How does the election work in Karnataka

If the regional elections in Karnataka are any indication, India is facing a tumultuous parliamentary election in spring 2019. In May, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a simple majority in the southern Indian state, but the formation of a government failed due to a united opposition front. BJP top candidate B. S. Yeddyurappa resigned from his post as prime minister after a record time of just two days on charges that he had tried to buy a majority of the MPs - which would not be unusual.

Now the Congress Party rules in Karnataka's capital Bangalore again - with a grand coalition whose survival is uncertain, but the frustration of the voters is certain. For Prime Minister Narendra Modi this is good news and bad news, because on the one hand his party can still win elections, but on the other hand the BJP and its top man have lost much of their nimbus four years after the 2014 landslide victory.

"The BJP still represents emerging India," says Suhas Palshikar, professor of political science in Pune. Although most voters do not have the impression that the »good days« (Hindi: oh din) came, as Modi had promised during the election campaign, the BJP has initiated enough reforms to create the impression that it wants to lead India into the 21st century. The opposition, on the other hand, has recognized that Modi is vulnerable. The congress party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi still does not have a convincing program and the scion of the Nehru Gandhi dynasty, which ruled India for 60 years, cannot hold a candle to the hyperactive climber Modi as a top candidate. But the prime minister and his party only cook with water.

Implementation errors in many reforms have dampened the great enthusiasm. And after the election in Karnataka, the BJP no longer even appears as the "cleaner" party it likes to portray itself as. "Lukewarm reforms and world-class mistakes," says Mihir S. Sharma, author of the book Restart: The Last Chance for the Indian Economy the Indian government bilious. Modi is certainly working on improving India, but there can be no talk of "transformation".

Instead, communal violence and rape dominate the headlines. Critics fear that violence against Muslims and anti-Pakistan rhetoric will increase before the elections, as this is the easiest way to unite voters. Almost 80% of the Indian population are Hindus and quite a few believe that minorities such as Muslims (14%) and Christians (2.4%) have to conform to the majority.

This means, for example, considering the cow as sacred. Attacks on Muslims operating (legal) slaughterhouses or allegedly consuming beef have increased under the BJP government. According to an analysis by the data journalism organization IndiaSpend in Mumbai, 124 people were injured in attacks in connection with sacred cows in India between 2010 and 2017; 28 died, including 24 Muslims. 97% of these attacks occurred during Prime Minister Modi's reign.

"Muslims feel deeply insecure under Modi in India," says Mujibur Rehman, political scientist at the Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi. "The message of the Hindu nationalists is: whether you live or die depends on our grace."

A horrific crime that became public in the spring reinforced that impression. An 8-year-old girl from the crisis state of Jammu and Kashmir was raped for days in a temple and finally murdered. She belonged to a Muslim nomad tribe who are convinced that because of their religion they should be expelled from the region, which is traditionally dominated by Hindus. The accused received some assistance. Even two local parliamentarians from the BJP took part in a demonstration in support of the perpetrators. You have since resigned, but the devastating impression remains.

Narendra Modi dutifully condemned "hooliganism in the name of the cow" as "unacceptable". But the prime minister cannot afford to alienate the radical wing of his party. Modi owes his election victory in 2014 not only to his personal charisma, but also to the effective election machinery of the BJP. Perfectionist planning, professional use of social media and a nationwide network of »Sewaks« (Hindi: volunteers) of the Hindu nationalist apron organizations Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps), Vishva Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and the youth organization Bajrang Dal are the pillars of your success.

The »Sewaks« believe that the BJP's 2014 landslide victory is also a mandate for their Hindu nationalist ideology. Like the journalist Prashant Jha in his book How the BJP wins: Inside India’s greatest election machine explains, they believe that in a country with 80% Hindus, the BJP need only shed the image of being an upper-caste party. But the hope that such a “consolidated” Hindu electoral base will carry the party from election victory to election victory underestimates the diversity of Indian society and is essentially anti-pluralistic.

It also fails to recognize that many voters gave Modi their vote primarily because he promised them work and prosperity. However, this has only succeeded to a limited extent. According to a report by the United Nations' Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Indian economy is expected to grow by 7.2% in 2018. This makes India one of the fastest growing economies in the world. But few Indians feel that they are better off since the BJP came to power.

The authors of the ESCAP study are of the opinion that the introduction of VAT in the summer of 2017 and the mountain of bad loans at Indian banks are to blame for the fact that growth is not picking up speed. Previously, the “demonetization” regime, which at the end of 2016 made almost all Indian cash invalid in one fell swoop with the aim of combating black money and tax evasion, caused economic growth to plummet from 7.9 to 4.5%.

The reform, which caused chaos at the bank counters for three months, especially aroused the "common" people (Hindi: aam admi) the impression that the »corrupt rich« are now being attacked. But it is doubtful whether black money and tax evasion have really decreased. The widely praised introduction of value added tax is more suitable for increasing the much too low tax revenues of the Indian state. But it initially caused a lot of bureaucratic effort and losses, especially for small and medium-sized companies.

According to a report by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the number of unemployed rose from 18.3 to 18.6 million between 2017 and 2018. Nevertheless, in view of the uncertain data situation, economists argue about whether one can buy from a jobless growth could speak. Arvind Panagariya, ex-head of the former NITI Aayog planning commission, recently described the "talk" of growth without jobs as "nonsense". 7.3% growth could not come from the use of capital alone. Critics such as Mohan Guruswamy, chairman of the “Center for Policy Alternatives”, a think tank in New Delhi, oppose: “The fact is that the richest one percent of the population is reaping 73% of the growth in prosperity. That's growth, but it doesn't create jobs. "

One of the reasons for this is that most of the reforms initiated by the government remain "statist". In Modi's vision for his country, India skips several stages of development and goes straight to the digital economy. Many of his reforms, from demonetization to the introduction of the "Adhaar Card," a biometric ID that is mandatory from this year in order to receive state transfers, are based on an astonishing trust in the blessings of new technologies - and the power of the state. Anyone who thought that Narendra Modi was an economic liberal was wrong.

It is true that India managed to climb 30 places on the "Ease of Doing Business" index in 2017. But worldwide, the country is only in the middle when it comes to business-friendliness. A deregulation of the labor market and a reform of the laws for land acquisition, which hinder the expansion of the infrastructure, are still a long way off. Even the stressed banking sector is difficult to reform. Around 15% of all loans are now non-performing. Since the financial institutions are 70% in the hands of the state, a dense network of politics and bureaucracy has developed in the banks.

At the same time, the Indian economy is no longer receiving tailwind from low oil prices. The country, which imports 80% of its crude oil needs, is seeing prices rise again for the first time since Modi came to power. The Indian rupee recently fell to its lowest level against the US dollar since 2013, which has to do with increasing protectionism under US President Donald Trump.

The upper middle class, who had hoped that Modi would finally make their country fit for the world's elite, has therefore already turned away in disappointment. "India remains a land of missed opportunities," complains Mihir S. Sharma. For the rest of the electorate, the BJP may still be a better choice for a variety of reasons. Or not, as can be seen from time to time in regional elections. In any case, 2019 does not look like a renewed march to power. That is certainly a good sign for Indian democracy.