Modi not welcome
NEW DELHI: The Bihar elections were closely followed by the world media, with most newspapers linking the result to a referendum-of-sorts on the Indian Prime Minister and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Meanwhile, the day the results were announced, “Modi Not Welcome To UK” was projected in larger-than-life dimensions on the walls of the UK Parliament, as a measure of protest against the Indian Prime Minister’s upcoming visit to the United Kingdom.
While Amit Shah and the BJP leadership attempt to distance Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the Bihar election results, the world media has put the blame squarely on the Indian PM’s shoulders. The New York Times called the defeat a “severe political setback” for Modi, whilst the Washington Post and the Guardian ran lengthy features on the PM’s waning appeal.
The Pakistani media ran headlines linking the election results to the Prime Minister, with the Express Tribune declaring “Waning popularity: Modi suffers defeat in crucial Bihar election” while Dawn News ran a story titled “Bihar steals Modi’s firecrackers.”
A majority of headlines on the Bihar election results referred to PM Modi and his performance in some way or the other. Here’s a selection:
The Washington Post:
“State election in India delivers a significant blow to Modi’s popularity.”
The New York Times:
“Modi Concedes Party’s Defeat in Assembly Elections for Key State.”
“India PM Narendra Modi in Bihar election setback.”
“Narendra Modi’s party concedes defeat in Bihar election.”
“Modi’s party concedes defeat in Bihar State.”
Excerpts from the articles reveal the Modi-central narrative. The Guardian called the loss “the most significant domestic setback for Modi since he won a crushing victory in a general election in the emerging economic power last year, after a campaign promising rapid development, modernisation and opportunity combined with a defence of conservative cultural and social values.” “The failure to win Bihar for his Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) will hinder Modi’s push to pass crucial economic reforms because he needs to win such elections to gain full control of parliament. So far, the economic takeoff Modi promised during last year’s election has proved elusive. More broadly, Sunday’s defeat in Bihar, which has a population of 105 million, might indicate that though Modi, a Hindu nationalist who started his career with a rightwing religious and cultural revivalist organisation, still retains significant national popularity and momentum, his appeal to voters has begun to wane.”
The BBC called the defeat a “major setback” for the Indian Prime Minister. “The BJP’s defeat in Bihar is the second consecutive setback for Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party since it swept to power in Delhi last year.Earlier this year the BJP suffered a drubbing at the hands of an upstart anti-corruption party in Delhi. Now a “grand alliance” of powerful regional parties has handed out a defeat in what is one of India’s most politically crucial states. Despite what his defenders say, Sunday’s defeat is another blow to the charismatic Mr Modi, who is arguably the party’s biggest vote-getter and who attended 26 campaign rallies in Bihar ahead of the vote. The results make it clear that Mr Modi’s vote-catching abilities are on the wane and voters are already holding him to the promises he made to them last year,” an analysis of the results stated.
Meanwhile in the UK, the movement #ModiNotWelcome — which is protesting the Indian PM’s upcoming visit to the UK — gained momentum. As the results were announced, ‘Modi Not Welcome to UK’ was projected on the UK Parliament.
Across the pond, the NYT quoted Shekhar Gupta as a summing up of the results, with the tag line “Mr. Modi is beatable.” The article went on to say: “The defeat also means that Mr. Modi will enter the winter session of Parliament without the political momentum he craved to force through major overhauls of taxation, labor rules and land use that he sees as critical to accelerating India’s growth and attracting more foreign investors. The loss also deprives the B.J.P. of a vital location from which to spread its political dominance into northeast India, including the large state of West Bengal. The battle for Bihar, fought through five rounds of voting over the past five weeks, played out against a raging national debate over whether Mr. Modi’s India is becoming increasingly intolerant of secularists, Muslims and political dissent in general. According to the police, four Muslims were attacked and killed by mobs of Hindus in the past six weeks because they were suspected of stealing, smuggling or slaughtering cows.”
The Wall Street Journal called the BJP’s defeat “a political blow that could make it harder for his government to move ahead with its economic agenda.” “The loss threatens to dent confidence in Mr. Modi, whose promises of rapid development have made him India’s most popular national leader in decades. It also sets the stage for wrangling with an emboldened opposition that will likely further delay economic policy-making and hurt Mr. Modi’s efforts to take control of Parliament’s Upper House and clear roadblocks to his agenda,” WSJ said. “Also in doubt is how the BJP will proceed with its social and cultural agenda, which has drawn renewed attention because of the Bihar campaign and the reaction of party leaders to recent religiously motivated killings.”
The Washington Post stated that the election results could be a “significant blow to Modi’s popularity.” “The result of the five-phase vote conducted over three weeks in the impoverished northern state of Bihar does not affect Modi’s business-friendly government nationally, but many here view it as a sign of voter disenchantment with his 17-month-old rule and a wake-up call for the prime minister,” an article stated. The WSJ equated the Bihar results with the Indian PM, saying, “The BJP’s election campaign relied almost entirely on Modi’s image, making little room for local leaders. Modi addressed 30 large public meetings in the state and renewed his pledge to bring development, a promise that propelled him to power last year.” “In recent months, though, Modi has come under widespread attack for not reining in members of his government and party who have made inflammatory statements after a Hindu mob killed a Muslim man over false rumors that he had consumed beef. To many Hindus, cows are sacred, and eating beef is taboo. Moody’s Analytics said in a recent report that Modi may lose his “domestic and global credibility” if he fails to curb the strident Hindu rhetoric of his party members and that the divisive political atmosphere may present a bigger challenge for his government and turn national attention away from economic policies,” the article said.