Original Video Series: India's Spring Elections 2016—Part 1
May 12, 2016
The CSIS Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies brings to you a video series featuring some of the world’s top experts on India, tackling critical questions framed to understand the significance of the five state elections—Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal—that started at the beginning of April. These five states have a combined population of 229 million; a total greater than all but four countries. This point should be sufficiently significant as to warrant international attention.
There is a lot at stake in these state-level elections. India’s states collectively exercise a great deal of authority over India’s business environment and its human development. Under India’s constitution, states have near-total control over electricity grids, water distribution, law and order, agriculture markets, sanitation, and most regulation of businesses. Innovative states are taking the lead in using this power to improve their residents’ lives and are competing to attract investment by reforming land acquisition and labor laws.
Guessing the outcomes of state-level elections is always a difficult task. Advance polls have not proven reliable, and even exit polls are rarely attuned with actual outcomes. But irrespective of the outcomes, these five state elections will help our understanding of India’s politics in the years to come in terms of the makeup of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, shaping our views about incumbent governments’ re-electability, and gauging the political fortunes of both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress Party.
Role of States in the Indian Economy: What impact do state elections have on the overall economic growth of India?
When the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, it rejuvenated the concepts of competitive and cooperative federalism. While the central government cannot force state-level reforms, institutions like the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) have undertaken novel projects to gauge the relative attractiveness of state business environments, and encourage reforms. States that improve their policies on land, water, sanitation, management of power grids, and the business environment, will directly affect the national economy. The Modi government is also undertaking programs that will alter the balance of power between the central government and the states. In some instances such as the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojna (UDAY) power sector bailout and the Goods and Services Tax, more authority will be vested with the central government. On the other hand, programs like devolving greater federal funds directly to states will strengthen states’ hands to shape their own economy.
Richard Rossow, Senior Fellow and Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at CSIS, tackles how the state elections are tied into the overall economic growth of India.
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