India’s Local Elections and Modi’s Future as Prime Minister

India’s local elections are a cornerstone of the nation’s future policies and a good measure of how locals perceive Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role as the leader of the state. Right-wing nationalist Modi has been in the headlines for quite some time now due to the moves he’s been making. While Modi is widely accepted by a large majority of Indians, he has been facing a tough backlash by Muslims and their supporters. Let’s rewind and analyze some of the major moves taken by Modi and how all of that shaped the situation that we currently see in India.

Modi’s Incursion Into Kashmir

The Prime Minister early last year at the end of February made a move by sending Indian jets into Pakistan to counter what he said was “Islamic extremism.” The jet was downed by Pakistan in Kashmir and the pilot was arrested. Despite the return of the pilot later on, Modi was widely criticized at home and abroad for meddling in the workings of India’s neighbor and falsely accusing the Pakistanis of encouraging mass militant attacks in Kashmir.

Repercussions of India’s Citizenship Amendment Act

By the end of 2019, Modi moved forward with additional plans. He introduced the Citizenship Amendment Act, a law which states that India will take in refugees from neighboring countries including Pakistan but not if they are Muslims. The act has been widely condemned and Indians continuing to denounce it on the streets across the country even to this day. The law has been termed anti-sectarian, as it bars Muslims from gaining Indian citizenship and also renders them stateless in Assam province. By far, this has been the biggest challenge that the Modi government has faced ever since coming into power in 2014. As the new year started, Modi’s ultra-right policies emerged from the shadow as he explicitly stated that the law won’t be repealed. This led to major student protests. Not only students but many from India’s leading public circles came out in support of protesters, saying that Modi’s plan was intended to divide Indians on the basis of religion.

Last year, Modi successfully won his second term as the Indian Prime Minister. He took a majority in the lower house of the parliament, the Lok Sabha. In particular there was strong support from the capital—Modi’s base. However, according to results released on February 11, Modi only managed to gain 8 seats out of a total of 70 in the local elections held in New Delhi. This comes as a setback for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party as it continues to see reversals in local polls despite gaining a strong victory in the earlier Parliamentary elections.

New Delhi Local Elections

This time, Modi was up against the Aam Aadmi Party, better known as the “Common Man” party. The run-up to these elections saw Modi and his party blatantly targeting the AAP, saying that supporting Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s party was similar to supporting “Islamic terrorism.” This was yet again seen by many Indians as dividing Indians on the basis of religion. Kejriwal was also accused of supporting the protests that erupted following the legitimization of the Citizenship Amendment Act. Now one must ask what led the people in the capital to give up hope in Modi and switch over to the incumbent Delhi Chief Minister?

For starters, India is a highly-educated country which believes in the fight towards progress and the inclusion of all religions in one state. However, this is completely opposite to what Modi believes in. The reason why Modi lost power in the capital can be analyzed by considering what the Aam Aadmi Party has put on the table. Rather than dividing Indians, the Chief Minister focused on providing social welfare to the inhabitants of the 20 million-strong city. Kejriwal is also an effective administrator for policies, since under his rule, he has provided cheaper water and electricity, free healthcare and bus fares for women. Furthermore, the improvement in state-run schools has also favored Kejriwal’s victory.

Is Modi’s Future in Doubt?

Despite the election loss it’s worth asking if this move really impacts Modi’s future? The answer is a resounding no. Modi’s loss in Delhi will have little impact over the status quo as there is nothing that can challenge his administration’s iron grip over national politics and agenda-setting. In addition to that, the Aam Aadmi Party is irrelevant beyond the capital. This goes on to show that Modi’s loss doesn’t mean total defeat. Modi’s stance on resolving issues post-independence will still continue.

Furthermore, the government’s stance on the National Population Register will also move forward in the same direction. Another example can be taken from what happened in 2019 prior to the general elections. The BJP suffered heavy defeats in three provincial assemblies, namely: Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. However, during the national elections, these same states voted strongly for Modi. So to sum things up, it can be seen that despite the defeat in New Delhi—this time around—is likely to have little impact on Modi’s political future even though it tells us interesting things about where his policies fall short. It is especially likely that it won’t affect Modi’s future fortunes or his policy decisions, since he has vowed to come back stronger and with redoubled effort to continue his policies that he has been pursuing since 2014.