As India, the world’s largest democracy, enters the final phase of a historic election, business leaders and family office investors across the country are bracing for market whiplash. With more than 8,000 candidates from 464 parties collectively spending $5 billion to reach out to more than 879 million eligible voters, India’s 2019 election cycle is unlike any other.
This year’s process ends when results are announced May 23. The two most prominent parties in the campaign are the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress. With only a few days left in the process, there’s still no clear frontrunner.
However, investors and institutions may have already placed their bet on the outcome. “The markets are currently pricing in continuity of the incumbent government as the price action in India on local political headlines has been tempered,” says Siraj Ali, Chief Operating Officer at Singapore-based family office AJ Capital, the investment vehicle of India’s Jhunjhunwala family.
Ali says if the markets are right and the incumbent BJP party retains power (even with a diminished number of seats in parliament) the country’s socioeconomic policies will remain largely unchanged.
Business as usual may be the best outcome for India’s economy and capital markets, which have grown 27.5% and 54.8%, respectively, since the last election in 2014. This year, the country is likely to overtake Great Britain as the world’s fifth largest economy.
“The implementation of several structural reforms such as goods and service tax (GST), bankruptcy and insolvency laws, an increase in the direct tax base, efforts to formalize and digitize the economy have all had positive impacts,” says Anirudha Taparia, Executive Director of Mumbai-based IIFL Wealth Management.
“We continue to believe in India’s immense potential as an investor and for us the macro economic growth story remains intact as long-term investors in the economy,” says Ali.
His team has spent much of the past year deploying cash in startups and lending companies listed on the national stock exchange. While it seems India’s growth story is too robust to be thwarted by any single election, investors like AJ Capital have a policy wish list for whoever gains power this summer.
“As investors, we would like to see the government encourage private sector investments with a focus on fixing the country’s infrastructure issues while maintaining fiscal prudence so as to not enhance the debt burden on the economy,” says Ali.
Whether the next government implements these policies or private investments into the local economy continue unabated regardless of the outcome, remains to be seen.