The BJP has won decisive victories in the recent assembly polls but it remains to be seen whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be able to push through economic reforms, keep India stable and have a “gentler approach” to minorities, Chinese state media has said.
Zhen Bo from the Centre for South Asia-West China Cooperation and Development Studies at Sichuan University’s Institute of South Asian Studies wrote for the nationalistic tabloid Global Times that there is, however, no doubt that the big victory in Uttar Pradesh will substantially influence the political balance in India.
The BJP won a two-thirds majority in UP, where Modi led the charge as assembly election results revealed. The saffron party won 325 of the 403 assembly seats, Samajwadi Party-Congress combine 54, Bahujan Samaj Party BSP 19, and others 5.
The results reflect a huge comeback for the BJP, which has been out of power in India’s largest state for 14 years. It is also a repeat of BJP’s Lok Sabha sweep when it won 71 of the 80 seats.
“It is worth mentioning that this is the fourth time that one single political party has acquired more than 300 seats in the UP legislative assembly competition. What’s more, the result of the UP election would substantially influence the political balance in India and has always been seen as the signpost of the voters’ attitude across India,” Zhen said.
The election results were a validation for both Modi and his decisions like demonetisation, the writer argued.
“The prime minister’s popularity has been validated throughout this election, in which he made himself and his actions the main issue in many public speeches. The ability of Modi to deliver landslide victory results like in UP consolidates his position within the party,” he wrote.
“People have been criticising the demonetisation policy when the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government suddenly carried it out last November, and the opposition attacked that the policy has brought a lot of suffering to the poor in the countryside,” Zhen said.
“Nevertheless, the disputed policy didn’t make the BJP itself suffer. In UP, where most people are farmers, the population has been successfully persuaded by Modi and his team’s effective campaigns,” he added.
The victory also means that one could expect more decisions like demonetisation, “which was conceived with little political consultation inside the party, can be anticipated. Modi genuinely believes he can deliver the best solutions to many problems in India.”
One worrying aspect of Modi’s hold over his party is the absence of dissent, which the author thought was unusual for a big party like the BJP.
“Generally speaking, a decisive and aggressive leader will also make mistakes. The lack of restraint from the party will probably result in Modi having a free hand to make decisions on more crucial issues. The total absence of dissent in the BJP, unusual for a ruling party in India, is the result of everyone submitting to the authority,” Zhen wrote.
“The BJP has achieved dominance but will India be stable? That depends on the performance of the party. It is still uncertain if the BJP can prevail in 2019.”
“As some Indian analysts questioned, will the BJP, beyond occasional inclusive rhetoric, be willing to experiment with less polarisation and forge a larger coalition through expansive spending, a gentler approach to minorities and judicious patron-client processes that could be politically profitable too? We need to wait and see.”