The results announced on Dec. 11 put the current governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the defensive: they didn’t win a single state.
Modi’s policy focus on economic growth, jobs, and good governance appealed to voters, and his early efforts to woo foreign investment to India and spur manufacturing attracted global attention.
In the states too the party’s control dwindled as it kept losing out to the BJP.
While it’s too early to have a full picture of why voters rejected the BJP in all five states, economic issues likely played an important role.
Despite the emphasis Modi’s government has placed on economic growth and employment, it has not delivered enough jobs for India’s burgeoning population.
In early 2017, after gaining power in the large state of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP appointed a divisive religious firebrand, Yogi Adityanath, as the state’s chief minister.
It’s also the case, however, that in three of the five states, the BJP had been in power—and in India, incumbency confers no advantage.
So it’s possible that voters in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP had been in power for three successive terms, or Rajasthan (one term), felt it was just time for a change.
But there’s no denying that these losses for the BJP create a new opening for the Congress party, which walloped the BJP in Chhattisgarh, won decisively in Rajasthan, and won the largest number of seats in Madhya Pradesh.
Momentum matters: A year ago, political pundits in India would have said the BJP was near-certain to win re-election in 2019, with the margin of victory the only uncertainty.
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