Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party seeks a second term in the world’s biggest democracy India which has a GDP of over $2.7 trillion, boosting officially 106 billionaires, 49 of them self-made, with a total net worth of $405.3 billion.

Modi, the controversial politician, disruptor, patriot and savior born to be and favored to be the next Indian prime minister again has a new mantra, Mahila shakti, “Women first,” acknowledged that he is married, confirming long-running rumors. Millions believed that he had remained alone his adult life, having come through the ranks of a grassroots Hindu nationalist organization that requires a vow of celibacy. The ascetic 63-year-old, who would frequently extoll the merits of his single status during speeches. “I have no family ties, I am single. Who will I be corrupt for?” he said frequently during campaigning for social justice, and lectured the fundamentals of Hindu life. The Modi government is winning the hearts of Muslim women by criminalizing triple talaq and populist efforts to provide financial support, universal healthcare, educating girls and improving sanitation where 50% of Indian women constitute the nation. Modi is ushering a revolution for women’s self-empowerment and has the support of the youths, who bring in new ideas and renewed vigor.

Modi is a survivor of turbulent Gujarat state politics and belongs to an often-defied class of first-generation RSS leaders celebrated for their ability to endure hardships, and he came to power in 2014 promising to supercharge India’s economy. But he has struggled with surging unemployment and implemented unpopular measures that hurt small businesses and the middle class. The party was accused in January of suppressing a report showing joblessness at a 45-year high.

Lately, Modi has pivoted to a national-security platform, capitalizing on tensions with Pakistan over a suicide attack in Indian-administered Kashmir where war is as old as partition. Amid tit-for-tat airstrikes, Modi is on a victory lap appealing to desires for national pride and strength. Modi hopes the government’s recent tough stand against Pakistan will help it retain its popularity despite suffering a setback in December when it lost three key state elections to the opposition Congress party coalition. There is a desire for a new approach and the whole country’s heart is boiling like a volcano.

Party president Amit Shah, the man behind Modi, has orchestrated a campaign on BJP achievements and its undisputed rise in manufacturing, technology and innovation with “Make in India.” Shah doesn’t hide the party’ aspirations and passion for Indian exceptionalism and dealing with Pakistani terrorism. They both have built a reputation for zero-tolerance against corruption.

The December election setbacks of BJP has revived the political fortunes of the Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi, the 48-year-old scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family who took over as party president from his mother, Sonia Gandhi, in 2017. He is also trying to bring disparate opposition parties uniting them together with his party to unravel Modi, invoking the memories of his father and grandmother, both former prime ministers and both assassinated, calling them martyrs who gave their lives and blood for India. Rahul Gandhi has to do a lot more and talk a lot less. By any historical measure, the Congress party remains extraordinarily scandal-scarred. The Congress party will need adopted leaders who will outperform their corrupt and weak biological leaders.

India’s last national election, in 2014, was conducted in nine phases. The BJP achieved an absolute majority, with 282 parliamentary seats out of 543. The then-ruling Congress party managed only 44 seats following bribery charges against several party leaders and poor governance. This election may be the most important polls in over four decades. The elections will be held in seven phases to ensure proper security and manageable logistics across the country of over 1.3 billion people. Counting of votes is to be conducted on May 23, with final results expected the same day at the ballot box.

The triumph of Modi is but certain; a vegetarian, teetotaler, early riser and Yoga practitioner living a frugal lifestyle who is a workaholic and introvert, the current and next prime minister of India.

Sunil Tolani

Los Angeles, Calif.

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