Bill Clinton Took Three Years

The guy who gave America its longest peacetime economic expansion took three years to show he was up to something. 1993 was dud, 1994 was dud, 1995 was a dud. But US in 1992 is not India in 2014. The US was already a First World Country at the time. There was no fundamental infrastructure to build. The Indian democracy is so much more complex, one of the smartest Americans ever to become ambassador to India simply referred to it as "the imponderables of Indian politics," JFK's John Kenneth Galbraith.

Narendra Modi has been doing excellent work. At a fundamental level. The GST bill alone will give India another two points in terms of growth. And with everything else he has been doing, I see the economy going past a 10% growth rate before he has to go to the people again in 2019. If the growth rate is past 10%, he will see re-election. I have no doubts in my mind. Right now I don't see how the growth rate will not go past 10%. It has to. He has been doing excellent work. But India is such a big country, so complex, so democratic, the work will take some time to show visible bounce. The challenge is not to get it past 10%, the challenge is to keep it past 10% for 30 years. Modi doing 20 years would make sense.

I will give the guy two more years before I start judging him. People who can't see the people gave him a five year mandate last year don't know the ABC of politics. Bihari voters are smart. They had zero doubts about whether Modi was going to shift from Delhi to Patna. So they picked the guy who is the best man for the job. Nitish Kumar is every bit as skillful a politician.

Bill Clinton is not a good comparison for Narendra Modi. Clinton had it easy by Modi's standards. A more appropriate comparison would be Deng Xiaoping. Deng took much longer, and his work really started showing visible results only after he was dead and gone. At least Indians don't need to wait that long. 2019 will have been long enough for Modi.

The BJP is slated to lose almost all, quite possibly all, state elections next year. And that is nothing to do with Modi. That is to do with state dynamics in each case. The media should take lessons in democracy from the sophisticated Bihari voters who seem to know the difference between a national election and a state election.

The only time Modi matters again at the booth is in 2019.



Narendra Modi: The Limits of a Political Rock Star
After a soaring 2014, this was the year the Indian prime minister and the BJP fell to earth.
If 2014 was the year that saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity soar to an all-time high, events in 2015 underscored rising voter disillusionment. While Modi is still India’s most popular political leader, his government’s disappointing performance over the past year has impacted the electoral fortunes of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Eighteen months after the BJP’s spectacular victory, Modi and the BJP no longer appear invincible....... Two important reform bills – one to streamline India’s federal and state sales tax and the other to facilitate land acquisition – hang in limbo. The government has blamed opposition obstructionism in parliament for blocking the legislation. But it has only itself to blame. Not only did it subject the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government (2004-2014) to similar obstructionism, it has also arrogantly attempted at pushing legislation down the opposition’s throat. ...... the party was routed in the Bihar assembly election........ Close on the heels of that crushing defeat was a setback in elections to local bodies in Gujarat. Here the BJP lost control over rural bodies and the iron-grip it once enjoyed over municipalities weakened. This setback was all the more painful for the party as Gujarat has been its impregnable fortress, with the party having won every election in the state since 2000. Importantly, this is Modi’s home state. ........ and another to provide a bank account for every household to end “financial untouchability.” ........ Economist Rajiv Kumar exulted over India finally having “a ‘real’ prime minister with his hand firmly on the steering wheel.” Modi’s “leading from the front and laying down the behavioral norms, targets and programs, has shored up sagging morale and ostensibly brought new purpose to the government machinery,” he said. ....... Modi’s decisive image stems from the fact that he makes decisions quickly and that is because he makes them on his own, a retired bureaucrat based in Delhi said, adding that Modi is the undisputed boss of the government and the BJP. All decisions related to policy and programs are made by him. Rarely are his ministers consulted or even kept in the loop. Meetings with ministers and BJP parliamentarians are monologues with Modi doing all the talking. Nobody disagrees with him. Or rather they don’t dare air their differences with him. ..... Critics like historian Ramachandra Guha have described the Modi government as “anti-intellectual,” having “absolute contempt for scholars, literature and the arts. It is not contribution to the field but proximity to the Sangh Parivar, a family of Hindu right-wing organizations of which the BJP is a part, that determines appointments to key posts. ....... Most alarming is the Modi government’s failure or rather reluctance to address mounting communal violence being unleashed by members of the Parivar. Churches have been attacked and violence against Muslims has increased. .......

Those inciting communal hatred are not fringe elements but governors, union ministers, chief ministers, parliamentarians – all belonging to the BJP or subscribing to its Hindutva ideology. Their hateful speeches are made in the chambers of the Lok Sabha, in front of television cameras, and at public rallies. Yet they have gone unchecked.

.... Modi’s grand plans for the economy. .... his party’s electoral debacles signal that the Indian voter cannot be taken for granted. The “rock-star” receptions that the Parivar organized for Modi during his visits abroad may have impressed his die-hard fans at home and his cheerleaders among the Indian diaspora, but for millions of voters, mere pledges aren’t enough. ..... Political commentator Shekhar Gupta says that he needs to get out of campaign mode and get down to “calmer, old-fashioned governance.”

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