Is the Modi Effect waning? (What Jammu and Jharkhand tell us)

The recent state elections in Jammu & Kashmir and Jharkhand went well for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but the results have also sparked speculation as to whether the Narendra Modi effect is beginning to wane. Congress Party MP Rajeev Satav seems to think so (and was retweeted by Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal):

If only things were so simple.

Take Jharkhand. As Satav says the BJP’s vote share dropped about 9 percentage points between the general election in April-May 2014 and the state assembly election in November-December 2014. But that’s not unexpected: the chart below shows the BJP has lost 7-9 percentage points in vote share between national and state elections held in close succession since 2004.

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This is also true of state assembly constituencies won (see chart below). In both 2009 and 2014, the BJP in Jharkhand won 19-20 more state assembly segments in national elections than it did in the state elections that followed a few months later. Note that 2004/05 is an exception partly because the BJP stood alone in the 2004 parliamentary election but allied with the Janata Dal-United in 2005 for the state election.

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This pattern occurs presumably because many Jharkand voters chose to vote for the BJP in national elections but switched to a regional party such as the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha that seemed a more viable option in state politics.

The BJP’s position in Jammu appears unchanged between the national and state elections. While it’s true that the party’s overall vote tally in Jammu and Kashmir has fallen, its grip on Jammu hasn’t really weakened. The BJP won 24 assembly segments (in the Jammu and Udhampur parliamentary constituencies) in the general election, and won 25 assembly seats in Jammu in the subsequent state election.

There is therefore no real evidence to suggest that the Modi effect (or anti-Congress sentiment) has waned either in Jammu or Jharkhand.

Road construction has slowed, not accelerated, under Narendra Modi

In a 9 December press release, Crisil Research found that highway projects awarded in the fiscal year 2013-14 are showing “a sharp pick-up in execution amid a pro-active government and faster approvals by implementing agencies”.

While this may be true of those 16 projects, it has yet to translate into an acceleration in the road building programme of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). The data show that highway construction has slowed in the 2014-15 fiscal year beginning in April 2014, and been particularly slow since the Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in May 2014.

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Between April and October 2014, 705 km of highways were completed, down 23% from the same period in the previous year. This translates into a daily rate of 3.3 km, down from 4.3 km the previous year. If we look at the period in which the Modi government has been in power for which data are available (June-October 2014), the daily rate is 3 km per day, 40% lower than what the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) recorded between April 2013 and May 2014.

What about the implementation of incomplete highway projects? One of the complaints against the UPA was that road projects that had been awarded were failing to get off the ground because of red tape and financial difficulties.

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The chart above shows that the number of highway projects under actual implementation has fallen since March 2012 and remained low. In fact, since the Modi government was sworn in the number of road projects where work is underway has dropped a tad from 3,254 (in May 2014) to 3,213 (in October 2014), while the number of projects in which work is waiting to start has gone up from 9,442 to 9,984.

The following chart shows this in percentage terms.

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To be fair, it is too early to judge the Modi government’s infrastructure building record. Land acquisition remains challenging, bank loans are still expensive and infrastructure developers have a lot of debt to pay off before they are able to invest afresh. Some will no doubt argue that many of these problems are inherited.

But for now let’s go with Arun Shourie: “When all is said and done, more is said than done”.