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Modi Has United India Like No Prime Minister in Decades

The largest democratic exercise in history, which saw more than 600 million Indians vote, may have ended in a landslide for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but this election was no formality. It followed perhaps the most abusive, abrasive and ill-tempered campaign in India’s history, in which opposition party Indian National Congress president Rahul Gandhi attempted to do battle on every available faultline in Indian society.

Yet despite the strong and often unfair criticisms leveled at Modi’s policies both throughout his first term and this marathon election, no Prime Minister has united the Indian electorate as much in close to five decades. The last time an Indian Prime Minister was re-elected with a parliamentary majority was in 1971. His coalition won just under 50% of the national vote.

How has this supposedly divisive figure not only managed to keep power, but increase his levels of support? A key factor is that Modi has managed to transcend India’s greatest fault line: the class divide.

Narendra Modi was born into one of India’s most disadvantaged social groups. In reaching the very top, he personifies the aspirational working classes and can self-identify with his country’s poorest citizens in a way that the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty who have led India for most of the 72 years since independence simply cannot.

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