No indication of ‘Modi wave’ in assembly results: US experts
Washington – The results in four assembly polls in India have given the opposition BJP the necessary momentum ahead of the general elections, but there is neither an indication of a ‘Narendra Modi wave’ nor a guarantee of a similar performance next year, experts have said.
Giving due credit to its emphatic victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and in Delhi, where the Aam Aadmi Party’s performance has surprised many, these experts, who are closely following the Indian elections, concluded that the Modi factor is not the only reason for the BJP doing well.
“The BJP has always been competitive in these states, evidenced by roughly similar results in 2003. The bigger test of a wave is whether the BJP can win Lok Sabha seats from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kerala. The BJP won just one total Parliament seat from these states in the last two elections,” said Richard M Rossow, Director for South Asia, McLarty Associates.
In recent months, both the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi visited these states over a dozen times each.
“While everyone has an opinion, there is no empirical evidence to prove whether either leader caused a wave in a direction,” he argued.
However, Sadanand Dhume, of the American Enterprise Institute, argued that Modi passed his first big test after being declared as the prime ministerial candidate.
“While it’s hard to quantify exactly how much Modi contributed to the BJP’s strong showing it’s clear that Modi has energized the BJP,” he said.
Although the recent state elections have been billed as a “semi-final” for the 2014 elections, one should keep in mind that the scope of these elections is limited to four states in the Hindi heartland where the BJP has historically had a strong presence, observed Milan Vaishnav, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The prestigious American think-tank has launched a ‘India Decides 2014′ on its website, which keeps a close tab on the developments in India ahead of the 2014 elections.
“BJP’s strong performance gives it unquestionable momentum heading into 2014. Even though Delhi remains a question mark, the BJP’s sweeping victories in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan will give it a leg up as it builds its case nationally,” Vaishnav said.
The BJP triumphs also allows Modi to consolidate his position within the party, he said.
“As the effective leader of the party, Modi will undoubtedly receive the credit for the BJP victories. But the Modi factor is not the principal reason the BJP fared well in these elections. The BJP’s success is due to local factors, including the fact that it had strong chief ministerial candidates,” Vaishnav explained.
Observing that there is no question the losses suffered by the Congress reflect poorly on Rahul Gandhi, Vaishnav said as the face of the party, he can’t escape responsibility.
“These elections place the BJP in pole position for 2014.
The party has enthused its base and reached out to new voters across much of India’s Hindi heartland,” said Sadanand Dhume, of the American Enterprise Institute.
“However, in December 2003 the BJP unseated Congress in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, went on to win 79 per cent of Lok Sabha seats from these states in April 2004- but Congress formed the government. So the BJP’s strong wins in these states in 2003 did not translate into a strong national showing,” Rossow said.
The Washington Post reported that for the Congress party, which has been besieged by widespread public disaffection because of rising prices, a sagging economy and a string of corruption scandals, the results were seen as a wake-up call.
“Modi projects himself as a decisive, pro-business figure who would provide the kind of leadership that is needed to jump-start India’s slowing economy,” the daily said.
“But his failure to stem widespread Hindu-Muslim riots in his home state in 2002 continues to hurt his credibility as a national figure,” The Post reported.
The Wall Street Journal said election results showed India’s ruling Congress party’s popularity has plummeted, casting new doubts on the political prowess of its heir- apparent Rahul Gandhi and adding momentum to the BJP campaign.
“Voters across the country have expressed anger about corruption, inflation and violence against women, among other issues, all of which seem to have worsened while Congress has been in power over the past decade,” the daily said.
Meanwhile, the BJP supporters in New York have launched a group to garner support for Modi and help the party in 2014.
The Overseas Friends of Narendra Modi US (OFNAMO) would help “bring BJP to power on its own strength,” American India Public Affairs Committee President Jagdish Sewhani said.
“OFNAMO plans to send upto 5000 volunteers to campaign in India during the next Lok Sabha elections,” Sewhani said.
The stunning performance by Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP in Delhi is not only reflective of the mood of the people of the country, but also is an indication that the Indian politics will never be the same again, party supporters said.
“Indian politics will never be the same again,” said Pran Kurup, a Bay Area entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Vitalect.
An alumnus of IIT Kharagpur, he is former President of Silicon Valley Indian Professionals Association (SIPA).
American experts also agreed that AAP’s electoral debut is historic. “The success of the Aam Aadmi Party, though not unprecedented, is indeed historic,” Vaishnav said.