Modi’s reform drive faces litmus test in general elections next year

By Long Xingchun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/31 19:53:39

The year marks Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi government's fourth anniversary. A website in India has started a poll asking, "Is Narendra Modi good for India?" The 2019 general elections are not very far away, and the poll can be seen as a way of gauging Indian people's attitude toward Modi's re-election.

As India is known for its diversity, Indians appraise Modi differently. Some believe that he centralizes power while others think he is dividing the country. Some say that he has been combating corruption in India while others say that he is morally bankrupt. Some think Modi has improved India's infrastructure while others think his policies have harmed the environment.

Though these opinions are reasonable, we can only judge a politician's performance with political criteria.

Modi has made India focus on development and changed the country's political culture. Before being elected Prime Minister in 2014, Modi had never taken a role in India's central government. His was elected because of his notable achievements in Gujarat. Modi knows that only development can resolve India's problems and help Indians realize their dreams.

In his 12 years in Gujarat, a western state, Modi devoted major efforts to infrastructure, improved administrative efficiency and introduced foreign investment to develop manufacturing. This helped local GDP rise sharply. Modi advocated development during the election, which appealed to the younger generation who hope that Modi will be able to replicate Gujarat's success in the country.

Modi is forging a new political culture in India, which means politicians should think about people's welfare, instead of manipulating issues like ethnicity and religion. This helps political parties and politicians to focus on economic development and forms a stronger driving force for reform and development in the country.

Modi has made significant achievements and has the courage to launch reforms. After he was elected Prime Minister, he cut government licensing, which improved administrative efficiency and saved time for people and companies. Although his demonetization policy has been controversial, it shows Modi's courage and resolution in tackling corruption and won most Indians' understanding.

Previous governments believed that taxation, labor and land reforms were necessary, but they failed to implement them. With Modi government's effort, Goods and Services Tax (GST) came into effect in 2017, eliminating tax barriers between states. The tax has helped form a unified market, reduce production costs and improve economic benefits. It is a milestone in India's reform efforts, and there will be breakthroughs in land and labor reforms as well if Modi is re-elected.

Modi launched the "Make in India" initiative to protect manufacturing. The proportion of the service sector in India's economy has been higher than manufacturing for a long time, and some people wrongly believed that India can develop through the service sector. However, the sector's proportion in the economy is higher because manufacturing is considerably backward.

As a country of 1.3 billion people, India needs to develop manufacturing to create more jobs. Besides, manufacturing is the base of a major power. To promote "Make in India," Modi himself took interest in attracting investment and frequently met CEOs of multinational companies (MNC) who visited India.

Every time Modi paid a visit to a country, he invited local MNCs to invest in India and the overseas Indians to go back and work in their country. India's GDP grew at 8.2 percent in 2015 and 7.1 percent in 2016, making it one of the world's fastest-growing major economies.

Modi contributes to the centralization of power in India, making the government more powerful. When Modi was elected, many analysts believed that it will be hard for him to implement his policies in the whole country as India is a federal republic and opposition parties may hold power in some states.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Modi has gained power in 19 out of 27 states after provincial elections in 2017, marginalizing the Indian National Congress and other parties. It's easier to carry out Modi's policies in the whole country as the Modi government is ruling most states.

However, it is worth noting that Modi and the BJP are promoting Hindu nationalism to consolidate power. We need to remember the lessons of history.

During India's struggle to gain independence from the British rule, leaders used Hindu nationalism as a mobilization tool and advocated "one nation, one religion." This triggered resentment among Muslims who put forward the two-nation theory, leading to the partition of India during independence from the British Raj.

Cattle slaughter and beef have been prohibited in several states in India. An overdose of Hindu nationalism may cause conflicts and division and interfere with development.

Modi is not only supported in India, but has an international reputation. The world is paying more attention to India because of the charismatic leader, which is good for the country's international standing image.

Is Modi good for India? The state elections in 2017 have shown the people's judgment, and the general elections in 2019 will give the final verdict.

The author is a senior research fellow at The Charhar institute and director of the Center for Indian Studies at China West Normal University.


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