Modi’s Third Term And Muslim Representation – OpEd


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has embarked on his third term, retaining key ministers in his Cabinet, signaling a continuation of existing policies. This move comes amidst a complex political landscape and challenges on both domestic and international fronts.

Modi’s decision to retain major Cabinet ministers reflects his commitment to policy continuity. External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh will continue to hold their positions. Jaishankar, the first to comment on his reappointment, emphasized a focus on resolving border issues with China and addressing long-standing cross-border terrorism concerns with Pakistan. This indicates that Modi’s foreign policy will maintain its current trajectory, marked by a firm stance against China and a marginalization of Pakistan.

India and China share a contentious 3,800 km border, a legacy of their 1962 war, with recent years witnessing the worst military standoff in five decades. Concurrently, India’s relationship with Pakistan remains strained, primarily over the disputed Kashmir region. Experts predict that India will persist with its assertive global diplomacy, seeking to carve out a distinct space in the international order.

Despite securing his third term, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did not achieve an absolute majority, winning 240 seats in the 543-member parliament. Consequently, the BJP had to rely on regional allies — the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) from Andhra Pradesh and the Janata Dal (United) from Bihar — to form the government. Their National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition now controls 293 seats, just above the 272-seat threshold required for a majority. Notably, none of the key ministries were allocated to coalition partners. R. Jagannathan, editorial director of the Hindu nationalist Swarajya magazine, noted that while the TDP secured the civil aviation portfolio, crucial posts remain with the BJP. He suggested that coalition partners would exert influence behind the scenes, ensuring that the Modi government addresses their regional concerns, particularly for Bihar and Andhra Pradesh.

A significant and controversial aspect of Modi’s new Cabinet is the complete lack of Muslim representation. In a nation where Muslims constitute around 200 million of the 1.4 billion population, this exclusion has drawn sharp criticism. Modi, often seen as a champion of the Hindu majority, has faced accusations of eroding India’s secular democracy through a majoritarian agenda. This approach has allegedly fostered an environment where Hindu nationalist violence against minorities, especially Muslims, has escalated. Venkat Narayana, a former economics professor, interprets the absence of Muslim ministers as a clear indication of Modi’s continued non-secular stance and pronounced anti-minority politics. However, given the significant presence of opposition parties in the parliament, Modi might need to adopt a more conciliatory and democratic approach. The opposition, having secured 232 seats, represents a considerable force that Modi cannot afford to ignore entirely.

Ajay Gudavarthy from the Centre for Political Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University suggested that the BJP’s alliance partner, TDP, enjoys substantial Muslim backing. This dynamic could influence the BJP to temper its radical agendas from previous terms, such as mob lynching, in favor of a more cultural majoritarianism. The formation of Modi’s third-term Cabinet is indicative of his strategic balancing act — retaining a strong grip on key ministries while managing coalition pressures. However, the lack of Muslim representation poses a critical challenge to Modi’s image as a leader of all Indians. While his previous terms were marked by assertive nationalism and economic reforms, the new term demands a nuanced approach, especially given the significant opposition presence.

As Modi steps into his third term, the expectations are manifold. The continuation of current policies suggests a stable, albeit contentious, foreign policy direction, particularly regarding China and Pakistan. Domestically, the exclusion of Muslims from the Cabinet has already sparked debates about the nature of India’s democracy under Modi. Balancing the coalition demands while addressing the aspirations of a diverse electorate will test Modi’s political acumen. The world watches as Modi navigates these challenges, determining whether his governance will foster inclusivity and stability or perpetuate divisiveness. The next few years will be crucial in shaping India’s trajectory, both internally and on the global stage. Modi’s ability to adapt and respond to these multifaceted challenges will ultimately define his legacy.

Sudhanshu Roy

Sudhanshu Roy is a student of Asian Studies.

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