Facing humiliating defeat in Delhi election, will Modi focus on economy?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP faced humiliating defeats in New Delhi election where Aam Aadmi Party not only conveniently won 62 seats but also forced the former to review his ideological program. Will Modi focus on economy after the latest defeat?

Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been whitewashed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), led by Arvind Kejriwal, a tax officer turned anti-corruption campaigner. The defeat may pose some serious questions regarding PM Modi’s ongoing anti-Muslim policy in India where several legal provisions have been made to marginalize the largest religious minority.

Interestingly, the defeat in Delhi is the latest in a string of setbacks for Modi’s BJP in regional elections over the past two years.

The AAP, or “common man” party, won 62 of the 70 assembly seats. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party increased its tally from three to eight in the city of 20 million people but was still left licking its wounds after conducting a bruising campaign.

Read More: Delhi votes: test for Modi and women protesters

Modi, whose party won a second landslide in national elections last year, sheepishly congratulated Kejriwal and his party. “Wishing them the very best in fulfilling the aspirations of the people of Delhi,” he said on Twitter.

Analysts believe that Modi was using religious card to seek political support across the country. He was unable to improve the failing economy. Saleha Anwar, a Lahore-based political analyst, opines that “the BJP government has promised, in its campaign of election 2019, to double down the economic performance of its previous era (2014-18). But the ground reality is that Indian economy is facing the decade’s worst economic crisis. GDP growth comes down to 5 percent, unemployment is increasing, the Indian rupee is performing very low, and local and foreign investors are continuously pulling out capital. Besides addressing these issues BJP government is busy implementing its Hindutva policies which are, in fact, adding fuel to already burning economy”.

“Modi has,” she says “ignited a sensitive issue of Indian society which has diverted the attention of people from economic issues”.

Modi’s assimilation policy

The latest outright defeat may force Modi to change his narrative and focus on development and improvement of economy. However, there are slim chances for any such change since there appears to be no policy to reform Indian economy.

Moreover, Indian is home to more than one billion population where there are different cultures, sub-cultures, religions and languages. There are 29 states and 7 unions in India. Initially, at the time of independence, it had 17 provinces.  To manage ethnic diversity, India opted for a federalism and formation of provinces on lingual basis. Secularism has always been a defining feature of the Indian polity.

Read more: CAB: Modi’s reckless move towards erection of Hindu Rashtra

But since Anish Kapoor, a sculptor, wrote an insightful piece back in 2015 when Modi was first elected to power. He maintained that social cohesion of India would soon be challenged since there was going to be a Hindu Nation with an imaginative glorious past.

Hence, the BJP is, if anything, a revivalist Hindu nationalist party following a fascist political ideology to implement a religiously dominated idea of Hindu culture. “The country’s openness to social and religious minorities (more than 500 million people) and regional differences is at serious risk. Of late, Modi’s regime has effectively tolerated – if not encouraged – a saffron-clad army of Hindu activists who monitor and violently discipline those suspected of eating beef, disobeying caste rules or betraying the “Hindu nation”, wrote Kapoor.

Read more: Forget economy, India under Modi is home to contentious identity politics

Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things, recently spoke about the danger of assimilation policy. She wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times earlier this year titled “The Silence is the Loudest Sound”. She wrote, “While Partition and the horrifying violence that it caused is a deep, unhealed wound in the memory of the subcontinent, the violence of those times, as well as in the years since, in India and Pakistan, has as much to do with assimilation as it does with partition. … What’s unfolding today on both sides of the border of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir is the unfinished business of assimilation.”

After a crushing defeat, Modi’s BJP will either change its priorities and address the challenges being faced by the middle and lower classes in India or it may become more extremist to implement its ideological agenda. This is yet to be seen how does the party with deal an outright defeat?

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