With the rise of Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi culminating in this week’s election, Pankaj Mishra asks if the world’s largest democracy is entering its most sinister period since independence: The Guardian

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), shows his ink-marked finger to his supporters after casting his vote at a polling station during the seventh phase of India's general election in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.

Narendra Modi shows his inked finger after casting his vote in Ahmedabad. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters
In A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth writes with affection of a placid India’s first general election in 1951, and the egalitarian spirit it momentarily bestowed on an electorate deeply riven by class and caste: “the great washed and unwashed public, sceptical and gullible”, but all “endowed with universal adult suffrage”. India’s 16th general election this month, held against a background of economic jolts and titanic corruption scandals, and tainted by the nastiest campaign yet, announces a new turbulent phase for the country – arguably, the most sinister since its independence from British rule in 1947. Back then, it would have been inconceivable that a figure such as Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist chief minister of Gujarat accused, along with his closest aides, of complicity in crimes ranging froman anti-Muslim pogrom in his state in 2002 to extrajudicial killings, and barred from entering the US, may occupy India’s highest political office.

Tabish KhairLike you, Modiji, my Sanskrit and Hindi tutor was a member of the RSS. He would put on his khaki shorts and go for lathi practice. He would also turn up, unfailingly, for Id dinners at our place, pointing out that he only ate at the houses of old Muslim families as they knew the value of cleanliness and hospitality. He would add that he could hardly eat with most Hindu families either, because “people have forgotten the old ways and only picked up the worst of the new ones”.