By the same token, Mr Modi has not sparked the outright communal conflagration his critics, The Economist included, fretted about before he became prime minister. But his government has often displayed hostility to India’s Muslim minority and sympathy for those who see Hinduism—the religion of 80% of Indians—as under threat from internal and external foes. He has appointed a bigoted Hindu prelate, Yogi Adityanath, as chief minister of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. A member of his cabinet presented garlands of flowers to a group of Hindu men who had been convicted of lynching a Muslim for selling beef (cows are sacred to Hindus). And Mr Modi himself has suspended the elected government of Jammu & Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, and used force to suppress protests there against the central government, leading to horrific civilian casualties.
As reprehensible as all this is, the Hindu zealots who staff Mr Modi’s electoral machine complain that he has not done enough to advance the Hindu cause. And public dissatisfaction with his economic reforms has helped boost Congress, the main opposition party, making the election more competitive than had been expected. The temptation to fire up voters using heated brinkmanship with Pakistan will be huge.