Will an economic slowdown hamper Narendra Modi’s re-election bid?8 min read . Updated: 22 Oct 2017, 11:31 PM IST
Notions that voters reward good governance and economic growth are too simple and idealistic for the staggeringly complex electoral democracy that India is
Apparently, “there is something in the New Delhi air". Veteran political observers of India reckon that slowing economic growth over the last six quarters has infused pollutants into what was once considered the clean and visible air of the 2019 general elections. It is undeniable that measured in the metric of gross domestic product (GDP) growth, the economy has experienced a slowdown. Political science theorists and public commentators intuit a relationship between GDP and electoral outcomes and thus proclaim that the 2019 electoral air is now getting murkier. Successful re-elections in the last decade of Narendra Modi as chief minister of Gujarat, Nitish Kumar in Bihar and Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh are often cited as examples to argue that high GDP growth can help an incumbent get re-elected. In national elections, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government from 1999-2004 delivered average 5.8% GDP growth and was voted out while the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) 1 (2004-09) delivered 8% GDP growth and was voted back. The defeat of the UPA 2 in 2014 is cited as a counter example of losing an election due to a slowing economy when average GDP growth slipped to 7%. Thus, a slowing economy portends re-election dangers for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2019 general election, goes the growing contention. Theoretical expectations of a strong relationship between GDP growth and electoral outcomes aside, does empirical evidence in India corroborate such a narrative? Do Indian voters reward or punish a ruling party for their performance on GDP growth?