After India’s big election, time for inclusion

The victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi offers him a chance to treat all Indians equally, with no favoritism toward Hindus. The election itself was a reminder of India’s inclusiveness.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives a floral garland from party leaders at their headquarters in New Delhi May 23.

The recent election in India was the most inclusive public event in history. More than 600 million people gathered over six weeks in April and May to cast ballots in polling stations from sea level to 15,000 feet in the Himalayas. Even the poorest and most rural people were treated with respect and equality.

Yet despite this massive display of democracy, the big winner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, felt compelled to tweet this message after his party’s big victory was declared Thursday: “Together we will build a strong and inclusive India.”

Since coming to power in 2014, Mr. Modi has struggled to convince India’s religious minorities, especially the 14% Muslim minority, that he is not seeking cultural and political dominance for the majority Hindus. Under his rule, India has seen a rise in hate crimes by right-wing Hindu groups. One state minister was banned from campaigning for three days after making anti-Muslim comments. And to show he is working for everyone, Mr. Modi kept repeating this slogan during the campaign: “together with all, development for all.”

The son of a tea seller, Mr. Modi made this election very much about him. That might seem bad for a democracy. Yet his popularity only helps distance the prime minister from his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, whose roots lie in the idea that Hindus are a single nation and are threatened by Muslims and others. One survey found a third of BJP voters would have backed another party if Mr. Modi was not running.

Mr. Modi won the contest in spite of a downturn in the economy and increasing stress for farmers. Rather than play to religious bigotry, he has had to come up with a slew of welfare schemes for poor people. He also took advantage of an attack by Pakistani terrorists in February to appeal for broad-based nationalism.

Since he came into office, the number of people with access to the internet has doubled to 500 million. With hopes of turning India into a global superpower, Mr. Modi cannot afford for flare-ups of religious intolerance to damage the country’s image.

India has a good history of secular governance and religious coexistence since its independence in 1947 – and despite the heavy sectarian violence during the partition of British India. Inclusion is now part of its identity. Just the sheer number of voters attests to that. Mr. Modi and his BJP, even though they won, must honor this legacy of harmony.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to After India’s big election, time for inclusion
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today