India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, India, October 29, 2015.
Adnan Abidi / Reuters

Over the last five weeks, voters in the northern Indian state of Bihar went to the polls to elect a new government. In India’s boisterous democracy, it is hard to get too worked up over a single regional election. But Bihar, which would be the world’s thirteenth-largest country in population terms and which holds a large chunk of federal power, is something of an exception.

The election was a hotly contested showdown between two coalitions. In one corner stood Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a host of smaller local allies. Since coming to power in the May 2014 general election, the BJP has quickly became the central pole of Indian politics, and it is looking to expand its electoral footprint. In the other corner was the “Grand Alliance,” a motley collection of largely regional concerns looking to halt Modi’s electoral juggernaut. This alliance

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  • MILAN VAISHNAV is an Associate with the South Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
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