Modi’s new government cannot ”“ indeed, must not ”“ abolish the democratic rules that permit minorities to flourish. With its various ethnic groups, religions, castes, and 30 languages used by more than a million native speakers each (and another 105 spoken by at least 10,000 people), India is more culturally diverse than the entire European Union ”“ but with twice as many people. Without the emphasis on compromise, peaceful dispute resolution, and minority rights inherent to democracy, a united India could not exist.
So Modi’s challenge is to overcome the obstacles to growth-promoting polices using democratic methods. Here, the election has brought good news: the growing strength of India’s growing middle class, a potent ally in the cause of pursuing the needed economic reforms.
That middle class consists of propertied, salaried people, many of them young, who see government as an impersonal enforcer of the law and a neutral arbiter of disputes, rather than as a source of funds and favors. The votes of such people helped Modi win the election. His success in office will depend on how well he can harness the power of the middle class to overcome the political obstacles to the economic growth that its members demand.