mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
Indian Elections
Another Setback for Modi

After spending weeks campaigning for candidates from his nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in the populous northern state of Bihar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was handed a stinging rebuke by the electorate, according to The Telegraph:

The vote was widely regarded as a referendum on the prime minister’s popularity after 18 months in office as he campaigned hard for a victory that would have helped him pass a stalled national economic reform programme.

The defeat will embolden his opposition and dampen the mood as he heads to London for a visit that will include a sold-out rally with British-Indians at Wembley Stadium, lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace and an overnight stay at Chequers hosted by David Cameron.

During the campaign, Modi and the BJP used tactics aimed at exploiting caste and religious divisions. That strategy appears not to have worked, and it comes amidst complaints from artists and scientists that Modi has created a “climate of intolerance.”

Modi’s nationalism and partisan style helped him rise to power, and presumably he hoped that this style would also help him to build ongoing support for his political and economic reform strategy. But his recent failures to push through such reforms, and his inability to deliver electoral victories for the BJP, suggest that this approach is yielding diminishing returns.

Features Icon
show comments
  • This is probably all to the better for India, and maybe Modi as well. The BJP, at least in its incarnation led by Modi, has shown itself to be a religiously chauvanistic organization. Perhaps this loss will be the spark that Modi needs to rein in religious extremists on his side and to put forward a government that consists of tolerant, technocratic leaders.

    Of course, that might just be pie-in-the-sky thinking. I know I’m not in the least bit surprised by the illiberal turn that India has taken under Modi. He hasn’t done anything as Prime Minister to dispel the suspicion that he was at least guilty of intentional inaction during the Guajarat pogrom of 2002. And to pour salt in the wound, he hasn’t really done anything to reform India’s economy since he’s taken office.

  • Andrew Allison

    Could it be that the real reason for Modi’s declining popularity is fear that he might actually do something about economic reform?

  • Anthony

    No single state election (Bihar) can be a benchmark for national politics but the does the electoral victory of the Mahagathbandhan indicate the BJP (Narenda Modi) is at a crossroad:

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service