Modi Lost Big in States Where Divisive Politics Was Worse, Bloomberg Economics Analysis Shows

(Bloomberg) -- India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted his biggest electoral losses in states where his party made policy missteps and used divisive politics to win support, according to an analysis from Bloomberg Economics.

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Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party lost a total of 73 seats in seven key states — including Uttar Pradesh in the north, Maharashtra and Rajasthan — compared with 2019, official results showed Tuesday. The BJP lost its majority in the parliament and was forced into a coalition to stay in office.

While there were several reasons for the surprise result, Bloomberg Economics’s analysis of anecdotal evidence and state-wide tallies showed voters largely punished the BJP in locations where the leaders ran a negative campaign, it said in a report Thursday.

“Modi’s use of unstatesman-like language, as well as his pronouncement that he was an avatar of God, likely alienated some voters who were torn between the government’s good economic policies and the party’s social conduct,” BE economists Abhishek Gupta and Ankur Shukla wrote in the report.

In Uttar Pradesh, where Modi inaugurated a Hindu temple on a demolished mosque in January, the BJP won just 33 of the 80 seats in the state, down from 62 in 2019. It also lost the constituency where the temple was located.

“A likely reason this backfired was because the state government also started pressuring other sites of religious importance to the Muslim minority, creating an atmosphere of communal tension,” BE’s analysts said.

In Haryana, a sexual harassment case last year involving a BJP legislator and champion Indian wrestlers, likely cost the party support there, the analysts said. In Rajasthan, where Modi made some of his most derogatory comments against Muslims on the campaign trail, the BJP’s seat tally was reduced to 14 after winning 24 of the 25 seats in 2019.

The Indian National Congress, the main opposition party, won 44 seats in the seven states analyzed in the report, up from just 5 seats in 2019. Its best performance was in Maharashtra with 13 seats. In the north-eastern state of Manipur, where there have been ethnic clashes for more than a year, the BJP lost its only seat and the Congress party picked up both seats in the state.

Another gamble that didn’t pay off for the BJP was fielding candidates who defected from opposition parties. An analysis by ThePrint online newspaper showed that 69 of the 110 candidates who had switched over to the BJP since 2014 lost their constituencies.

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