Foreign publications took note of the assembly election results, interpreting the BJP’s landslide win as a testament to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity and as a referendum on demonetisation.
The New York Times’ Geeta Anand writes that the landslide win increases Modi’s chances of being re-elected in 2019. The piece goes on to quote India-based political commentator Ashok Malik saying the BJP’s victory was a “stupendous achievement”. “Here you had a prime minister making himself the face of the election in the absence of a local leader and stitching together a coalition across the state.”
Anand argues that the scale of the victory suggests that voters overlooked Modi’s “politically risky decision to eliminate most of India’s cash”. The report includes insights from Harsh Pant, a professor of international relations specializing in India at King’s College, who says that Modi was able to shape the demonetisation as a political narrative, rather than an economic one. “He said, ‘I am a crusader against corruption, and you have to rise above your mundane economic realities and support me.’ And people did,” Mr. Pant said.”
The Guardian’s Michael Safi writes that the decisive win was a “board endorsement” of Modi’s policies, including the currency ban. “The execution of demonetisation was botched, with cash shortages persisting in parts of the country, but Modi successfully framed the policy as a decisive strike against the untaxed hoards of “black money” accumulated by the country’s wealthy elites,” says the report.
The report also goes on to say that Saturday’s results raise doubts over Modi’s national rivals. It quotes Prabhakar Kumar, the head of CMS Media Labs, a research group that analyses media and political trends, saying that there is no one in the opposition who can match Modi. “There are no dents to his image, no corruption. Whether or not people agree with his way or working or his policies, there is a perception that this person works 24 hours a day and has boundless energy.”
The article goes on to say, “These wins came in spite of the party not running a single Muslim candidate in the state and some party members making “Hindutva” appeals, trying to stoke a pan-Hindu identity among a faith group traditionally riven by caste distinctions.”
Soutik Biswas, the BBC’s India correspondent, decodes what the historic wins means for Modi and the BJP. “For one, the balance of power in India has now decisively swung in favour of the BJP, and reinforces the party’s position as the central pole in India’s politics,” writes Biswas. According to the piece, other gains for the BJP include surviving the jitters caused by demonetisation, a boost in the upper house of the Parliament and ensuring that Modi becomes the front-runner for 2019.
The piece also examines the state of India’s “jaded and uninspiring” opposition. “The main opposition Congress party - despite its apparent win in Punjab - remains in a limbo, run by the dynastic Gandhi family, which holds the party together but is unable to win votes.”
A report in the Washington Post says that the election win will be a “morale-booster” for Modi, who campaigned extensively in Uttar Pradesh. “Modi’s party appears to have successfully forged a coalition of upper, middle-ranking and lower castes in Uttar Pradesh. “The elections prove that the BJP was able to break caste and class barriers,” social scientist P. Kumar of the Giri Institute of Development Studies said in Lucknow, the state capital.”