Just eight months after his victory in India’s national election, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party, the BJP, have suffered a major loss in New Delhi. The party that won, the AAP, is only two years old, and campaigned successfully on a pledge to fight graft. The FT reports:
Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party has been routed in New Delhi’s local elections by the upstart Aam Aadmi (Common Man) party, led by anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal. […]“Mr Modi has always seen himself as an outsider . . . not part of the beltway, but he came to be associated with it,” says Swapan Dasgupta, a political analyst with ties to the BJP. […]Today, it is AAP that is firmly in the role of the transformative outsider. The party won 54 per cent of the local vote, having absorbed the traditional core support base of Congress, which saw its vote share plummet below 10 per cent. AAP’s idealism also captivated many first-time voters.The BJP’s vote-share fell from about 46 per cent in the parliamentary elections to just under 33 per cent in the state polls.
This is a stumble, not a face-plant. While an important constituency, New Delhi is not necessarily a microcosm of India, and it would be a mistake to read too much into its rejection of Modi’s party. Modi was, after all, elected with a strong mandate in the largest democratic election in the history of the world. Since then he has raised India’s international profile, strengthened its military power, and forged close relationships with world leaders. That’s why we declared him one of our big winners of 2014. But since his days in Gujarat, Modi has always been a polarizing figure, and this New Delhi election should be a reminder that his forward momentum is not necessarily constant.