.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Monday, March 13

In Uttar Pradesh, Holi celebrations came a little early this year

Joyous BJP supporter celebrates the party's stunning victory in Uttar Pradesh
  
(EPA/Rajat Gupta via Quartz India)

"The win is a massive electoral validation of Modi’s demonetisation gamble last November, when 86% of India’s currency (by value) was rendered illegal overnight. Despite the botched implementation of the scheme, voters in UP still backed the party that swept the state in the 2014 general elections, putting Modi and the BJP in power in New Delhi." -- Quartz India


The party of Narendra Modi wins a decisive victory in Uttar Pradesh
11 March 2017
The Economist


The prime minister regains his momentum as the BJP wins 312 out of 403 seats in India's biggest state assembly

ONE television channel calls it a TsuNaMo. The term, playing on the initials of India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, is apt. In the most politically critical of five state elections whose result was announced on March 11th, Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) all but drowned its rivals in a tide of its trademark orange.

The capture of some 312 out of 403 seats in the state assembly of Uttar Pradesh was not merely a result of harder work, superior organisation and a more aggressive message. Indian pundits, a normally quarrelsome bunch, are virtually unanimous in crediting Mr Modi himself as the biggest vote-getter. 

Having won power in 2014 on a wave of hope for change, Mr Modi’s government had begun to lose momentum and the prime minister himself his aura of invincibility. In particular his abrupt move in November to scrap higher-denomination currency notes, which caused widespread hardship for little evident gain, raised doubts about Mr Modi’s competence. But now his hawa, meaning wind—as in a political tail-wind—is back. From one end of the Britain-sized state to another, voters proudly declared confidence that Modi-ji is the man to sort out India’s myriad woes.

Uttar Pradesh is only one of 29 states and 7 "union territories", but with 220m people it is by far the most populous. It happens also to spread eastwards from the suburbs of Delhi, India’s capital, and to straddle the Hindi-speaking heartlands that tend to set the national agenda. In the 2014 general election that brought the BJP to power at the centre, the party had also swept the state. But as those pundits are fond of saying, local politics is different: the party held barely 10% of seats in Uttar Pradesh’s own assembly.

For the past decade two local parties, each with roots in different caste groups, have dominated the state’s confoundingly complex politics. In the run-up to this last election, which was held in seven phases in February and March, both parties projected outright victory for themselves. They disdained to follow the example set in 2015 in the neighbouring state of Bihar, where rival local groups successfully joined in a coalition to trounce the BJP. So even though the two parties (along with Congress, the fading national party associated with the Gandhi political dynasty that had joined one of them in electoral alliance), together won more than half the votes, India’s first-past-the post system allowed the BJP to romp home with a 39.7% vote share.

For many this is good news. Across UP—as the state is often abbreviated—revellers turned the victory into an excuse for starting early with the carnival antics of the spring festival of Holi, which officially falls on March 13th. In the business world many are pleased for more sober reasons, hoping that Mr Modi’s government may now have renewed confidence to pursue market-opening reforms.

But for some the BJP’s win is bad news. Perhaps most obviously, it is discomforting to UP’s 40m Muslims. Not only did the Hindu-nationalist BJP not field a single Muslim candidate. Subtly in the case of Mr Modi himself, and not-so-subtly in the case of lower-ranking lieutenants, party spokesmen rubbed salt in perceived sectarian wounds. They insinuated, for instance, that other parties had showered particular favours on Muslims voters—who in fact are generally worse off than their Hindu compatriots. Social media, meanwhile, spread messages that called on Hindus to ignore their caste differences and vote for "our" interests.

More immediately, the shock loss in UP was a particularly brutal blow to Congress, the perennial rival of the BJP in national politics. Congress’s current scion, Rahul Gandhi, had hoped to turn a strong showing for its UP alliance into a springboard for the 2019 general election. Congress suffered other poor results on March 11th, losing control of the mountainous northern state of Uttarakhand, failing to keep a majority of seats in Manipur to the east, and falling short of an outright win in Goa to the south despite a poor showing by the incumbent BJP. Its only consolation was that these are all relatively tiny states, and that Congress did win a resounding triumph over allies of the BJP in Punjab, a relatively rich state with 30m people. But in the context of a national map that now glows mostly orange from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean, that looks more like a toehold than a springboard.

[END REPORT]

********

Comments: Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?