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With a fractured opposition, Indian leader gets second chance

14 1 0
24.05.2019

CANBERRA - In the most polarizing, toxic election in India’s history, the voter turnout of 67.1 percent (604 million) was the highest ever. Fierce social media wars contributed to the nastiness. It is hard to say whether political discourse was coarsened more by Prime Minister Narendra Modi or his opponents.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has scored a second sweeping landslide, winning 303 seats, up from 282; the tally for the ruling National Democratic Alliance coalition increased from 336 to 350. The BJP held its own with slightly reduced majorities in the heartland states of central and western India, failed to make significant inroads in the south and succeeded in gaining new footholds in the non-Hindi speaking east. The Indian National Congress party betrayed a shocking lack of vision, strategy and ground-level strength, refusing to refresh its leadership, organization and policy agenda. Its increased strength from 44 seats to 52 was inconsequential.

Modi may have escaped punishment because the opposition parties had not earned victory. In the big picture, Modi’s record looks modest. India is the world’s fastest growing major economy, the third biggest in purchasing power parity and seventh in nominal dollars. Yet, with a per capita GDP rank of 116th in PPP and 133th in nominal dollars, it has the world’s biggest pool of poor, sick, hungry, stunted, illiterate and sexually assaulted people.

Modi’s national-level economic policies left a lot to be desired. Demonetization was a disaster that stalled economic growth and imposed genuine hardships on many, for zero lasting gain. He failed to leverage his parliamentary majority to implement deep reforms, for example privatizing nonperforming state-owned banks that hold 70 percent of India’s financial assets, or redirecting India into an export-oriented economy.........

© The Japan Times