Will Modi’s momentum drive India’s future economic reforms?

By Zhen Bo Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/19 21:33:39

From this year's Holi festival in India, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has started celebrating its victory in the recent state elections. Last week, according to the statistic of Election Commission, Modi's party has obtained the majority in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand Pradesh (UP), in which it has obtained 325 out of 403 seats and 56 out of 70 seats respectively.

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.

People have been criticizing the demonetization policy when the BJP 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. 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. 

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.

This also means that more policies like demonetization, 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.

There are two aspects to his demonetization policy. The first is its actual effect on individuals and the economy. The second is how the policy is sold to the public. It would be better not to confuse success in the latter with the success of the former.

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. 

But, the BJP-led coalition is unlikely to get a full majority in the 245-seat Rajya Sabha until mid-2019, which is sometimes crucial for the passage of bills in the parliament. Massive wins for the BJP have already prompted investors to bet on a comeback for the BJP-led government in 2019 Lok Sabha elections and continuation of its policies aimed at economic reforms.

People are now looking forward to witnessing further economic reforms such as rollout of the goods and services tax, faster infrastructure development and job creation. The market is also expecting that in the 2019 election, the BJP will have a majority in Rajya Sabha, facilitating even faster liberalization. However, based on the current situation, the market may find this goal hard to achieve.

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 polarization 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.

The author is an assistant research fellow at the Center for South Asia-West China Cooperation and Development Studies, Institute of South Asian Studies, Sichuan University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion


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