by Samir Kumar
Politics and Political Culture
The Trends that Helped Sweep BJP to Landslide Victory
New York Times: May 23, 2014
The BJP’s victory was politically comprehensive, but in particular it managed to firmly capture the youth vote, the Muslim vote, and the “political fulcrum” of Uttar Pradesh. Data show that it got a larger than normal vote share in southern and eastern states where it has traditionally been weak.
- Smart political strategy by the BJP won it the most convincing parliamentary victory by any party since 1984 with a paltry 31 percent of the popular vote. (The New Yorker)
- Modi ran a nearly presidential election campaign, devastating the Congress Party. His BJP connected with the youth, claimed the Hindi political bastion of Uttar Pradesh, and several other states in which it previously held little sway. The election also saw regional parties in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu rise to national significance with Third Front parties and the anti-corruption Aam Admi Party relegated to near irrelevance. (Foreign Policy)
- Harsh V. Pant suggests that Modi’s extraordinary rise to the top should be a shining example that barriers to social and political mobility are not as hard as they once were. (Foreign Policy)
The New Yorker opines, “Did India consider itself so starved of decisive leadership, and so exasperated by its faltering progress, that it wished to take a chance on a polarizing leader who has been charged with tacitly encouraging riots against his own citizens, and has been backed by majoritarian organizations with little regard for civil liberties? The answer, as the results have now clearly shown, is an overwhelming yes.”
2014, Like 1952
Indian Express: May 19, 2014
The esteemed political scientist Varshney is hopeful that Modi can change the discourse of Indian politics to one of economic development, but is wary of the influence of the RSS and the narrative of Hindu nationalism.
- Despite Modi’s mandate, there are worrying signs that Modi may not transcend his Hindu nationalist past. (Bloomberg View)
- In Bihar, the toppling of the formerly dominant Janata Dal was, as with the general election, based on the focus on development and ever-present caste politics. But Bihar was won in no small part because of communal polarization. (Indian Express)
- Christophe Jaffrelot shows how Muslims in India face a uniquely precarious political situation, having a record low number of MPs while facing a majority party that is not naturally accommodating and may in fact stand in opposition to their interests. (Indian Express)
The Cult of Cronyism
Seminar: March 27, 2014
Big business has had a huge role to play in this historic election. Varadarajan argues, “Modi is where he is today…not because the country is becoming more communal but because the Indian corporate sector is becoming more impatient.”
How Modi Defeated Liberals Like Me
The Hindu: May 22, 2014
This election has been seen as an indictment of liberalism. Here, the notable liberal laments the way Indian secularism turned into a device that oppressed the middle class by shaming their religious expression. Modi’s win shows the extent to which that negativity was self-defeating, and secularism will need to be reinvented, beyond the model of “tolerance,” to thrive again.
- Gurcharan Das, a “middle of the road, liberal Indian” who voted for growth and a strong state, wants Modi to give India its “Thatcher moment” (Financial Times)
- Santosh Desai argues that Modi’s election was a stunning development for Indian politics in which a cultural mainstream was united against regressive liberalism, transcending differences of caste, religion, and class. (Times of India)
- Viswanathan and Desai may be speaking too soon. Liberals ought to appeal to their principles and core attitude, not the Congress party, says Tony Joseph. (Quartz)
- The defeat of the left-leaning Congress does not suggest that India has moved definitively rightward, but was an emphatic statement against the old Indian liberalism and traditional identity politics. (Foreign Policy)
- Secularism is not simply an idea of Indian liberalism. It is contested and appropriated like other core Indian political concepts. (Los Angeles Review of Books)
Foreign Policy a la Modi
Foreign Affairs: April 3, 2014
Manjari Chatterjee Miller
Indian foreign policy has been largely consistent since 1964 and this is unlikely to change with Modi’s ideology, yet there is room to improve by appointing capable civil servants and developing a more sharply trained foreign service.
Narendra Modi: India’s Shinzo Abe
The Diplomat: May 16, 2014
“The 63-year-old Modi mirrors Abe’s soft nationalism, market-oriented economics, and new Asianism, seeking close ties with Asian democracies to create a web of interlocking strategic partnerships.”
- C. Raja Mohan argues that Modi appears to have a sufficient mix of “foreign policy begins at home” and confidence in regionalism. His swearing-in ceremony outreach to SAARC leaders, punctuated by a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, may just be the beginning. (Indian Express)
- Modi’s foreign policy was not frequently articulated in his campaign, but it is clear that he intends to embrace globalization and his role as a statesman. (Foreign Policy)
Foreign Media Reactions to Narendra Modi’s Win
cogitASIA (CSIS Asia Program): May 21, 2014
An interactive presentation reveals the contrasting tones with which Modi’s victory was received among media in major countries. For example, reaction in Brazil was more neutral, while Israel exhibited a strongly positive reaction.
Modi’s LS Polls Victory Dominates Headlines Across the World
Firstpost: May 17, 2014
Pakistan was naturally wary of Modi’s win, the US accepted it with caution, and China embraced it.
The editorial of the leading English-language Chinese news outlet showers Modi with praise and hopes for the best. (China Daily)
In Israel, Netanyahu expressed an interest in deepening the India-Israel relationship and there are reasons to believe that Modi could lead to a historically pro-Israel Indian government. (Haaretz)
Modi’s outreach to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was a bold move, and there is a chance for movement on free trade. Both countries will look to revive talks with a “fresh approach,” beginning with a meeting of the foreign secretaries. (New York Times, Business Standard)
Modi’s invitation to the Sri Lankan president and appointment of Army general VK Singh as a Minister of State with independent charge of the northeast signals a stronger posture with respect to a continually encroaching China. (Livemint)
Modi has invited Premier Xi to visit India, building on the upcoming meeting between the foreign ministers. The two countries are set to deepen engagement on many fronts, including infrastructure, IT, and pharmaceuticals. (Business Standard)
The Japanese leader has a famously good rapport with Modi, and the two countries share common ground over concerns with China, Japan’s interest in investing in India and a possible civil nuclear deal, and Indian exports of rare earth metals to Japan. Their outlook on economic reform is the same and the momentum exists to build a strong India-Japan partnership. (Economic Times)
Despite historically close ties between India and Russia, the foundation of their relationship, arms trade, does not look to be strong under Modi. However, separation between the US and Russia as well as shared strategic objectives in Afghanistan and Central Asia leave the door open to a Modi-Putin rejuvenation of this relationship between “time tested friends.” (Carnegie Moscow Center)
European countries may be able to make a play for India’s defense modernization market. (German Marshall Fund)
The US-India Relationship
Productive but Joyless?: Narendra Modi and U.S.-India Relations
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: May 12, 2014
Ashley J. Tellis
Veteran India hand Tellis does not see the rift between the US and Modi over his US visa denial dying down easily, but sees Modi’s initiatives as naturally increasing the overlapping area between American and Indian national interests.
- Dhruva Jaishankar delves into Modi’s campaign speeches, interviews, and activities to draw out some of his preferences and priorities in foreign policy. (Foreign Policy)
- Former Ambassador to India Frank G. Wisner sees Modi as a pragmatist, implying a positive relationship in the long run that will build up slowly (Economic Times)
- And another former ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, believes that the US-India relationship is likely to get off to a slow start.
- James Traub sees real conflicts of interest between the US and India, namely over Iran, UN votes, and a potential escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan (Foreign Policy)
- A space for common interests between the two countries can be made through realizing India’s economic potential, argues Atlantic Council Fellow Robert A. Manning
The Way Forward
How Far Can Modi Take India — And How Fast?
Reuters: May 20, 2014
Though Modi is intent on being a reformer, he faces the potentially debilitating constraint of decentralization as his BJP does not control the Rajya Sabha. He ought to make use of his executive power where he can, as in liberalizing FDI allowances and streamlining infrastructure and industrial projects.
- “Modi does not have a magic wand to turn around the economic fortunes of the country,” warned Societe Generale economist and Geoskope expert Kunal Kumar Kundu. (TIME)
After the Election: The Economic Challenge for India’s New Leaders
Foreign Policy: May 6, 2014
Evan A. Feigenbaum
The former State Department official recommends that Modi think more actively about ways to regionalize. There are difficult tradeoffs at every end, but India has no choice but to be more active in its foreign economic strategy.
- Prospective Modi adviser Jagdish Bhagwati champions bolder international trade and economic reform (CFR: Asia Unbound).
What Holds Us Back
Indian Express: May 23, 2014
The chief Asia economist at JPMorgan characterizes what are seen as the binding constraints to India’s growth: declining value of exports in the global economy, stalled projects, increasing leverage of corporations in infrastructure investment, and high inflation.
India’s New Government: Kick-Starting India
The Economist: May 17, 2014
The economic reform agenda will be both sweeping and nitty-gritty: Modi will have to tackle India’s “rotten banks,” cut subsidies, impose inflation targeting, and attack the labor law and land acquisition regimes to create jobs in manufacturing.
- India’s infrastructure companies are being hit hard and are losing patience. Moreover, Modi must find a way to resolve a long-standing gas price dispute and bring coal supplies to India, solutions not readily apparent even for an able administrator. (Financial Times)
- “Roads, rail, coal and gas are areas where a decisive central government will make a difference.” (The Economist)
Modi Courts Allies For Economic Reform Push
Financial Times: May 19, 2014
The path to overcoming India’s structural obstacles to long-term growth will be difficult to navigate, even for reform-minded Modi. To pass labor reform and land acquisition bills, Modi will need to overcome his party’s minority in the upper house, which means contending with powerful regional leaders such as Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.
Narendra Modi goes for Gujarat experiment at Centre, empowers PMO on ‘all important policy issues’
The Indian Express: May 28, 2014
Pranab Dhal Samanta
Inherent in Modi’s “Gujarat model” of economic success was centralization of power in the Chief Minister’s office. Modi is serious about centralizing executive power and flows of information to the Prime Minister’s Office to streamline reforms where possible.
- Modi has made a clear effort to streamline his office and cabinet, but he is not being shy about eliminating sources of corruption from his system. His Minister of State for Power, Coal, and Renewable Energy, pronounced that lobbyists should not be present at all in his ministry.
- In an unprecedented move, the Modi government issued a formal order prohibiting nepotism in the selection of bureaucratic staff, adding to his anti-corruption bona fides. (Daily News & Analysis)
Narendra Modi Plans Multi-Million Dollar Sanitation Project to Clean Up 1000 Indian Towns
Economic Times: May 24, 2014
Modi hits the ground running on his promise to improve infrastructure, announcing a plan that would improve the water supply, drainage system, and roads of 500 cities by 2019.
The Gujarat model revisited
Business Standard: May 28, 2014
In a riveting exploration of the nuts and bolts of the reforms Modi oversaw in Gujarat, buttressed by plenty of data, the author and his team see the success of a multitude of “doable development” initiatives.
The Economic Mess That Narendra Modi Will Have To Unravel
Livemint: May 26, 2014
Asit Ranjan Mishra and Remya Nair
This analysis frames the pathways to economic reform as a better budget, stronger tax laws, and the long-awaited Goods and Services Tax.
The uniform Goods and Services Tax appears to be a high priority, with new Finance Minister Arun Jaitley getting the ball rolling. (Livemint)
Expectations of India Inc from Modi government
Indian Express: May 29, 2014
“There are numerous things that…industry expects from the new government…like proactive measures to encourage infrastructure on every level, airport, navigational facilities, safety measures.”
- Modi’s victory is being met with confidence not just from the stock markets but also from foreign investors. Based on his reputation alone, India is projected to receive $60 billion in FY14 against $29 billion in FY13.
India Elections: Are Labour Reforms Possible?
Financial Times: May 6, 2014
Perhaps the hardest nut for the new government to crack will be the task of reforming labor laws to allow for the flow of jobs into the manufacturing sector. There are multiple avenues for reform, such as modifying national legislation or sending the issue to the states to sort out individually and gradually. But the manufacturing space vacated by China may already be taken.
FM Jaitley in sync with Raghuram Rajan’s stand on taming inflation, reviving growth
Economic Times: May 28, 2014
Atmadip Ray and Gayatri Nayak
Quieting speculation of a rift or possible ouster of the internationally popular central bank chief, both appear committed to twin goals of reviving growth and curbing inflation, suggesting that there will be space for true monetary policymaking in addition to pushes for structural economic reforms.
- Jagdish Bhagwati thinks Raghuram Rajan has the right idea for the central bank, and advises Modi to keep him (Financial Express)
The New Government
Profiles of Key Ministers
Albright Stonebridge: May 28, 2014
The strategic consultancy offers compact profiles and analysis of the ministries that matter.
- The Indian Express provides a complete guide to the cabinet, complete with longer, more detailed profiles of the most important ministers.
Photo: Narendra Modi at his victory rally in Ahmedabad, via narendramodiofficial.