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Is Assertive India On The Rise?

May 25, 2014

Riding on the Modi wave that swept over the India last couple of months, Narendra Modi-led BJP won a landslide victory in Indian general election. Will the world witness rise of an assertive India with Modi’s assumption of Indian premiership?

This win lays great responsibilities on the shoulders of a man, whom the west considered an outcast in international politics before Indian election, who is heading to shape regional politics.

Opprobrium heaped on him after the Gujarat riot left little blot on his political career and did not impede his march to Delhi. Record voter turn-out indicates a good number of Muslim voters actually voted for BJP.

Indians fed up with congress misgovernance demonstrated their anger and discontents by rallying behind the lotus.

Analysts already started to predict that this euphoria will not last long as Modi has yet to translate his electoral promises into action. And most importantly he has to do it in shorter span of time. If the hiatus between words and action widens, according to them, his popularity will start to recede. They even tried to draw parallel between erstwhile congress-led regime, which also enjoyed overwhelming win in previous general election, and the newly elected BJP-led alliance.They are quite oblivious of the fact that these two are completely different events with different circumstances. And one event may not have the same ending as the other one had.

Mr. Modi already headed the development work in Gujarat. But what is the Modi model for India? In several TV interviews he said his model for India would be based on local potentials: different models—based on local resources, comparative advantage and location—-for different states. One of the key challenges before him is to narrow down the growing income gap between the rich and the poor. Another key challenge is to create millions of jobs for the new entrants in the job market.

Not only has he to increase the economic growth, he has to accelerate the trickle down process so that the poor Indians can enjoy the benefit of economic progress.

To many Indian commentators, his government is going to be What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) kind of govt. His electoral comments on illegal immigrants cannot be taken as rhetoric.Preparations are well underway in the Indian Ministry of Internal Affairs to start a drive against illegal immigrants. Moreover, RSS advisory group, which holds sway over BJP, spelt out to Modi the programs they wanted to be implemented in the first 12 months of Modi government. Apart from the issue of illegal immigrants, they laid stress to project a masculine India, discarding its present image as a ‘soft power’. They made it clear they would not stand for cross-border terrorism and killings of Indian jawans along the Indo-Pak border. If circumstances call for an Indian raid deep inside Pakistan territory, like the US did to get OBL, then PM should do so. They also want India to take on a harsher stance against ongoing Chinese violation of Indian border.

Modi’s managerial skill will surely come to a test when he will put through his electoral commitments.

It is generally assumed that there were fewer terror attacks in India while BJP was in power. In a TV interview, one congress leader revealed that there were more terror attacks during the tenure of BJP-led govt. than that of congress-led govt. In fact, Hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814 took place when BJP was in power and Indian authority exchanged three notorious terrorist kingpins, who later plotted and carried out further terror attacks, for the passengers. Fatal Padua border skirmish and 2001 Indian Parliament attack also occurred when BJP-led NDA was in power. Clearly, these were provocative acts. This time too, signs are ominous, recent Indian embassy attack in Herat and killing of Indian soldiers along the LOC, that there will be more such provocative acts. Can Modi keep his calm against these acts of provocation? Even if he has to act, how can he do it without bringing countries close to war?

India’s desire to become a regional leader clearly manifested in BJP’s electoral manifesto. If Modi govt. takes a harder stance against its smaller neighbors, then it will be easier for India’s rival to bring them under their sphere of influence. Addressing (minor) neighbor’s woos could be a better alternative.

Resolving water sharing problems with Bangladesh may be the first step towards assuming the role of a regional leader. In addition, Modi govt. can influence Hasina govt., which has little support from a large section of Bangladeshis, to hold talks with BNP on how to (re)install a power transfer mechanism in the constitution and to set a date for mid-term election. Furthermore, he can allow more Bangladeshi goods to enter Indian markets and can abolish various barriers (i.e., quality certificate from central govt, duties and surcharge imposed by state govt. etc) facing by Bangladeshi products. It is important to note that India’s economic growth is a function of poverty in neighboring countries. That’s why poverty in Punjab or in poverty-ridden districts of Bangladesh does matter a lot to India.

His swearing-in ceremony is going to be a royal one, which has never been seen before in India and will be attended by representatives of neighboring countries. Can he be the king of the kings, as Narendra (Nara roop Indra) means, taking the stigma of Gujarat riot off his back or be just a strong man of a regimented ideological group who made all the way to Indian premiership?


From → Analysis

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