Posts tagged ‘Bharatiya Janata’


Banyan: The enablers | The Economist

NOT since Indira Gandhi has a prime minister of India been as dominant as Narendra Modi. His clout comes from the big electoral victory in May of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after a remarkably personalised campaign; from a hyperactive prime minister’s office that makes Mr Modi look presidential; and from an opposition Congress party in tatters. But even the mightiest cannot rule alone, and Mr Modi relies on two old allies, both crucial. One, Amit Shah, engineers the electoral victories that give Mr Modi his authority. The other, Arun Jaitley, must take that authority and out of it craft policies and decisions that will launch the economic recovery which Mr Modi has promised and by which he will be judged. These two men are Mr Modi’s enablers.

Now the BJP’s president, Mr Shah is a master of the dark political arts—indeed, his hooded eyes give him the air of a pantomime villain. He has served Mr Modi for nearly three decades. The pair collaborated in the state of Gujarat, where Mr Modi won three elections and ruled for a dozen years. Mr Shah had charge of ten state ministries, including home affairs.

Long an outsider in the urbane circles of Delhi’s national-level politics, Mr Shah is uncomfortable in English and rarely gives interviews. When he makes an exception, as he did after state-assembly elections this month in which the BJP seized control of Maharashtra and Haryana, he mostly uses the time to extol his boss. Of himself, he says merely: “Sometimes you get more credit than you deserve.” Mr Shah is too modest. He ran both state campaigns, just as he crafted the BJP general-election success in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh (UP). That victory was at the heart of Mr Modi’s national triumph in May.

Mr Modi stirs voters, but the alchemy of Mr Shah, who turned 50 this week, is to convert popularity into power. In UP the BJP’s share of the vote was 42%, compared with Congress’s 7.5%. That translated into 71 out of 80 of the national seats from the vast state, a golden return. Imbalances between vote share and seats are normal in first-past-the-post electoral systems, but achieving victory in India takes more skill and stamina than elsewhere. Mr Shah makes minute analyses of millions-strong constituencies, imposing candidates and recruiting volunteers early, often from the Hindu-nationalist RSS organisation, where he and Mr Modi were once leaders. He tailors messages according to the audience. He has, variously, presented Mr Modi as a bringer of good economic times, a Hindu strongman and a figure of humble caste. Mr Shah has turned Hindus against Muslims (notoriously, he told Hindu Jats in UP to take electoral “revenge” following communal riots in late 2013). But he has also taken advantage of Shia Muslim antipathy towards Sunnis (in Lucknow, UP’s capital). Mr Modi’s campaigning certainly helps. He led 38 rallies in the recent state elections. Congress’s Rahul Gandhi showed up for only ten.

via Banyan: The enablers | The Economist.


Modi’s Big Chance to Fix India – Businessweek

After five weeks of staggered voting, more than 550 million ballots cast, and almost $5 billion spent, the world’s largest democracy finally has a new leader. Yet the question that has loomed over India’s long campaign remains: What kind of leader is Narendra Modi going to be?

Narendra Modi speaks to supporters in Vadodara, India, on May 16

Modi fought an impressive campaign focused mostly on the right issues. He successfully cast the election as a referendum on who could better deliver jobs, government services, and economic growth: himself or Rahul Gandhi, the ruling Congress party’s heir apparent. The landslide victory of Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party—the biggest for any party since 1984—testifies to Indians’ hunger for decisiveness and efficiency after years of policy drift and corruption scandals.

Yet voters have little idea how Modi will govern. He has given no sign of how far he’ll challenge his own supporters on economic and social policies. Investors expecting miracles are in for a letdown, because India’s political system is bound to intervene. According to JPMorgan Chase (JPM), about 70 percent to 80 percent of regulatory and other roadblocks impeding big industrial projects aren’t within Modi’s power to remove. Even so, he needs to make progress where he can.

via Modi’s Big Chance to Fix India – Businessweek.

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The Twin Deficits That Threaten Modi’s India – Businessweek

For Narendra Modi, getting elected as prime minister of India is the easy part. Now comes dealing with the twin deficits—in the national budget and in foreign trade—that endanger the world’s largest democracy.

Opposition leader and India's next prime minister Narendra Modi greets supporters during a visit to seek his mother's blessings in Gandhinagar, the western Indian state of Gujarat on May 16

Overnight poll results show that Modi’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies scored the biggest Indian election win in 30 years. “Voters tired of sluggish economic growth and corruption handed a historic defeat to the Gandhi dynasty that has dominated politics since the country’s founding,” Bloomberg News reported today.

In April, the International Monetary Fund issued a 66-page report on India that highlighted the challenges facing India. The report notes that India is not the only Group of 20 country with high budget deficits, nor is it the only one with high trade deficits. What’s unusual is that it’s high in both.

Despite notable progress in shrinking both deficits, India remains vulnerable to a crisis of confidence among global investors, the IMF report says. Advanced economies are vulnerable to rapid fiscal deterioration, the report says, when they have debt-to-GDP ratios above 80 percent of GDP and persistent deficits in the current account, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services. Emerging economies such as India’s are vulnerable even at lower debt levels, the report says, citing work by Harvard economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart.

via The Twin Deficits That Threaten Modi’s India – Businessweek.

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Four Reasons Why Narendra Modi Makes Some Indians Nervous – Businessweek

The question always comes up in New Delhi these days, somewhere between polite introductions and drinks: What would the reign of Narendra Modi, who seems increasingly likely to be the next prime minister, mean for India?

BJP candidate Narendra Modi addresses an election rally on April 10 at Gopal Maidan in Jamshedpur, India

One man, pro-business and a glass of whiskey in hand at the club, told me recently that Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will bring needed centralization to a government that at times seems unable to impose its writ. Another—a highly educated liberal in socks, slacks, and polo shirt on the sofa just before lunch—wondered aloud whether the nation is forsaking its secular mooring for a dangerous populist.

Prediction in politics, especially in a nation as large and complex as India, is bound to be wrong much of the time. But public remarks by BJP officials and conservative Hindus apparently taking note of political winds are worth considering. (To be sure, there have been sharp words from both sides. For example, video surfaced of a candidate from the ruling Congress Party saying that he would “chop” Modi into tiny pieces.) Beneath the back and forth of explanation and disavowal, the consistency and vehemence of the messaging suggest an approach that, in a nation with a history of sectarian bloodshed, has some worried:

1. A conservative Hindu politician told a crowd that there are ways to discourage Muslims from purchasing property in Hindu neighborhoods. According to one account, Pravin Togadia allegedly met with protestors outside a home owned by a Muslim businessman and gave the occupant 48 hours to vacate the house. Togadia advised his audience to use stones, tires, and tomatoes, according to the Times of India. Togadia disputed that version of events and claimed through an online post that he was only offering advice on using the legal and governmental channels “if they felt that they are being forced into any selling of their houses.” (The newspaper subsequently said it has video confirming the initial report.)

The anecdote takes on broader significance for two reasons: The incident occurred in the western state of Gujarat, where some 1,000 people, mostly Muslim, were killed in brutal riots that included death-by-sword in 2002. The chief minister of Gujarat at the time of that bloodshed, as is still the case, was Narendra Modi. But as ever in Indian politics, there are caveats: A Supreme Court-appointed panel found no evidence that Modi’s decisions prevented the 2002 riot victims from receiving help. While Modi and Togadia have a shared background in Hindu nationalist politics, the two men do not now get along well.

2. A BJP parliament candidate informed a rally that those who do not support Modi will soon have no place in India. With senior BJP leadership standing by, Giriraj Singh said that Pakistan, the Muslim nation to the west, is where such people belong. BJP officials were quick to publicly express displeasure with Singh’s remarks, but he did not back down: “I stand by my statement that those trying their best to stop Modi from coming to power have no place in India and should go to Pakistan.”

3. A senior Modi aide was accused of telling voters they could get revenge by voting for Modi. Amit Shah was speaking in a north India district earlier this month near the site of riots last year that included murder and reports of gang rape. One account described how a “crowd of Hindu men came brandishing guns, swords and machetes, shouting that Muslims should go either to Pakistan or Kabristan (graveyard).”

4. Modi has signaled his desire to distance his campaign from militant sentiment and focus on shared national goals. As he tweeted on Tuesday:

I disapprove any such irresponsible statement & appeal to those making them to kindly refrain from doing so.

Petty statements by those claiming to be BJP’s well wishers are deviating the campaign from the issues of development & good governance.

However, many still point to his remarks during an interview with Reuters last year about the 2002 riots:

“Another thing, any person if we are driving a car, we are a driver, and someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is. If I’m a chief minister or not, I’m a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad.”

There was an expression of sadness in those words. And there was, too, the unavoidable fact that he’d compared the dead to dogs.

via Four Reasons Why Narendra Modi Makes Some Indians Nervous – Businessweek.

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India’s election: Seasons of abundance | The Economist

LICK your lips: mangoes are coming into season in Andhra Pradesh, piled up on roadside fruit stalls. Hyderabadis claim theirs are the country’s sweetest. So too are the bribes paid by the state’s politicians to get people to vote. Since early March state police have seized more money from politicians aiming to buy votes—590m rupees ($10m)—than the rest of India combined. An excited local paper talks of “rampant cash movement”, reporting that police do not know where to store the bundles of notes, bags of gold and silver, cricket kits, saris and lorry-loads of booze.

Andhra Pradesh, India’s fifth most populous state, is due to hold an impressive series of polls in the next few weeks—municipal elections and then both state-assembly and national ones. Many politicians keep up old habits by paying voters, especially rural ones, to turn out. A villager can stand to pocket a handy 3,000 rupees per vote. Economists predict a mini-boom in consumer goods.

If this is the lamentable face of Indian politicking, the hopeful side is that, increasingly, skulduggery is being pursued. A worker with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Hyderabad says police looking for illicit cash stopped and searched her car five times in a single drive one day last week.

This may be because in Andhra Pradesh, unusually, politicians are not currently running the show. The state is under “president’s rule”, with bureaucrats in charge, ahead of its breaking into two on June 2nd. Then, a new state, Telangana, will emerge to become India’s 29th, covering much of the territory once ruled by the Nizams of Hyderabad, the fabulously wealthy Muslim dynasty whose reign India’s army ended in 1948. A rump coastal state gets to keep the name Andhra Pradesh. For a decade Hyderabad will serve as joint capital.

The split will have a bearing on the national election. In 2009 the ruling coalition, the United Progressive Alliance, led by Congress, returned to national office on the back of two whopping southern victories. Congress scooped 33 seats in Andhra Pradesh, more than in any other state. Its ally next door in Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), got 18 seats. Both now face heavy defeats. “The south’s biggest impact nationally will be negative, in not voting for Congress”, says K.C. Suri of Hyderabad University.

via India’s election: Seasons of abundance | The Economist.

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India’s Election Choice: Growth Economy or Welfare State – Businessweek

Indian elections aren’t known for their clarity. Messy, cacophonous affairs, they stretch across months and almost invariably result in fragmented verdicts. Political groupings are opportunistic, driven by personality rather than issues; competing party platforms are often indistinguishable.

A shopkeeper displays water sprinklers with portraits of Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi in Chennai, India<br />

This year’s parliamentary elections—the nation’s 16th since independence, running from April 7 to May 12—are proving an exception. The distinctions between India’s leading parties are unusually sharp; the race is shaping up as a genuine battle of ideas, a real debate over the direction of the nation.

India’s two main parties are led by men who in many ways couldn’t be more different. Rahul Gandhi, the standard-bearer for the ruling Indian National Congress party, is the scion of a distinguished family that includes three former prime ministers. At 43, he’s also the candidate of youth. Narendra Modi, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is ahead in most polls, is 63, a self-made man, and an experienced administrator who has served for more than 12 years as the chief minister of the state of Gujarat. Gandhi espouses a brand of secular, inclusive politics; Modi is viewed with suspicion by many for a series of bloody communal riots that took place under his watch in Gujarat. (The Indian courts exonerated him of personal involvement.)

via India’s Election Choice: Growth Economy or Welfare State – Businessweek.

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Stock Market Cheers Potential End of Congress Reign – India Real Time – WSJ

Here’s a recipe to make Indian stocks investors happy: tie the hands of the ruling Congress-led government and hint that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party will be forming the next government.

India’s benchmark 30-share S&P BSE Sensex hit a record high Thursday of 21513.87 points, marking the third straight session of gains.

As India heads towards national elections, investors have been following the twists and turns of the political world more closely in recent months. The next election will likely have a big impact on whether, when and by how much Asia’s third largest economy will rebound.

The country announced this week that the national polls will begin April 7 and be done by May 16 which has some optimists hoping that uncertainty about who will be leading the world’s largest democracy will be over in a little more than two months.

Some investors have become frustrated by the ruling Congress party because they believe it has stalled reforms and delayed important investments in the close to ten years it has been in power. Instead, critics say, the Congress-party led coalition has focused on populist measures, including a bill to provide almost free food to around two thirds of the population.

One good thing about election season, investors say, is that Congress will not be able to announce any new perks for the poor. The Election Commission of India prohibits parties from launching welfare programs during the election process.

“The uncertainty is now over,” said Sharmila Joshi, an independent research analyst in Mumbai. “The market is (optimistic) that there won’t be any more populist measures.”

via Stock Market Cheers Potential End of Congress Reign – India Real Time – WSJ.

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UPDATE 1-U.S. ambassador to meet India’s Modi, ending isolation | Reuters

Modi‘s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is considered the favourite to form a government after a general election due by May. He is also the chief minister of Gujarat state, where in 2002, Hindu mobs killed at least 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.

Narendra Modi at a BJP rally

Narendra Modi at a BJP rally (Photo credit: Al Jazeera English)

“We can confirm the appointment,” a U.S. embassy spokesman said. “This is part of our concentrated outreach to senior political and business leaders which began in November to highlight the U.S.-India relationship.”

via UPDATE 1-U.S. ambassador to meet India’s Modi, ending isolation | Reuters.

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Honeymoon threatens to be brief for India’s anti-graft party | Reuters

From a rally that nearly ended in a stampede, to a rebellious lawmaker and a minister openly duelling police over drug gangs, the honeymoon could be short-lived for an anti-corruption party that shook up India\’s politics last month.

Arvind Kejriwal and friends

Arvind Kejriwal and friends (Photo credit: vm2827)

The Common Man\’s Party (AAP) enjoyed a heady few weeks after its leader Arvind Kejriwal pulled off a political surprise by becoming Delhi chief minister in December elections.

He eschewed the usual displays of power beloved of many of India\’s VIPs, such as expensive official cars that routinely ran red lights, and promised voters cheap water and power.

With his party aiming to contest a general election due by May, both the ruling Congress Party and the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party worry that Kejriwal could eat into their traditional voter support in the cities.

Kejriwal\’s party is still a force as it attracts supporters across the nation, ranging from intellectuals to journalists and rights activists. But a sinking feeling of inexperienced, out-of-their-depth politicians is increasingly manifesting itself.

via Honeymoon threatens to be brief for India’s anti-graft party | Reuters.

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* India opens retail to global supermarkets

BBC News: “India’s government has once again cleared a controversial plan to open up its lucrative retail sector to global supermarket chains.

Last year, the government suspended a similar plan after fierce opposition from its allies and political rivals.

International firms such as Walmart and Tesco will now be able to buy up to a 51% stake in multi-brand retailers.

Analysts say the government has reintroduced the measure in an effort to revive a flagging economy.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is reported to have told cabinet colleagues that “the time for big bang reform has come; we have to go down fighting”.

Strong opposition

The decision was one of several key reforms announced by the government. It also approved a plan to allow foreign airlines to buy 49% stakes in local carriers, in the hope that this will boost the country’s troubled aviation sector.

The decision to open up India’s lucrative retail sector to international supermarket chains has come as a major surprise. It was among a slew of key economic reforms announced by the government and is seen as vital to reviving the country’s slowing economy.

For months the decision has been held up by political gridlock, especially because it was opposed by the government’s own allies. But it now appears the government has decided to bite the bullet, especially as its own credibility – and that of Manmohan Singh – is at an all-time low following a series of financial scandals.

Much will now depend on Mr Singh’s ability to keep his disparate coalition together, as opposition to these measures is expected to be fierce.

Many will see this as a final throw of the dice, not just to revive the economy and boost confidence among investors but also ahead of the national elections due in 2014.

It also follows Thursday’s dramatic 14% rise in the price of diesel, which is heavily subsidised in India.

The government was forced to back down on retail reform after the cabinet first undertook to open up the retail sector last November.

The move had been strongly opposed by tens of thousands of small businesses and cornershops who fear they will be put out of business.

But this latest move has already been welcomed by economists who say it will transform the way Indians shop and will boost the economy.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communists labelled it a “betrayal of democracy”.

via BBC News – India opens retail to global supermarkets.

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