Why India's State Election Matters

Why India's State Election Matters

By Shailesh Kumar, Eurasia Live

On March 11th, India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh (UP), will announce the results of its seven-part election to choose a new government. UP sends 80 MPs to parliament, the most of any Indian state, and this election is widely seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.

Eurasia Group Asia analyst Shailesh Kumar unpacks why this election is so important, who the main players are, and what it means for the future of India.

India is gearing up for a series of state elections and a lot of people must be wondering why anyone should care about state elections. The reality is state elections matter a lot. In general, because of India's parliamentary system, members of the lower house of parliament are elected through direct elections but members of the upper house are appointed by state assemblies. So if you're a political party in India and you have control of the lower house, and you want to make sure your legislative agenda is cleared through the upper house, you really need to win the state elections.

Which State Matters Most?

Uttar Pradesh, otherwise known as UP. UP has about 200 million people, making it just about as big as Brazil, and providing a pretty good gauge for Modi's popularity in India right now.

Who Are The Contenders?

There's Modi's BJP, which has not won there since the 1990s; there's the incumbent SP, led by a young and charismatic leader named Akhilesh Yadav; there's the BSP, led by a former chief minister, Mayawati; and then there's the Congress Party, led by Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi.

These elections are going to determine what Modi's agenda is going to be for the next two and a half years he has in office. Is he going to become more focused on anti-corruption and improved governance, something we saw him already begin to do? If he wins, he probably will. Or are we going to see him retrench more towards populism and social conservatism, which the BJP is notorious for? If he loses, that's the likely outcome.

When the dust settles on March 11th, and the votes are counted and we find out who wins, the headlines will likely read whether or not Modi and his anti-corruption efforts that began earlier are popular or not.

What Does This Mean For India's Future?

Whether the various demographics, the castes and the religions, vote according to party lines or if they break and vote for parties that they haven't voted for before. It's going to tell us a lot about the evolution of the Indian electorate.

Watch the video on Eurasia Live