Will This Be India’s Last General Elections?

Aditya Iyer
4 min readJun 2, 2024

As the country awaits the formal result of the 2024 General Elections, Modi and the BJP’s threat to India’s democracy has never been more clear

Supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) hold cutouts of India’s Prime Minister and their leader, Narendra Modi, as they shout slogans during an election campaign rally in Amritsar on May 30, 2024. Photo Courtesy: AFP

India’s elections, the largest ever electoral exercise in the world (an estimate 970 million Indians were eligible to vote this year) are now over. We will know the official results in two days time.

This particular election has been plagued with irregularities, alarming cases of corruption, and a pronounced unwillingness by the judiciary and the Electoral Commission of India to act as a sufficient check to the machinations of the ruling BJP government.

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, isn’t particularly overburdened with humility. The Far Right leader is currently spending his time “meditating” at a temple in Kanniyakumari, surrounded by 24/7 news coverage.

This newfound silence was preceded by unprecedented hate speech in the guise of election rhetoric, with Modi calling Indian Muslims “infiltrators” during a campaign rally in April. The elections were preceded by the arrest and imprisonment of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on spurious allegations of profiting from liquor policies as part of Modi’s tactic of using India’s Enforcement Directorate to target his political rivals.

India’s Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), which have long been suspect, have suffered numerous instances of being manipulated in Modi’s favour. From an EVM in Kerala malfunctioning during a mock poll and recording an additional vote for the BJP candidate, to a man in Uttar Pradesh taking a video of him voting for the BJP 8 times and posting it to social media.

To be clear, vote rigging is hardly new to India’s democracy. Successive governments may boast about each election being the largest in the world. But numerical superiority hardly changes the facts on the ground. Every election has faced some element of voter manipulations, including the rather anodyne phrase “booth capture”, which is less about a candidate’s aptitude to win over a constituency and more to do with their goons literally occupying poll booths.

But this year is different. The blatant corruption has been matched with the naked hatred for minorities that animates Hindutva, the ideology of Modi and the BJP. The latter has been complemented by sheer antipathy towards the Constitution, which Hindu Fascists have long despised for enshrining equal rights for all, regardless of caste or creed.

The soul of India is under threat. And each and every institution that is supposed to act as a safeguard to such excess has been hollowed out since Modi first become Prime Minister in 2014.

Such institutions, like India’s Supreme Court, to the Electoral Commission, to the mainstream Indian media networks, have either chosen to be supine, or have had that choice made for them. As such, there is scant critical coverage of Modi save for a small but brilliant independent press in English (the situation with so-called “vernacular” media is complex enough to warrant a separate discussion entirely).

India’s history of free and fair elections has defied commentators (unsurprisingly almost always Western) who predicted catastrophe for the country when it wrested freedom from the British colonial regime. But since 2018 there has been a steep decline in the quality of India’s electoral democracy, in no small part due to Modi’s policies.

The V-Dem Institute, which globally tracks democratic freedom, recently reclassified India as an electoral autocracy. This is the state in which a country continues to hold elections but its government is increasingly autocratic.

When public discourse turns towards the rise of Fascism across the world, there is the centrist, Liberal tendency to push back and point to its historical origins. We aren’t awash with military fascists imposing autarky, therefore Fascism can’t be returning, the facile and tendentious reasoning goes.

But Fascism has evolved, and has learned to manipulate the fragile mechanisms of liberal democracy to gain a political foothold. There is also no one authoritative analysis of fascism. Rather, there are multiple modes of fascist existence, matched by equal myriads of resistances to its proliferation.

Modi’s reign (and it is very much a “reign”; never has India suffered such a cult of personality or the ignominy of a Prime Minister who never gave a press interview in the entirety of his first two terms) is the culmination of multiple strands of political development peculiar to India.

It is the apotheosis of all that is ugly in the subcontinent; Hindu Fascism, casteist violence, North Indian communal politics, corporate greed, and the erosion of bourgeois democratic institutions by the mainstreaming of the “gangsterism in politics” that the astute political scientist K Balagopal identified decades ago.

There are glimmers of hope still left; a revitalised Opposition, a Supreme Court which suddenly remembered its duty when it challenged the Modi government on the issue of electoral bonds, and independent media and citizen journalism daring to speak truth to power.

The exit polls state we are in for another Modi term come 4 June. He and his Hindu Fascist Party will soon learn the same lesson the British did; that India’s undaunted civil society will safeguard the survival of its democracy.

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Aditya Iyer

Freelance journalist and writer. Interests: history (pre- and post-colonial), culture, and immigration. Also strives to befriend small animals.