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Five more years of Narendra Modi will take India to a dark place

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Indian elections are a marvel to behold. The rules stipulate that no citizen should have to travel more than 2km to vote. So the state goes to the voters. Carrying oxygen tanks, election officials scaled the Himalayas to erect a voting booth in a village in Ladakh, 4,500 metres above sea level. In western India, a polling station was set up for the lone human inhabitant of a wildlife sanctuary. In eastern India, officials trekked for an entire day to reach the sole registered voter, an elderly woman, in a remote village. By the time voting closed on Sunday, some 600 million people had cast their ballots, 10 million of them for the first time.

In 2019, the world’s biggest election was much more than a ritual of democracy. It was the most consequential vote in the lifetime of a majority of Indians alive today. India under Narendra Modi has undergone the most total transformation since 1991. This election has, in effect, been a referendum on whether the republic retains its founding ideals or, if Modi wins another term – and exit polls released on Sunday show him winning with a comfortable majority – it leaps to a place of sectarianism from which return may be close to impossible.

None of the big promises that delivered Modi’s Hindu-first Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) an absolute majority in parliament in 2014 – the first time in 30 years that a single party was voted into power – have been honoured. Modi pledged to create 20m jobs annually. Today, the rate of unemployment is the highest India has known in 20 years. He enraptured young Indian voters with visions of what he called “smart cities”: facsimiles of Seoul and Singapore on the Deccan Plateau and the northern plains – clean, green and replete with skyscrapers and super-fast trains. There is nothing of the sort in sight. He vowed to purify the Ganga, “the river of India” as Jawaharlal Nehru called it. Five........

© The Guardian