INDIA: OUT WITH THE OLD

The people of India have spoken loud and clear.



All 800 million of them. The ‘Hand’ the rocked the cradle in more ways than one will rock her no more. It has been decisively ‘put to sleep’. Perhaps terminally. And it has only itself to blame for the decimation it has suffered at the hands of the electorate. And when you are routed in an election so badly as the Congress has been, you might not even end up in the main opposition!

The scale of BJP’s win has been brutal and was by any account a victory for new blood. The growing drumbeats of corruption scandals that echoed around the country and the stagnant economy were more than what the patient electorate could to stomach. Enough was enough. The rudderless Congress party and its alliances were handed a crushing, embarrassing defeat they deserved and the BJP — led by its charismatic leader Narendra Modi — rode to the parliament on a Saffron tidal wave with an absolute majority the likes of which India has not witnessed since 1984.

After decades of corruption, scams, land grab, huge non-performing loans of public sector banks, stalled projects and what-have-you, there was an overpowering sense among voters to see a complete change. There was a deep sense of agony, dismay and distress at the way the country was being run and a profound yearning for a decisive government and a wise and assertive leadership.

The 800 million Indian voters — of which100 million were new blood — had realised that if there was to be a reversal of fortunes and even a semblance of good governance, they had to vote in a party that would be able to form a cohesive and inclusive government without having to broker a coalition with fractiuous regional leaders. And they did.

It was tectonic shift in the polity of India and it was a shift to the Right. The Hindu Nationalist Party’s landslide win has now given the country hope. Hope that things will be set right. Hope that the country will now see a progressive and stable government that will revive the country’s economic fortunes and further strengthen its strategic partnerships with likeminded nations. Hope that the 148 million Indian who still live below the poverty line will be taken care of even as the party’s leader Narendra Modi leans more towards industry and manufacturing.

The 63-year-old Narendra Modi is known to be the darling of the corporates. “No more red tape — only red carpet,” he once said when referring to foreign investments flow. The man who has made a name for himself with his market-oriented economics will be the first Indian prime minister to be born after the country won its independence in 1947.

In a few days, this man who rose from humble beginnings to lead the world’s largest democracy by connecting with an aspirational India, will take over the reins of power with the strongest mandate ever since Rajiv Gandhi took office in 1984 riding on a wave of sympathy that followed in the wake of the assassination of his mother Indira Gandhi. But the question on everyone’s lips is can Modi with his steely style leadership and conservative ideology do for India what he has done for Gujarat over the last 13 years?

“India has won,” tweeted Modi. “ Good days are coming again,” Easier said than done. A new government cannot trigger instant change. It takes time and time isn’t exactly on Modi’s side. The mood on India’s Wall Street is giddy now as the country’s benchmark indexes hit fresh highs and the rupee, now on a 10-month high, continues to gain strength. But this will not last even though traders and analysts are predicting a five-year bull run. The bull will run out of breath if the BJP fails to deliver and turn the tide of discontent.

Cleaning the mountain of dirt left behind by the Congress is no easy task and Modi has only four years to make good on his word and walk the talk. It is crucial that the Modi government clearly demonstrates it has the political will to push forward much needed reforms.

His first task will be to restore the people’s confidence in the struggling economy and prevent it from bottoming out. He would then have to ensure that millions of jobs are generated for India’s frustrated youth and generating more than 10 millioin jobs a year is no easy task. Would Modi and his team be up to the challenge? Modi will also have to arrest rising prices, runaway inflation and falling standards in education and health, repair and build the dilapidated infrastructure, jump start the country’s investment cycle, discipline the bureaucracy and, perhaps, at the very start, roll back the costly, ineffective entitlement programmers launched by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

Can Modi’s Team India do all of this? Does he have the capacity and the capability to usher in rapid growth? The hopes of 1.2 billion people of India ride on Modi now.

— PATRICK MICHAEL, EXECUTIVE EDITOR


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