The biggest election in world history started today in the Himalayan foothills of northeastern India, with Narendra Modi’s opposition party poised to win the most seats as it looks to regain power after a decade.
About 815 million voters, roughly the populations of the U.S. and European Union combined, are eligible to cast ballots in nine rounds of voting over the next five weeks to pick 543 lawmakers. Results will be known on May 16 in the nation of 1.2 billion people, where some two-thirds live on about $2 per day.
“People are restless for growth and development,” said Jai Mrug, an independent political analyst in Mumbai who conducts opinion polling. “India’s image, progress and economy have been hampered due to a lack of decision making.”
India’s stocks and currency have rallied in recent weeks on the prospect that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party will form a stable coalition and revive Asia’s third-biggest economy. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Congress party has seen its popularity fall as graft cases, Asia’s fastest inflation and subdued economic growth erode support.
Global funds pumped $11 billion into Indian debt and equities this year, on optimism the new government will revive growth that slowed to a decade-low in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2013. The rupee gained 3.2 percent last quarter, its best performance since 2012, and the S&P BSE Sensex index of shares rose to a record on April 2. Bond risk for India has fallen in 2014.
India’s stock market has at least partially discounted a significant victory by Narendra Modi, an outcome I have been predicting since he first secured the BJP nomination in early February. These market gains would most likely be pared somewhat by a further reaction on Wall Street. Thereafter, next month’s post-election performance will depend on the size of Modi’s victory.Back to top