India’s general election began on Thursday with the first of seven phases and will end on May 19. Voters will elect their regional representatives to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament, who will in turn choose the next prime minister of India. Their choice will likely be between current Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rahul Gandhi of the Indian National Congress Party.
As in much of the world, India’s politics have shifted rightward in recent years. Under Modi’s tenure, Hindu fundamentalists have gained a more mainstream role with government officials such as the Chief Minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath publicly taking Hindu nationalist stances. At the same time, Muslims and lower-caste groups have faced a sharp rise in hate crimes.
Recently renewed tensions between India and Pakistan have bolstered support for Modi. In February, Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed more than 40 Indian soldiers in Kashmir; in response, India launched airstrikes at a supposed training camp for the group. Though interactions between the two countries have cooled, the threat of continued conflict looms over the current election cycle.
At a recent panel hosted by the Chicago Council for Global Affairs, speakers examined the issues most likely to influence voters as Worldview recorded the discussion in front of a live audience to share with you. How might this election shape India’s rise as a global power and its relations with the United States? We hear responses from Sadanand Dhume, Tanvi Madan and Adam Roberts. Dhume is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Madan is a fellow in foreign policy and the director of The India Project at the Brookings Institution. Roberts is a political correspondent for The Economist.