Just days away from official results, the latest exit polls in India project a win for the BJP with Narendra Modi at the helm. So far, in Pakistan most view Modi as “the Massacre Minister,” and most debate surrounding him hones in on the 2002 Gujarat riots. But if Modi really is as anti-Muslim as Pakistanis understand him to be, how has he managed to lead the polls in India; in a country with a Muslim minority of 177 million people, roughly equal to the total number of Muslims in Pakistan. There are a number of reasons for this, ranging from the Muslims’ disenchantment with the Congress party as well as a surge in “pro-development” Muslims, for whom Modi’s track record as a development guru is worth the vote.

Much like Vladimir Putin of Russia, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Sri Lanka’s Mahinda Rajapaksa, Modi has emerged at a time when most in India perceive a national crisis, and like them, he is decisive when it comes to governance. At the same time, when challenged, all these leaders have been known to turn dissent (and democracy) on its head. In a word, Modi is not so much anti-Muslim as he is anti-dissent. But he is also more than that. An “untouchable” in India’s caste system, his personal emergence into politics is a remarkable feat and a testament to, at the very least, a working democratic process in the country that allows for the rise of tea-sellers to the greatest political post in the country. With the results primed to arrive in Modi’s favour, perhaps it is time that we in Pakistan try to understand him better, in order to chart out a functional relationship with the new government; our analysis should now focus less on religious and ideological differences (and the paranoia that he will be at the helm of an Indo-Pak nuclear war) and more on the complex political characteristics of the incumbent leader.