Staunch Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi propelled his right-wing party, the BJP to a stunning electoral triumph on May 16, 2014, with the biggest winning margin any government in India has enjoyed in the last three decades. The sudden meteoric rise of the BJP in 2014 exceeded all forecasts made before and during the elections. In the backdrop of Modi’s blemished past, most predicted a narrow win for the BJP but with 31% vote share, it bagged 282 seats in the 543-seat Lok Sabha, allowing it to form a government on its own strength without crutches provided by any other party. With its allies in NDA including Shev Sena, it has mustered 336 seats giving it an overwhelming majority. Surprisingly, the BJP secured more seats in communal prone states but didn’t fare that well in communal free states.

Modi’s victory cast a spell of gloom amongst religious minorities in India, particularly the 165 million Indian Muslims because of his anti-Muslim stance. As Chief Minister Gujarat, he turned a blind eye to the massacre of over 2000 Muslims of Gujarat in 2002. Despite an international outcry, he refused to apologise for not taking steps to control rampaging Hindu zealots. Now, Indian secularists and liberals are feeling uneasy because of the BJP’s fascination for Hindutva.

BJP swept the elections on the slogans of enforcing Hindutva in India and adopting a hard line approach towards Pakistan. Modi kept using the communal and caste card and remained committed to the philosophy of Hindutva. His humble roots, his simple way of living, aggressive campaigning and a successful economic model in Gujarat are what made him so popular with the masses. As opposed to India’s economy which is in the grip of stagflation, Modi managed to keep the economic indicators of Gujarat positive. Gujarat accounted for 15% of industrial output and 22% of exports despite having 5% population. Undoubtedly however, his corporate driven economy made the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Perhaps his greatest genius, was his use of spin masters, who turned the massacre minister into a legendary development man. Anti-Modi journalists, writers and intellectuals were coerced and gagged by RSS thugs. Moreover, a liberal flow of money and backup support provided by the corporations and coupled with efficient electoral spadework done by committed RSS workers, were major factors which assured victory for the BJP.

Modi is up for challenging times. India’s economy, which boomed from 2004 to 2008 with GDP at 8.2% fizzled in 2011. India’s ‘misery index’ of the late 1980s has returned to haunt the Indian leadership. With such dismally low economic indicators and poverty and education levels, it will be an uphill task for the incoming government to upturn the economy. Modi’s quest for bringing the Indian economy at par with China will remain illusory if he doesn’t bring a radical change in his xenophobic thinking and restrain his neo-fascist proclivities.

The stigma of Gujarat and the Muzaffarnagar pogroms will haunt Modi. Poverty stricken Indians who voted him into power with high hopes do not want him to blow the trumpets of war, but expect him to alleviate their sufferings and lift them out of the whirlpool of poverty, create jobs for the impoverished jobless youth and better their lives. He must not overlook the fact that despite his impressive victory, 69% of Indian voters have voted against him. While India needs development, the Indians, particularly the minorities, are more in need of security.

It remains to be seen whether he will stay inflexible on the issue of Kashmir, or dither on issues of Siachin, of Sir Creek and dams built illegally on rivers. Revision of the Indian nuclear doctrine to a ‘first strike’ option, further rises in the defence budget, eagerness to consolidate an Indian military presence in Afghanistan and to develop Chahbahar Port in Iran at the cost of Gawadar will consistently underscore India’s future designs.

Notwithstanding Nawaz’s eagerness to promote friendly ties with India, Pakistan may be up for a hard time because of Modi’s professed, aggressive posture against Pakistan. Modi will remain cooperative as long as Pakistan agrees to Indian terms and restricts its dealings to trade and development, to people-to-people contact and the control of terrorism, and puts core issues aside. He will like a fawning, not an aggressive Nawaz Sharif. He will begin breathing fire the moment Pakistan insists on simultaneously tackling the core issues and developing ties on equal terms.

Optimistic elements however, tend to argue that India under a hardliner will prove more beneficial for Pakistan. They forget that there is a vast difference in the chemistry of Vajpayee and Modi. Even if Modi tries to adopt Congress’s soft Hindutva pursued since 1947, the RSS hawks will make sure that he fulfils the hard Hindutva agenda. Modi will remain indebted to the RSS which is the ideological fountainhead of BJP and which enabled him to win the political race.

Sitting atop a tattered economy and having seen the rout of Congress, Modi will have to choose between spewing ethnic/ communal fires to promote Hindutva and becoming a world power at the cost of its neighbors, or improving his image and putting a frayed house in order.

 The writer is a defence analyst and Director of Measac Research Centre.