How a country the size of Russia went to the polls this weekend without us noticing

BJP victory celebrations in Rajasthan

BJP victory celebrations in Rajasthan

What? Where?

There were elections to determine who would run the Indian states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Chhatisgarh and Mizora.

So not actually a country?

No but between them these five states do have a population just short of 180 million which is comfortably more than Russia.

So what happened?

Basically the ruling Congress party had a very bad weekend. The most striking result was their defeat in Delhi: not only did they see the opposition BJP take power in the nation’s capital but they were knocked into third place by an anti-corruption party which to top things off managed to unseat Congress’ leader in the city. And arguably that wasn’t even the worst result for the party. In the populace state of Rajasthan, a Congress majority was replaced by a BJP one. But that doesn’t quite express the scale of their defeat: they plummeted from 143 seats to 21. Meanwhile, the BJP increased its majority in Madhya Pradesh and held on in Chhattisgarh.

What’s the upshot?

This increases the likelihood that the BJP and its allies will win next year’s general election and that Narendra Modi will be the next prime minister. This already looked pretty likely. They are leading in the polls and had already been doing well in other state elections. But these elections are an especially good sign for the BJP because they have taken place in the states where the BJP and Congress are in direct competition with each other. Therefore, the BJP’s gains come directly at Congress’ expense.

So who are the BJP?

They’re the Hindu nationalist party. By contrast, Congress is a more secular outfit. The BJP is also broadly speaking more free market than Congress though that’s not exactly clear cut.

I don’t mean to be self-centred but what does that mean for us in the West?

A change of government in Delhi potentially matters in a number of areas:

  1. The economy – it would certainly help the global economy if India grew at a less anemic pace. Modi’s pitch as prime minister is essentially that he can replicate the economic success of Gujarat – where he was Chief Minister – across the country. The BJP certainly does have a liberalising record but given that it will be hemmed in by a coalition it is unclear how much more Modi will be able to achieve.
  2. Relations with Pakistan and India’s other Muslim neighbours – The last BJP government managed to trigger a nuclear arms race on the subcontinent. Its Hindu nationalist ideology will generally be a problem trying to deal with its Muslim neighbour. If relations between India and Pakistan take a downturn then that also probably has repercussions for the security situation in Afghanistan.
  3. Human Rights – Expect plenty of controversy over how to deal with Modi if elected. His role in the sectarian violence that swept Gujarat in 2002 remains hugely controversial.  As a result he’s still barred from entering the US. That’s going to be a real diplomatic headache given the need to maintain good relations with the both India and a Muslim world that won’t exactly be thrilled at Modi winning.

In short, a BJP victory is likely to make a set of already complicated situations even more so.

It sounds like these elections should at least have made the front page of the BBC news

You would have thought so


2 thoughts on “How a country the size of Russia went to the polls this weekend without us noticing

  1. Pingback: How First Past the Post has given India perpetual coalition government | Matter Of Facts
  2. Pingback: My worst blog post so far | Matter Of Facts

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