Five weeks, 550 million votes and millions of column inches of often ill-tempered debate later, India has a new prime minister in Narendra Modi of the BJP. This election was historic in many ways: It was India’s largest ever turnout; it was the first time in three decades that a single party gathered enough seats to rule independently (though the BJP will still have coalition partners); and it signals a definitive end to the dynastic rule of the Congress party’s Gandhi-Nehru family.
But if there is one constant, it is the Indian electorate’s ability to surprise. Just as few predicted the Congress party’s strong return in 2009 or its victory in 2004, polls earlier this week had predicted a solid win for Modi, but did not anticipate a landslide.
That’s a win for democracy. Modi came to power on a wave of disillusionment with the current system. The urban elite reviles him for his role in the Gujarat riots of 2002, but most Indians care more about how to feed their families today. Despite the billions of dollars in welfare the Congress handed out to India’s poor, living standards have dropped in the past half-decade thanks to a slowing economy, corruption, incompetent governance, and general mismanagement. Modi’s staggering victory is a mandate for wholesale change.
“India has won,” Modi tweeted, and, in Hindi, “Good days are coming.” Those who worry, rightly, about Modi’s autocratic nature and his tendency to silence critics should now give him a chance to make good on his promises of a better, cleaner, richer India. For his part, he must set aside the divisive politics of the campaign, and deliver on those promises. If he doesn’t, the electorate showed this week, it will remove him as enthusiastically as it jettisoned the Gandhis.—Leo Mirani
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
The countdown has begun for China’s housing bubble. House prices are sinking, and could drag down China’s GDP with them. The problem isn’t a shortage of credit, but that credit is going to the wrong places. Gwynn Guilford examines the risky policy options that China’s government faces.
Economics these days is more like engineering. It used to be a battlefield of ideas and ideologies, and often still seems that way. But in fact, argues Noah Smith, in the last three decades the discipline has become a lot more about analyzing data and solving real problems.
Soccer may finally have found its place in the US. John McDuling traces the history of the game in the US and argues that the Brazil World Cup may cement its popularity with Americans—even if they never come around to calling it “football” like everyone else. And a big new TV deal this week underlined the point.
Four gadgets that are dooming childhood. Want to remotely track where your child is? Monitor her heart rate so you know if she’s in trouble? Catch her eating sugar? Even apply the brakes on her bicycle from afar? You already can. Lenore Skenazy bemoans the growth of parental meddling and asks how society might counterbalance it.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Why do so many books about Africa use the same visual cliche of a sunset and an acacia tree? Michael Silverberg explains the (not-pretty) reason, and follows up with some good counter-examples. Meanwhile, Quartz’s partner site Scroll finds the same problem with books about South Asia (noserings, the Taj Mahal) and Islam (women in veils).
Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
How the euro was saved. Peter Spiegel’s enthralling three-part series in the Financial Times (paywalled) tells the inside story of how close the euro zone came to imploding. It starts with German chancellor Angela Merkel on the brink of tears, then a last-ditch plan to save Greece from ruin. Finally, Merkel’s deft maneuvering brings coherence to the frantic, improvised efforts during the darkest days of the crisis.
The controversial solution to America’s heroin problem. With heroin addiction claiming a growing number of increasingly white and middle-class victims, John Knefel in Buzzfeed writes about how the US is coming around to the idea of harm reduction: giving addicts safe drugs and needles in an attempt to save lives.
Understanding the “right to be forgotten.” This week the European Court of Justice ruled that search engines must agree to remove search results that could harm someone’s reputation. The internet seethed with controversy: A victory for privacy, or a blow for freedom of information? Charles Arthur at the Guardian provides a helpful, sane explainer.
A primer on Boko Haram. As attempts continue to free the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped last month in northern Nigeria, Peter Tinti’s long essay in Beacon remains one of the best guides to how the radical Islamist group emerged and thrived in the post-colonial patchwork that is Nigeria.
Why computers still can’t win at Go. Computer chess is a largely solved problem. Yet Go, played on a 19-by-19 board with black and white pieces, still seems to depend on intuitions and even etiquette that computers just can’t master. Alan Levinovitz in Wired tells the tale of two young French computer whizzes trying to crack the 2,500-year-old game.
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