Brand Modi jolted by Bihar setback

The rout of the BJP-led alliance in the crucial assembly polls in Bihar is the “most significant domestic setback” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, global media commented today, saying it shows that his vote-winning abilities were on the wane.

The New York Times called the BJP’s defeat a “severe political setback” for Modi. The Washington Post and The Guardian of UK both called it a sign of Modi’s waning appeal.

There were also concerns about impact of the verdict on the Prime Minister’s economic policies and reforms, which have been followed with increasing optimism abroad. The New York Times noted that the defeat may leave him weaker for the coming parliamentary battles in pursuit of “overhauls of taxation, labor rules and land use”.

Bihar elections received surprisingly outsized attention in the days running up to the polling, framed largely as a test of Modi, his popularity, governance and campaigning style. The verdict, as a result, was also seen in its implication for him. It was his and not his rivals–Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad’s– election to win or lose, went the narrative.

The Post reported that the BJP had indeed chosen that path consciously. “The BJP’s election campaign relied almost entirely on Modi’s image and did not even project local leaders in its posters,” it said in a report, adding, “Modi staked his personal reputation by addressing 30 large public meetings in the state and renewing his pledge of bringing development, a promise that propelled him to power last year.”

“Mr Modi won a convincing victory in last year’s national elections, but this poll was seen as a referendum on his economic programme,” the BBC said.

In Pakistan, leading newspaper Dawn said, a resounding verdict in Bihar against Prime Minister Modi’s “cow politics at the expense of India’s traditional tolerance of food habits, put his BJP out to pasture on Sunday while setting the agenda for an opposition regrouping against his narrow nationalism.”

The News, in its report said that the defeat of the BJP in Bihar was a major blow for the Prime Minister who fronted a no-holds barred campaign.

“It seems India has given its first verdict against Modi’s fundamentalist policies in the Bihar elections where Modi’s Hindu nationalist party unable to take even 80 out of the 243-seat state assembly compared to 160 for a coalition of rival regional parties,” it said.

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency also commented that Prime Minister Modi’s ruling BJP suffered a “major jolt in a key regional election in the eastern state of Bihar, in what was perceived as a referendum on his economic programme.”

Quoting experts, the report said, the “result of Bihar polls clearly indicate a personal blow to Modi as he was the face of the party in the election campaign and it was a referendum on his developmental agenda.”

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