Modi UK visit: Bihar polls play spoiler, British media sceptical about reforms

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s November 12-14 visit to the UK seems to have lost a bit of its sheen with the crushing defeat of the BJP in the Bihar elections, with influential voices in the British media striking sceptical notes on the trajectory of economic reforms in days to come. The much touted diaspora show at Wembley stadium in London on November 14, where Mr Modi is expected to address around 60,000-strong Indian community, will now be held under the shadow of the Bihar debacle, which has emboldened the Indian leader’s political opponents and galvanized the opposition. Going by his past performance at similar diaspora events in New York, San Francisco, Paris and Sydney, one can still expect Mr Modi to dazzle the audience with his trademark oratory, but many will be questioning whether he can walk the talk.

Here are some excerpts from leading British dailies on Mr Modi’s UK visit in the aftermath of the BJP’s defeat in Bihar polls.

Financial Times 

“But his next foreign visit — to the UK this week to meet David Cameron and the Queen and to address a crowd of 60,000 British Indians at Wembley Stadium — will for the first time be overshadowed by deepening troubles at home….It is the chorus of criticism about Mr Modi’s performance back in India that is now his main concern. The crushing defeat of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) in Bihar — the north Indian state of 110m people for which state election results were announced on Sunday — could prove to be a turning point for the man who won the biggest Indian general election victory in a generation only last year.”

“The Bihar defeat will make it harder for Mr Modi to push his economic reform programmes through parliament, because the weight of the parties in the state assemblies dictates the future shape of the Rajya Sabha, or upper house of parliament. And it is in the Rajya Sabha that Mr Modi’s opponents have killed or stalled business-friendly legislation — including a now-abandoned land reform and a nationwide goods and services tax (GST) to ease trade within India.”

Daily Telegraph

From pariah to rock star world leader

“As he emerged from provincial politician to likely leader of the world’s largest democracy, Britain ended the boycott in 2012 in the face of growing business and realpolitik pressures.

The turnaround has been dramatic. This week he will stay at Mr Cameron’s country residence (Chequers), address the two Houses of Parliament, visit Indian-owned businesses and sites of Indian cultural importance.”

The Independent

“The result means that as he prepares for an enthusiastic welcome in Britain this week – including an unprecedented sell-out event at Wembley Stadium on Friday – Mr Modi will be smarting from the defeat on home soil, which comes as his administration also faces mounting accusations of fomenting intolerance.”

“He promised jobs and growth for Bihar’s 100-million-strong population, mirroring the platform that swept him to power on a wave of euphoria in last year’s general election and recalling his successes in the western state of Gujarat, which he ruled before becoming Prime Minister. But 18 months into the job, Mr Modi is facing complaints that his domestic reform agenda has stalled and that he cannot bring about change on the ground.”

The Guardian

 “The failure to win Bihar for his Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) will hinder Modi’s push to pass crucial economic reforms because he needs to win such elections to gain full control of parliament.”

“So far, the economic takeoff Modi promised during last year’s election has proved elusive.”

“The poll came against a background of concern in India at incidents in which Muslims have been targeted by Hindu extremists. There have been protests by prominent intellectuals at what they call a climate of rising intolerance.”

“It is unclear to what extent such concerns are more widely shared, though defeat in Bihar may indicate that the BJP strategy of simultaneously stressing both development at a national level and using more sectarian rhetoric at a local level may be becoming less effective.”

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