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Digitisation in India: What a Third NDA Term Under PM Modi Means

by Pradeek Krishna, Research Associate, Global Policy, Professional Services, FiscalNote

India's 2024 election saw 642 million voters and with it, the promise of tech growth, AI innovation, and economic expansion from a third NDA term.

Digital India

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In the recently concluded Indian general elections, more than 642 million voters cast their ballots, making it the largest-ever electoral exercise in recorded history. The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came back to power for a third consecutive term, winning 293 seats out of the 543 contested seats. While the BJP lost an absolute majority in the parliament, it was still able to form the government together with alliance partners.

Narendra Modi took oath on 9 June 2024 as the Prime Minister of India for a third consecutive term and has announced large plans for the country’s economy. This includes an ambitious promise of making India the third-largest economy in terms of GDP. Over the past 10 years, the government has been increasingly focused on establishing India as a global tech and digital policy leader; the current term could see a continuation of this trend.

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The Election Results: A Need for Alliances

The previous general election in India was held in 2019 when the BJP came to power with an overwhelming majority. In the run-up to the 2024 general elections, however, several opposition parties, led by the Indian National Congress (INC), joined to form the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA).

The BJP claimed that India’s global standing has risen under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, and has leveraged several welfare schemes and infrastructural developments completed during its 10-year tenure. As opposed to this, the INDIA bloc argued that the unemployment level in the nation remains high. Further, the opposition has accused the government of sliding into autocracy and discriminating against minority groups.

Major opinion polls and exit polls predicted a landslide victory for the BJP and by extension, the NDA. However, unlike in the past two general elections, the BJP failed to achieve an absolute majority on its own. With 240 seats, BJP became the single largest party, and with support from alliance partners such as the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Janata Dal — United (JDU), it was invited to form the government.

AI and Data Privacy: BJP’s Digital Policy Track Record

During its last two terms in office, the central government has focused on electronics and semiconductor manufacturing, as well as digital public infrastructure. Prime Minister Modi laid the foundation of major chip manufacturing plants across the country and set the goal to turn India into a global semiconductor hub.

The government also approved over ₹103 Billion for the ambitious IndiaAI Mission to empower AI startups and strengthen the AI innovation ecosystem. The IndiaAI mission establishes a comprehensive ecosystem to catalyse AI innovation through strategic programs and partnerships across the public and private sectors. By democratising computing access, improving data quality, ensuring socially impactful AI projects, and bolstering ethical AI, it is expected to drive responsible and inclusive growth of India’s AI ecosystem.

Regarding the regulation of AI, the Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar highlighted that neither the European model of prioritising citizens’ rights, nor the U.S. model of letting the market regulate, works for India. The government is striving to adopt a hybrid approach instead.

Further, the BJP government attempted to revamp India’s digital laws. The government passed the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill (DPDP), which set out rules for how companies use personal data and prescribed guidelines around consent for the processing of this data. Opposition parties have criticised the bill for handing over sweeping powers over citizens’ data to the central government.

India’s Digital Policy Future: What to Expect from NDA 3.0?

Prime Minister Modi has set an ambitious target of a “Viksit Bharat” (‘Developed India’) by 2047, which has been a prevalent theme in the BJP’s election manifesto. It has a dedicated section for technology and innovations, including intentions to catalyse AI innovation, under the IndiaAI mission.

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BJP also aims to develop collaborative strategic programs and partnerships and build domestic capacities to ensure tech sovereignty. Moreover, the party has talked about leveraging AI technologies to detect and dismantle drug trafficking networks as well as for traffic management and transport efficiency.

The government is also expected to table the Digital India Bill in the very first year. The bill would better regulate internet-based services such as e-commerce and social media platforms. It would replace the current IT Act of 2000 which serves as the current legal framework for regulating digital activities but has not been adapted to the latest technological developments.

Furthermore, the government will most likely introduce the Digital Competition Bill. The bill identifies large digital platforms and prescribes various obligations, aimed at preventing anti-competitive conduct. It also prescribes certain data usage obligations such as the prohibition of usage of private details of business users to compete with other players in the market, no cross-use of personal data without consent, and enabling data portability.

Given that the BJP has to form a coalition government with regional parties, plans in the manifesto are anticipated to be impacted. Specifically, the TDP has criticised the level of state surveillance and the sweeping powers the DPDP act grants the central government. It is possible that, as an alliance partner, the party could ask for a revision of the DPDP act as well as certain provisions of the upcoming Digital India Bill and the Digital Competition Bill.

India’s Digitisation: Future Outlook

The continuation of the BJP and NDA government means a continuation of the government’s AI policy, which aims to bolster AI startups and AI innovation in India. However, the BJP would face the challenge of navigating through a coalition government. It will have to bring consensus among allies such as the TDP to ensure successful policy implementation. Additionally, with more opposition representation in the parliament, bills will likely see more debates and amendments.

NDA 3.0 will be implementing major policies to promote digitisation and AI in India. Considering policy trends in past terms, BJP's digitalisation policies are likely to impact data privacy protections, which have received criticism for diluting digital freedoms for consumers and expanding the central government’s powers to regulate private digital infrastructure.

Concerns regarding state surveillance and interference could discourage foreign businesses from entering the Indian market. Recently, Meta filed a petition in the Delhi High Court challenging the IT rules enacted in 2021 requiring social media intermediaries to trace chats and make provisions to identify the first originator of information. Meta threatened to leave India if it was forced to break its end-to-end encryption. Modi’s next term will have to ensure that the level of state surveillance and interference continues to come down for India to realise its potential to become a global tech and digital policy leader.

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