This is not just despicable, it is dangerous. India is too combustible a place to be put into the hands of politicians who campaign with flamethrowers. As it is, vigilantes often beat up or lynch Muslims they suspect of harming cows, a holy animal for Hindus. Kashmiris studying in other parts of India have been set upon by angry nationalist mobs. And even if the BJP’s Muslimbaiting does not ignite any more full-scale pogroms, it still leaves 175m Indians feeling like second-class citizens.
Congress, the BJP’s only national rival, may be hidebound and corrupt, but at least it does not set Indians at one another’s throats. It has come up with an impressive manifesto, with thoughtful ideas about how to help the poorest Indians. Its leader, Rahul Gandhi, although a much-derided dynast, has helped modernise the party a little, raising its profile on social media, for example. It is a worthier recipient of Indians’ votes than the BJP.
With less than a tenth of the seats in parliament, Congress will not improve its showing enough to form a government on its own. If it and its regional allies do better than expected, they may just be able to cobble together a majority. But even if, as is more likely, the BJP remains in charge, it would be preferable if it were forced to govern in coalition. (The current government is technically a coalition, but since the BJP has the numbers to rule without its partners, they have little influence.) The risk is that reforms get delayed yet again—but they were not progressing quickly anyway. A degree of bickering and stasis would be a price worth paying to curb the BJP’s excesses. At the very least, coalition partners might be able to bring down a truly wayward BJP government by leaving it.