Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Economy high priority (not hindu nationalism)

The Economist is kind enough to advise PM in waiting on matters related to economy and ...political economy. In brief, Modi must be the toilet before temples person. Possible but not likely.

We imagine Modi's goal would be to broaden the playing field not through compromise (as the Economist wisely suggests) but by having a vote consolidation plan for West Bengal and Kerala. If he can manage to get up to 20% in either state, the BJP will achieve the status of the Muslim League (IUML) - a pocket of votes and seats that nobody can ignore.
But even the most pessimistic (for the BJP) forecast suggests the party led by Mr Modi will be the biggest and will get more seats and votes than at any previous election in India. It has made inroads among voters in areas (such as Kerala or West Bengal) where it had no impression before. An estimated record turnout of 66.4% of voters also buoys the BJP, adding to the strength of its likely mandate. It looks inconceivable that any other party, whether Congress or some combination of regional outfits, could form a government. 

Thus the BJP, with Mr Modi in charge, is preparing to rule.

To get control of the lower house of parliament, and thus to form a government, Mr Modi needs 272 seats. Higher estimates by the pollsters suggest he could pass that figure with only the support of the closest allies of the BJP, without reaching out to coalition partners such as Jayaram Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu. Yet even if these turn out to be accurate he may prefer to build a broader coalition, for two reasons.  

First, to rule effectively Mr Modi needs to project power beyond the lower house of parliament. Legislative changes require consent of the upper house, where he has no majority. And any prime minister must find ways to co-ordinate work of the central government with powerful state governments. A wider coalition could help in both areas.  

Second, Mr Modi presumably dreams that his party can be in office for more than one five-year term. That requires limiting the clout of the (soon to be) opposition Congress party. The more coalition allies that the BJP can attract today, the more isolated Congress will be. Yet if Mr Modi is to manage a broad coalition, he will have to change style from the rather aggressive figure on the campaign trail who traded insults with opponents, sneering at rivals. As a chief minister he could rule his state, Gujarat, with no consideration for power-sharing; now he should adopt such skills quickly.

What will come first for Mr Modi? The transition in India can be fast, with Mr Modi likely to be installed within a week or so of the official results (and a replacement chief minister for Gujarat named too). He is a man who exudes impatience, and whose campaign has often emphasised the need for efficient, decisive government able to implement policies with speed. India’s stockmarkets are rallying, investors expect measures to be taken quickly to encourage investment, economic growth, job creation, better infrastructure and a broad return of confidence in India. 

At the same time, Mr Modi will have to find the voice of a statesman who represents all of India, not only the victors. He rose first in the Hindu nationalist movement, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which leant heavy organisational support in this election to its protégé. It would be natural if it, and other such bodies, now hope that Mr Modi will promote their values (broadly equating being an Indian with being a Hindu). Mr Modi should disappoint them. Many in India, including Muslims, Christians and more secular Hindus, expect Mr Modi to make clear that his priority is not Hindu nationalism but economic recovery. The clearer he can be about that, the better.


Link: http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2014/05/indias-election-exit-polls

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