[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Bihar election result is a political loss for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but it may well pave the way for the core agenda of Indian economic growth. The result is a rude wake-up call for the party and the government and may see certain course corrections before the coming Winter Session of Parliament, which is expected to commence on 26 November.
The keenly contested election to the State Assembly of Bihar saw the coalition of caste-based regional political parties defeating the BJP, the Hindu right wing party that swept to rule India in May 2014. The election result is important both politically and economically for the country.
The final tally of 243-member Bihar Assembly is as under:
Nitish Kumar will continue to be the Bihar Chief Minister for the third successive term.
Nitish Kumar will emerge as the principal opponent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the national election 2019. There will be a strong anti-BJP group in Parliament. Nitish will be supported by opposition chief ministers like Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal to create a nationwide anti-Modi narrative.
Prime Minister Modi and BJP party President Amit Shah will have to accommodate dissenters within the party as their ability to win elections has been considerably diluted with the Bihar result. Election are due in the largest Indian State Uttar Pradesh (2017), eastern States of West Bengal and Assam (2016) and southern State of Kerala (2016).
Narendra Modi clearly lost his appeal to voters during the last 18 months in power. He has to relook at his governance model. By addressing 31 rallies, Modi had in effect placed himself as the principal face against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
The regional parties in States like West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu will bargain hard with the central government on policy matters. The government will find it difficult to pass reform measures requiring parliamentary approval.
Prime Minister Modi will act fast on economic measures, will pay attention to implementation and less on announcing new schemes. This government has 3½ years more to deliver. A drastic Cabinet reshuffle is expected with induction of capable ministers with a focus on delivery taking charge.
Measures to bring in a ‘feel good’ factor in the economy will see market sentiment improving and growth rate boosted. The much needed fast forwarding of reform measures are expected. The ongoing focus on “ease of doing business” will intensify. Serious investors in India may now hope for a proactive government machinery so as to invigorate the “Make in India” drive. Some big but pending reforms like introduction of GST will have to be pushed through with political consensus. The government will depend on good offices of Nitish Kumar to bring all on board.
There will be a rethinking on the government’s media strategy. The constant negative reports have hurt the BJP politically and are negating Modi’s effort to win foreign investment. Unless matured communication with quick response to any crisis situation is adopted, the Modi Government will lose its shine fast.
Policy measures will have more deliberations. The government had been giving the impression that all measures were pushed through by a strong centrally controlled authority. This does not go well in a democracy like India where media is powerful.
Prime Minister Modi won the national election in 2014 on the promise of bringing in development. The government will fast-track the measures and is expected to check the suitably non-development related agenda sponsored by the culturally entrenched section of the party.