is not without its complexities.
This scenario of tremendously empowered Prime Minister Modi in his third term, is not universally welcomed. Many international actors, driven by their strategic interests, would prefer a weaker or more fragmented Indian government with less decisive majority. Such a situation would allow them greater leverage in negotiations and diplomatic engagements.
The evolving dynamics of this situation, particularly in the context of the significant shifts in global power structures occurring in this era, make the 2024 elections pivotal.
The outcomes will likely have far-reaching implications, shaping India's role and influence in the international arena for years to come.
Observing how these global dynamics unfold and interact with India's domestic politics promises to be intriguing in the lead-up to the 2024 elections.
Dr. Vidhu Shekhar, an ex-Investment Banker and Hedge Fund analyst, is currently Assistant Professor of Finance and Associate Head of Centre for Financial Studies at SPJIMR, Mumbai. He is Ph.D (Economics) from IIM Calcutta, MBA (2006) also from IIM Calcutta, and B.Tech (2004) from IIT Kharagpur. Views are personal.
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