India Keeps Moving Right: Preparing for a Second Modi Term
The Bharatiya Janata Party (“BJP”)’s victory in the state election in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh (“UP”) is being feted as another ‘Modi wave’ in support of the Prime Minister by party supporters, while political critics begrudgingly accept that they have been outplayed.
The euphoria in the winning camp is still running high, but there is much to consider about the two remaining years before the national election in 2019. Here is our view of the change in electoral fortunes at the state level and policy changes that can be expected from the Modi Government in the next 12-18 months.
Three New Saffron States
The BJP’s convincing win in UP, with over 75% of the 403 legislative seats in India’s most populous state going in the party’s favour, puts PM Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and their close group of political advisors in a strong position after the heavy defeat in Bihar. With the usual caveats about dangers of prophesizing in politics, it nearly assures the BJP of a second Modi term in the 2019 national elections, though it should be noted that a strong anti-incumbency sentiment swept across all five states — with electoral upsets in four states (UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur) and a near upset in the state of Goa. A similar sentiment could haunt PM Modi in 2019 if a Congress-Third Front combine which, whilst unlikely, could present an alternative.