Economist Article - In Mood for Modi

VOTING in India’s mammoth election concluded at 6pm on May 12th. Within minutes television news channels buzzed with estimates from exit and opinion polls, all pointing to Narendra Modi as, comfortably, India’s next prime minister. Actual results come only on May 16th and health warnings about any opinion polls are necessarily routine. Six different pollsters managed to produce a startlingly wide range of predicted outcomes, suggesting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its immediate allies (led by Mr Modi) could get as many as 340 seats or as few as 249. For the Congress and its closest allies the range is from a high of 148 seats to a low of 70.

In previous national elections such opinion polls have tended to overstate success for the BJP, so it is just conceivable that Mr Modi will end up with fewer seats yet. But even the most pessimistic (for the BJP) forecast suggests the party led by Mr Modi will be the biggest and will get more seats and votes than at any previous election in India. It has made inroads among voters in areas (such as Kerala or West Bengal) where it had no impression before. An estimated record turnout of 66.4% of voters also buoys the BJP, adding to the strength of its likely mandate. It looks inconceivable that any other party, whether Congress or some combination of regional outfits, could form a government. Thus the BJP, with Mr Modi in charge, is preparing to rule.

To get control of the lower house of parliament, and thus to form a government, Mr Modi needs 272 seats. Higher estimates by the pollsters suggest he could pass that figure with only the support of the closest allies of the BJP, without reaching out to coalition partners such as Jayaram Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu. Yet even if these turn out to be accurate he may prefer to build a broader coalition, for two reasons. First, to rule effectively Mr Modi needs to project power beyond the lower house of parliament. Legislative changes require consent of the upper house, where he has no majority. And any prime minister must find ways to co-ordinate work of the central government with powerful state governments. A wider coalition could help in both areas. Second, Mr Modi presumably dreams that his party can be in office for more than one five-year term. That requires limiting the clout of the (soon to be) opposition Congress party. The more coalition allies that the BJP can attract today, the more isolated Congress will be. Yet if Mr Modi is to manage a broad coalition, he will have to change style from the rather aggressive figure on the campaign trail who traded insults with opponents, sneering at rivals. As a chief minister he could rule his state, Gujarat, with no consideration for powersharing; now he should adopt such skills quickly.

As for other national parties, the exit polls bring almost nothing to cheer. Congress leaders would be relieved if their party (alone) gets 100 seats or more, especially if the tally is 114, thus avoiding a record defeat. If it turns out that Congress has in fact tumbled farther, then pressure could build against Rahul Gandhi, whose lackluster campaign and weak leadership surely cost the party dearly. Mr Gandhi likes to talk of his party becoming more democratic and leaders more accountable. If he were true to his word, he should take responsibility for much of its failure.

The polls also point to a sharp defeat for the Aam Aadmi Party, which grew from an anti-corruption movement and had done well in Delhi assembly elections in December. It will be lucky to get one or two seats. It apparently got a decent share of votes in places. For example in Varanasi constituency, which voted on May 12th, Arvind Kejriwal, the AAP leader, could emerge in second place to the BJP’s candidate, Mr Modi. In Punjab, Delhi and elsewhere the AAP got enough votes to help shape the election outcome. For example some voters in Punjab fed up with the locally powerful Akali Dal, allies of the BJP, appear to have switched to the AAP, while others switched to Congress. That limited the gains that Congress hoped to achieve in that state.

What will come first for Mr Modi? The transition in India can be fast, with Mr Modi likely to be installed within a week or so of the official results (and a replacement chief minister for Gujarat named too). He is a man who exudes impatience, and whose campaign has often emphasised the need for efficient, decisive government able to implement policies with speed. India’s stockmarkets are rallying, investors expect measures to be taken quickly to encourage investment, economic growth, job creation, better infrastructure and a broad return of confidence in India. A starting point will be in naming figures in the administration, and in the cabinet, who share Mr Modi’s ideas of economic development. Next would be the announcement of some high-profile measures—perhaps the passing of a long-delayed national tax reform to open India more effectively as a single market—to signal that his preoccupation is economic matters.

At the same time, Mr Modi will have to find the voice of a statesman who represents all of India, not only the victors. He rose first in the Hindu nationalist movement, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which leant heavy organisational support in this election to its protégé. It would be natural if it, and other such bodies, now hope that Mr Modi will promote their values (broadly equating being an Indian with being a Hindu). Mr Modi should disappoint them. Many in India, including Muslims, Christians and more secular Hindus, expect Mr Modi to make clear that his priority is not Hindu nationalism but economic recovery. The clearer he can be about that, the better. more  

View all 7 comments Below 7 comments
the best news of the day...we all look forward to the golden age again!!
all the best to modiji and his group who made this happen ..
jai hind.. more  
good days are hear again more  
india have won more  
Great Analysis, Sheetal!! more  
Its a Clear Mandate from Indian Citizens that Mr Modi is the only ray of hope for building new India more  
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