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The observers were surprised by the results of the 2019 Indian general election, which strengthened the position of the ruling party in parliament, winning 350 seats out of 543. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received a strong popular mandate, enabling him to continue with his plans and projects inside India, which many say they aim at establishing a “majoritarian state” founded on a Hindu nationalist agenda. Consequently, this would alienate Muslims, Leftists and the civil society, who are the natural supporters of the Palestine issue, and Modi would consolidate his relations with Israel, which were already strengthened during his term, especially since the phenomena of “terrorism” and Islamophobia have spread internationally and any equivalent Islamic or Arab pressures are absent. Therefore, most probably, the position of India, in the near future, will lean clearly towards Israel, which may be detrimental to the Palestine issue within international and Non-Aligned Movement contexts.

Introduction: Importance of the Indian Elections

Throughout its long history, India has played an effective role in international politics, for it is one of the world’s largest countries, its civilization is among the most ancient, and it will soon overtake China as the world’s most populous country. India’s economy is one of the world’s top ten largest economies, despite the fact it has not reached its full potential yet. Therefore, the Indian general elections that decide who sits in the parliament is one of the most important elections in the world. India has the highest size electorate when compared to other democracies around the world.

The Indian elections, which were held on 11/4–19/5/2019, were particularly important. Many politicians and observers consider that, in the 70-odd years since India’s independence, there will likely be the most important ones. They are concerned with the re-election of the ruling party, which may alter many policies and laws threatening the secularism of the state and social coexistence on which the new India was founded. Furthermore, in case it continued with its nationalistic agenda, the country will move dangerously close to becoming a Hindu “majoritarian state,” and by changing the constitution, minority rights would be culled out, which practically means the end of “secular India” as we know it today. [1]

First: The 2019 General Elections Results (The 17th Lok Sabha)

The Lok Sabha Council (House of the People) consists of 543 seats, and any party needs 272 seats to win a majority in parliament, hence to form a government. If no member of Anglo Indian community is elected among these 543 then the President of India can nominate two members of this community.[2] The following ten states are considered the most influential in the general elections: Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh. Together, these 10 states account for roughly 370 seats, which is about 68% of the total parliament seats.[3] Therefore, the real competition is in these states, and especially Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 parliamentary seats (15% of total seat number). [4]

In case none of the parties or alliances won the 272 seats, the parliament is called a hung parliament. The president would call all parliamentary parties and alliances to prove that they are the majority in the parliament, thus granting it the right to form the government. In 2014, for the first time since three decades, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won this number by itself. [5]

Indian General Election Results 2014

Indian General Election Results 2019

Second: The Implications and Impact of the 2019 Elections

The BJP has won 303 seats in the Lok Sabha, 21 seats more than in the previous elections, whose majority were won in new regions, while its allies have won 47 seats, 7 seats less than in previous term.

As for the opposition, the INC won 52 seats, 8 seats more than in the previous term, while its allies have won 33 seats, 17 seats more than in the previous term. The rest of the parties, who consider themselves part of the opposition, have won 108 seats, 39 seats less than in the previous term.

It must be noted that the two major parties have strengthened their positions in the parliament at the expense of the opposition and the smaller forces in the ruling coalition. Even if this improves the chances of INC in parliament, it is still a limited improvement, for the majority won by BJP enables it to rule without any obstacles.

Women Representation

For the first time, since the first elections after independence in 1962, the female voter turnout equalled that of the male voters. It is also the first time in the history of Indian general elections that the voter turnout reaches 67%.[6] A total of 723 women candidates contested the Lok Sabha elections out of a total of around eight thousand candidates, which almost equals those of the last term. However, 77 female candidates won seats, thus the share of sitting women members of parliament rose from 5% in the first Lok Sabha (1952) [7] to 14% in this 17th Lok Sabha.

Winning According to the Geography

The BJP swept India’s Hindi heartland, which includes states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, much like it did in 2014. However, it made strong gains in the east of the country, extending its seat count in West Bengal to 18, where it eroded the share previously held by a strong regional party, the Trinamool Congress, headed by Mamata Banerjee. It also won eight seats in the eastern state of Odisha. However, the BJP alliance gained little traction in the south of the country, barring Karnataka.[8]

Internal Impact

The election results of this term will be pivotal in India’s future, which will soon be the world’s most populous country, meaning that there will be an increasing demand for food and job opportunities, in addition to the necessity of lifting hundreds of millions of Indians above the poverty line. This is not to mention the fears of minorities and the opposition of the state converting from a secular democracy to a Hindu majoritarian state.

The Impact of Election Results on India’s Foreign Policy

India is trying to accelerate and narrow the gap with its economic Asian rival China, which is regarded as a major threat by the Indians. This needs a strong government that would develop the country, make major changes in domestic and international politics, and make huge investments on more than one level.

The Impact of Elections Results on the Arab World

The Indian election results have a great impact on the relations with the Arab world, especially the Gulf countries, in particular economy-wise. There are mutual investments worth tens of billions, with bilateral trade reaching around $200 billion annually. The Indian labour force in these countries is considered an important factor affecting the local economy, especially that of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), this is in addition to the importance of mutual tourism and other fields of investment. All of these will be affected—either negatively or positively—by the policies of the new government that will be formed following the latest elections.

Third: The Historical Context of the Relationship Between the Ruling Party and the Palestinians and Its Relationship with Israel

Since the Oslo Accords, the stances of the Indian government on the Palestine issue have become more pragmatic, where any pressure to support the Palestinian people is absent, except for some Indian diplomats or ideologues, who have their principled positions towards the conflict. Therefore, India was keen to offer limited support to the Palestinian Authority (PA), while forging relations with Israel at all levels; in the areas of space and missile technology, security, agriculture and irrigation, and other fields. To the extent that India has become the largest importer of weapons from Israel, in addition to other aspects of cooperation.

Several factors have made the Palestine issue more weak: The weakness of the PA, the deteriorating role of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestinian schism, the Arab and Muslim countries abandoning their pro-Palestine role, and Arab and Muslim leaders visiting or having talks with India, without any mention of the Palestine issue.

The change of India’s policy towards the Palestine issue did not start with current ruling party BJP, it rather started since the rule of the Indian National Congress. May be this is due to the fact that the generation who lived India’s independence, and who regarded India as the leader of the anti-colonial movement in the world, are long gone. Furthermore, the traditional forces, who usually stand by the Palestinians—the leftists, for example—have suffered heavy popular and electoral losses, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the demise of communism, weakening them a great deal. Hence, their effect became limited to some universities and civil society institutions, and their presence in the parliament has become considerably weaker. As for Muslims, the great supporters of the Palestine issue, historically, have become marginalized, and their impact on the political life is almost non-existent. They are preoccupied with their endless problems and issues, and their pro-Palestine activities—if existed—are relatively few and have very limited impact.

Israel’s Stance

The relation between the Zionist movement and BJP (considered by many as the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)) is more than an interest-based political relation and beyond it, for they share the same ideology of asserting the religious nationalism identity and linking it to the land, the belief in self-superiority, and fear and apprehension of “the other.” Their relationship goes back before the BJP was founded, when its leadership and cadres used to visit Israel and undergo training and guidance.

They were the ones who pressured the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao (1991–1996) in the early 1990s to forge relations with Israel. Hence, it was quite normal that when they became the ruling parting, relations reached such high and wide levels. It has become quite clear that Netanyahu would be a staunch supporter of Narendra Modi and his government, and that he would use all of his relations and potentials to keep him in the government. For he depends on him to make considerable changes concerning India’s position on the Palestine issue and the conflict with Israel, hoping to benefit from the economic, security and military cooperation.

Fourth: Future Scenarios

It seems that we are facing similar scenarios with similar chances of happening. The negative scenario is the most probable in the short term, for the positive scenario (from the Palestinian point of view) to happen, great changes must take place in the Arab and Islamic foreign policy, especially that of the Gulf countries. These countries must use their pressure tools to threaten Indian interests, a matter that will not happen in the near future. The conditions of the Muslims of India must witness significant improvement, so that they would be able to exert immense pressure on the Indian government, which is currently impossible for two reasons. First, there are no looming signs of improving the status of Muslims in the horizon; and if that happened, their recovery period will take a long time. Second, the ruling party has won landslide victory, securing a clear majority, and making it of no need of Muslim’s votes and political support.

The Probable Scenario: Openly Align with Israel and Neglect the Palestine Issue

In light of the conditions that were described above, near future scenarios are limited to a negative one with two rhythms; the first is relatively slow, where the status quo would slowly slide towards Israel’s interest, and the second one would be quick and open alignment with Israel, which is the most probable for the following reasons:

• The Indian society is leaning towards the right and its interest in foreign affairs has declined.

• The absence of Arab and Islamic pressure that would counter the Israeli pressure on the Indian government.

• Weakness and deterioration of the official Palestinian performance.

• The decline of the role of Indian Muslims in Indian society and their preoccupation with their internal concerns.

• The decline of Indian left wing movements, which turned into small, low-impact elites.

• Islamophobia have spread internationally, a matter that was invested to serve anti-Muslim domestic sectarian policies.

• Israeli propaganda has succeeded in widely linking the Palestinian resistance to “Islamic terrorism.”

• Some Indian academics have rewritten modern Indian history so as to serve the Zionist project.

The Scenario’s Form

This scenario will probably be manifested as follows:

• India would abstain from voting on resolutions condemning Israeli aggression in international institutions, and at the same time it would not offer any political support to the Palestinians.

• Reducing visits of Indian officials to the PA territories and meeting its officials.

• The Indian official and media rhetoric would lean more towards the Israeli narrative, and would ignore the Palestinian right.

• Making the Palestine issue a Muslim concern, hence a reason for sectarian conflict.

• The negative depiction of advocacy campaigns for supporting the Palestinian people such as the boycott campaigns, claiming they are harmful to Indian interests and against the law.

• The possibility of constraining Palestine’s supporters, questioning their patriotism, and linking them to “international terrorism.”

The Scenario’s Negative Impact on the Palestine Issue

• By losing a historical supporter such as India, the Palestinian political position would weaken.

• Israel would benefit from India’s massive market, use the profits to develop its military and security systems, and dominate the region.

• Israel would gain more from the long-awaited international legitimacy, being supported by a state that was once considered the leader of anti-colonial camp.

Fifth: Recommendations

• Keeping contact with the Indian government, as much as possible, to slow down the speed of its strengthening relations with Israel, by informing it of the consequences and negative impact on Indian interests.

• Communicating with the members of parliament, especially those supporting the Palestinian rights, urging them to adopt policies that prevent or mitigate the negative effects of their country’s relationship with Israel.

• Communicating with the media people, thinkers and academics to face Israeli propaganda, and the marginalization and distortion of the Palestine issue.

• Cooperation with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), especially legal ones, to highlight Israel’s violations and aggression on Palestinian rights, demanding its isolation and punishment for its crimes

* Al-Zaytouna Centre thanks Dr. Muhamad al-Balawi for authoring this strategic assessment.

[1] Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, Why the 2019 election may be the most crucial in India’s history, site of AlJazeera, 24/11/2018,
[2] Hemant Pratap Singh, Distribution of Lok Sabha Seats in Indian states, site of Jagran Josh, 17/5/2019,
[3] Sanjib Kumar Das, Understand the Indian elections 2019 in numbers: A simple guide and explainer video, site of Gulf News, 22/5/2019,
[4] site of Parliament of India Lok Sabha, House of the People,
[5] Becky Dale and Christine Jeavans, India general election 2019: What happened?, site of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 24/5/2019,
[6] Sanjib Kumar Das, Understand the Indian elections 2019 in numbers: A simple guide and explainer video, site of Gulf News, 22/5/2019,
[7] Ananya Bhattacharya, Even at a trifling 14%, India’s new parliament will have the most women members ever, site of Quartz, 27/5/2019,
[8] Site of The Financial Times,

The Arabic version of this Assessment was published on 20/6/2019

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