The election season in India is generating volatile sentiment. Approximately 4-weeks ago, Narendra Modi was experiencing a decline in favorability. Markets were sliding and confidence was slipping. Going into his re-election, the once very popular Prime Minister was vulnerable. There was little the government could do to stimulate economic growth and rural areas were beginning to protest as unemployment tumbled to the worst levels in 45-years. With general elections just 1-month away, Modi needed an impetus to fire up the troops.
Skirmish with Pakistan as the Answer
Modi’s popularity had been slipping in late January and early February. For Modi to return to power, his Bharatiya Janata Party needs to win a majority of the 543 elected seats in the lower house of Parliament. He needed a distraction. He needed voters to focus on something other than economic growth and unemployment.
Just like a script, sentiment has changed, as one bombing in Kashmir, helped buoy confidence. On February 14, more than 40-troops were killed by a suicide bomber. A listed terrorist organization called Jaish-e-Muhammed, that operates out of Pakistan, claimed responsibility. Modi immediately ordered airstrikes on Pakistan, which he blames for the attack, and of course, Pakistan countered. The fear that reverberated around the globe as 2-nuclear armed nations faced off was palpable. The fear in India led to a change of sentiment as Indian voters viewed Modi.
Since that period nearly 1-month ago, the two nuclear giants have eased tensions. Under pressure from global trading partners, Pakistan cracked downon militant groups and now has detained two men India has said are terrorist. Pakistan has also banned another militant group that is focused on India according to sources.Meanwhile, anti-money laundering international organization threatened sanctions against Pakistan if it doesn’t crack down on militant groups operating inside the country.
Was this On Purpose?
The story as it unfolded generated significant criticism of Modi. While this incident is too farfetched to be a plot, Modi was widely criticized as being willing to risk war for even at the expense of a political boost. In the wake of this situation, voters have put aside their concerns over lackluster economic growth and have instead focused on homeland safety.
What appears to matter to most Indian’s is that their country was harmed and Modi immediately hit back. Indians are rallying behind Modi again, and that he seems to be making crucial gains among independent and undecided voters. What grabs attention is a war not economic troubles during a standoff and Modi’s opponents are having a difficult time refocusing votes. The fact that India’s airstrikes probably missed their targets, and that a fighter jet was shot down by Pakistan, doesn’t seem to matter to most Indians. The Pakistan narrative has provided a great opportunity for Modi to show the country that he is the commander and chief.
With less than 1-month before the election, Modi is sitting in a good place. Sentiment has move back in his favor but, the tense scenario with Pakistan is still hovering over the countries head. With this in mind, Modi is likely to hold on, as voters are likely to remain focused on homeland security instead of the economy ahead of April’s general election.