Assembly elections results 2018: PM Narendra Modi’s magic did not work this time
Elections in India, since 2014, have become synonymous with Narendra Modi, who has a high strike rate in the competitive theatre of Indian politics. However, the results of five state elections, which came out on Tuesday, changes equations in some ways.
Modi remains popular, and is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) biggest brand across the country. But the Modi factor played out in different ways this time around. For one, in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Modi did not seem to resonate with voters as he had in the past. This was partly because the states were judging the record of strong chief ministers. Indeed, many voters said that this was not Modi’s chunav (election).
But at the same time, the Modi factor was not strong because the Centre’s economic policies have hit citizens hard. Demonetisation is now almost universally seen as a failure. Small businesses are still reeling from the impact of the imposition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The Centre is seen to have failed the farmer. And the big promise of jobs has not materialised. All these four economic issues can be, in some ways, placed on the doors of the prime minister. But there was a major difference in Rajasthan.
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All reports from the ground suggest that Modi remains extraordinarily popular in the state. And it was his last minute campaign blitz that played a major role in neutralising anti incumbency against the Vasundhara Raje government. This variation is difficult to understand. But Rajasthan’s status as a state bordering Gujarat and the BJP’s strong organisational effort could perhaps be two factors which explain this. Badri Narain of the GB Pant Institute of Social Sciences said the outcome poses a serious challenge to the Modi’s dominance. “His language may change too, and he may have to move from just outright aggression to focused speeches on his record. He needs to rethink his politics and work on errors. This is a wake up call.”
The next election is Modi’s election. Voters will choose a prime minister, and all surveys suggest he is ahead in the race. His delivery of rural housing, roads, toilets and power is admired. But what is also clear is that Modi’s economic narrative is now crumbling. He has four months to get it right.
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