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Delhi polls don't mean much for Indian foreign policy

By The Assam Tribune

Washington, Feb 13 (IANS): The AAP's massive victory in the Delhi State elections is unlikely "to have an immediate impact on India's foreign and international economic policy issues", according to a US expert.

That's because its leader Arvind Kejriwal "took the broom to foreign investment in retail last time around", and so it's "no longer an issue", wrote Alyssa Ayres, senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"The rest of their campaign focused on domestic issues of infrastructure and governance which will have little connection to the world outside Delhi," noted Ayers, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

"The main impact of the Delhi results on the national level will be felt in the BJP's response," she said. "And that may be very limited on the questions concerning foreign and international economic policy.

"Since the BJP has also made governance and anti-corruption a strong focus of their national platform, they differ little from the AAP on that count," Ayers said.

"It's the area of economic reforms that bear watching."

The Aam Aadmi Party won 67 of the 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly, leaving the Bhratiya Janata Party with just three seats. It was the first defeat for the BJP since its Lok Sabha triumph.

Noting that reforms and increasing India's international competitiveness were a core part of the Indian government's pitch around the world, she said: "A lesson of the AAP landslide appears to be the continued appeal of populism."

But Ayers suggested that "the Modi team will see little reason to change course on the economic front on the basis of one State, especially when their reform docket still looks full, and the work of improving India's competitiveness has only just started.

"So are there any clear implications of the Delhi outcome for how India will approach the international aspects of its Budget, due at the end of the month, or how it will consider its role in the world."

But she said that if the next Bihar State election produces a similar result, it would decisively rupture the BJP national momentum.

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