As India awaits the results of the largest elections known to humankind, fighting continues along the India-Pakistan border in Jammu and Kashmir.
India’s polls closed today after running since April 11. The voting took place over 7 stages in order to meet the bureaucratic feat of managing an election in which 900 million were eligible to vote. Incumbent Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seem likely to fight off the main opposition, the Indian National Congress party led by Rahul Gandhi.
Key issues on the agenda include unemployment and farming, areas where Modi is not performing well. In January, leaked reports showed unemployment to be at its highest level since 1972-3, and with a large youth population, finding a job is a key concern. Rising costs and lower prices for farmers are also important as half the population works in the farming industry. BJP has already seen this concern play against them, losing three rural states in December.
However, the issue of national security has recently become particularly pertinent. With a nuclear-armed neighbour, national security is always an issue but as tensions have risen it has become more important – a situation which has benefitted Modi.
How Has it Benefitted Modi?
Tensions between India and Pakistan over the region of Kashmir have existed ever since its conception in 1947. However, they intensified on February 14, 2019, when the Islamic militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) launched a suicide attack in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir. The attack killed 40 Indian security forces and reignited tensions. Indian and Pakistan airstrikes followed and although tensions have died down, fighting continues along the border.
Although Modi may have not instigated the attacks, he has certainly benefitted from them politically. Modi’s strong man Hindu nationalist narrative resonates well with a large section of the population, and the recent increase in violence has created a strong rally around the flag effect for him. The results of the election are set to be announced on Thursday 23rd May and current polls suggest he is expected to win. Whether violence centred on Kashmir will decrease after this is yet to be seen, however, a solution is greatly needed.