William Dalrymple in New Statesman:
Modi is the Hindu nationalist son of a station chai-wallah, and as different a man as could be imagined from the shahzada, or “princeling”, as Modi mockingly refers to the heir to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. With Kejriwal reduced to a minor player, the election in most of the country has been an unequal contest between the Modi juggernaut and a beleaguered Rahul, who is in the process of taking the can for the failings of a government he didn’t lead and can do little to redeem. The battle represents a whole world of contestations: left against right, insider against outsider, secular Nehruvian v sectarian nationalist, Brahminical dynastic princeling v lower-caste, working-class, self-made man. There is little doubt at this stage which of the two is going to come out on top. Certainly Modi’s face, with its neatly trimmed grey beard and fiercely unsmiling expression, firm and unwavering, is apparently all too convinced of its right to line the roads of the Indian capital, bringing to mind the old lines from Yeats, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” Modi is a strong speaker. In the past few months he has been transformed into a hugely popular, even cult figure for many around India and is now widely admired by many who do not share his Hindu nationalism. This is because he has come to embody the collective longing, especially among India’s middle class of 300 million, for an economic rebirth of the nation: after all, under his stewardship, the economy of the state of Gujarat, for which he has been chief minister since 2001, has nearly tripled in size. He also has a reputation for decisiveness, getting things done, rooting out corruption, stimulating investment and slashing through the bureaucratic red tape and outdated, cumbersome regulations.
It is easy to understand why so many Indians feel a need for bold change and why the thought of another five years of a dithering, divided and corrupt Congress government fills them with dismay. But it is less easy to understand why so many are willing to overlook Modi’s extremely dodgy record with India’s religious minorities.