What does Modi’s victory portend?

Published: May 19, 2014
The writer was foreign secretary from 1994-97 and also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran (1992-94) and the US (1990-91)

The writer was foreign secretary from 1994-97 and also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran (1992-94) and the US (1990-91)

The BJP-led coalition was expected to win largely because of the anti-incumbency vote but the size of the victory that prime minister-elect Narendra Modi has scored is startling, 282 seats for the BJP and 336 for the NDA — the BJP-led coalition. For the first time since 1984, a single political party has secured a majority enabling it to govern without needing coalition partners. There is no doubt that this time, too, the vote has been for an individual and not for the party or even for the parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

What can this majority mean? The BJP’s election manifestoes have long included such items as the abolition of Article 370 (special status for Kashmir), the Uniform Civil Code (abolition of the laws permitting each religious group to determine such matters as inheritance, marriage, etc) and the particularly inflammatory proposal for building of a Ram temple in Ayodhya (the site of the Babri Masjid). In his public statements, Modi has said that he will prioritise building of ‘toilets’ over building of ‘temples’, clearly a reference to Ayodhya. Clearly a reference also to the main plank of his election campaign — economic development — as against the ‘Hindutva’ that the RSS espouses.

For the average Indian, Narendra Modi is the man who has worked economic miracles in Gujarat far outpacing whatever has been achieved elsewhere in India. This as a recent well-researched article in The Hindu, one of the most respected papers in India, shows is not entirely true. According to this research, Gujarat is placed at 9th among the 20 major Indian states on the Human Development Index (HDI) and on the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which factors in lack of food, shelter, sanitation, schooling, health care etc). It points out that the Planning Commission’s standard poverty estimates places Gujarat at 10th position.

The best performing states are Kerala and Tamil Nadu but Modi’s skilful public relations campaign has made Gujarat the star. It must, however, be acknowledged that Gujarat has done well and Modi’s administration has remained largely untainted by corruption. The existing level of corruption can, perhaps, be gauged from one study, which showed that the assets of parliamentarians elected in 2004 had increased by 289 per cent when they stood for re-election in 2009.

Given the state of our economy and the quality of governance that successive regimes have provided in Pakistan, a Pakistani observer is ill placed to comment on the faltering Indian economy or the endemic corruption and poor governance that has created the massive discontent with the latest decade of Congress rule. But as a neutral observer, one can note that Modi has a formidable and full-time task ahead if he is to bring India’s growth rate to the eight per cent- plus rate that economists believe India needs to meet the employment and development needs of its people.

Here are some facts that Modi will have to contend with. The IMF has estimated that the Indian economy will grow at 4.6 per cent with inflation at 10.5 per cent. The manufacturing industry sector provides only 14 per cent of GDP as against 32 per cent in China or 30 per cent in Thailand, and over the last decade, employment in this sector has fallen from 55 million to 50 million. If this sector is to grow, India’s labour laws, viewed as constricting by India’s entrepreneurs and foreign investors, must be changed risking unrest.

Fouteen per cent of the Indian budget is used to provide subsidies. Budget deficits have been brought down but the combined state and local budget deficits are still 7.7 per cent of the budget. Standard & Poor’s, the credit rating agency, has threatened a degrading of Indian debt to junk status if these elements are not brought under control. Getting away from subsidies is political dynamite and will need astute handling even when there is a clear majority.

States now have a greater say in development activities and federal-state relations may pose problems in such states as West Bengal and Tamil Nadu where regional parties rule the roost.

Next week, my views on what Modi’s foreign policy objectives and ambitions will be.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (37)

  • Gul
    May 19, 2014 - 12:59AM

    Boycott India.


  • Pandian
    May 19, 2014 - 1:08AM

    Very balanced article, especially when compared to the leftist extremist Indians who write in ET.
    However, author, you should know that the name of the party that won 37/ 39 seats in Tamil Nadu: ALL INDIA Anna DMK. The party supermo Jayalalitha is a dictator, corrupt but she is a nationalist. She and Modi are buddies. When every one was avoiding Modi she invited him to her swearing in ceremony. Your imagination of confrontation with centre is just that. Imagination.


  • Abdul Kareem
    May 19, 2014 - 1:26AM

    I am glad that Modi won. It teaches a lesson to Indian muslims who care more about money than religion. My family migrated to Pakistan and we gave up everything because we want to live in an Islamic state under the eternal rules of Allah, unlike some of my relatives who stayed behind because they did not want to part with their land and property. If you mix Seekh kebab with Masala Dosa with Ice Cream you something every foul tasting. Same thing if you mix Islam + Hinduism + Parsees + Jains + Christians. This is the state of Indian muslims in India a mixed up chaotic jumble of beliefs.


  • Alann
    May 19, 2014 - 1:52AM

    Hajj subsidies and Muslim Law Board are two things that need to disappear at the earliest, if India has to progress, economically & socially. Muslims don’t deserve free trips abroad, we can see the impact of such ‘ free aids’ in the form of whats happened to Pakistan. Also the Uniform Civil Code needs to be implemented as soon as possible. Muslim Law Board has done nothing except make things worse for the Muslims themselves. Like, Instead of trying rapists under the ‘normal laws’ like rest of the Indians, there have been cases where the rapists have been tried under and released by the Muslim Law Board and instead the victim has been blamed!
    I do not hate Muslims, but such special preferences & appeasement needs to stop, and immediately.


  • Crunch
    May 19, 2014 - 2:58AM

    Glad to read the views of the author and ignore the ignorance in some of the comments about Muslims in India. The author is right about the formidable future facing India. These are opportunities not problems related to growth – argue about Tamil Nadu or Gujrat, 4.5% or 8%, if you must. It is for BJP to deliver. Congress – like the PPP, is a party of sycophants wedded to a family. A culture of blind worship has accelerated the forces of decay. It cannot survive with Nehru/Gandhi scion that does not speak a single Indian language legitimately.


  • Rahul
    May 19, 2014 - 3:00AM

    @Abdul Kareem, when Altaf Hussain visited India in 2004, he admitted that the Indian Muslim is safer and better off than the Mohajir who migrated. I admire Altaf because he is the only Pakistani politician who calls it like it is.


  • A reader
    May 19, 2014 - 6:09AM

    “and the particularly inflammatory proposal for building of a Ram temple in Ayodhya (the site of the Babri Masjid)”

    Thanks for letting us know how you feel. You should now be aware of what Babur, Timur and Aurangzeb’s actions (the Turkic national heroes of the Punjabi Muslims) caused to the most sacred temples of India. Babur’s legacy has been vanquished. So too will Aurangzeb’s. One down, one more to go.


  • Ahson
    May 19, 2014 - 6:48AM

    Najam Sahib,

    You are a respected foreign policy expert. However, if one reads your article out loud, it’s all about negativity and ridiculing India and its people. It’s like a cry in the wilderness, an anti-progressive rant of sorts. I understand that Modi has blood on his hands but more than being able to obtain tons of votes due to the bad performance of the previous government, the man has something strong going on for him. He’s a leader who has a remarkable charisma – I’m not praising him but winning an election in India with such a huge margin is no mean achievement.

    Let’s not talk about the disturbing voices in your head. Instead urge all concerned to bridge the gaps, overcome challenges and build understanding whereby India and Pakistan can think in terms of clearing this thick smog of mutual insecurity and work together for the betterment of their teeming millions.


  • Strategic Asset
    May 19, 2014 - 6:58AM

    @Abdul Kareem: My family migrated to Pakistan and we gave up everything because we want to live in an Islamic state under the eternal rules of Allah

    Pray then that the TTP takes over soon.


  • Strategic Asset
    May 19, 2014 - 7:05AM

    @Author: The best performing states are Kerala and Tamil Nadu but Modi’s skilful public relations campaign has made Gujarat the star.

    When you say best performing state, what do you mean? This is a loaded term with many different connotations. Are we talking about development, HDI, agricultural output, economic output, industrial output, or any other parameter?

    Since you refer to Kerala, let me tell you that Kerala’s success is primarily in HDI. This is a direct effect of the land reforms and mass education under the communists many decades ago. On almost all other parameters, it fails sometimes spectacularly. If it weren’t so, lakhs of Malayalis wouldn’t be slaving in the Gulf.


  • Strategic Asset
    May 19, 2014 - 7:13AM

    @Author: Fouteen per cent of the Indian budget is used to provide subsidies.

    This has been one of the key reasons, if not the key reason, for the spectacular fall of the Congress government. A prime example of this is MNREGA, a rural employment guarantee scheme, which was plagued by systemic problems and massive fraud.


  • PeaceMonger
    May 19, 2014 - 7:59AM

    Hindus have always been passive and allowed any old invader – who came in the name of religion or commerce, to take chunks of their land and convert the citizens by force. Let there be a strong Hindu leader for a change. Enough is enough.


  • Feroz
    May 19, 2014 - 8:25AM

    Getting the economy running and back to a fast growth track, cannot be done in a day, it needs at least two years of sustained effort. Yes, this is where the focus of the new Government in India, should be. If not the promise of a better tomorrow to citizens, will remain a pipe dream. With expectations sky high and the levels of patience very low, disappointment can set in very fast.


  • Ashvinn
    May 19, 2014 - 8:31AM

    We have had a lot of opinions and editorials about the new Indian government and it’s PM designate on various issues. Some of it critical of Indian leadership..the rest seems to be more for just a academic excersise without understanding Indian realties.Best would be for independent observes to learn facts to read not in isolation… Wonder what Gujarat growth rates before modi where it stood in hdi terms before modi became cm of Gujarat…. Like wise comparing Gujarat with southern India is not good idea….southern Indian has been knowledge base of India and thoroughly anti congress with tamilnadu leading from the front …….political social and economic realities of south and north India are very different…..hopefully we can hear more on Pakistan progress and it’s challenges


  • Deepwater
    May 19, 2014 - 8:41AM

    @ Abdul Kareem

    Not sure if your comment was serious or satirical. Either ways, it was very funny. Thanks.


  • Gp65
    May 19, 2014 - 9:50AM

    Like many leftish intellectuals you have tried to undermine Gujarat’s progress under Modi. Two points i would like to draw to attention of those that feel Modi’s success owes itself primarily to marketing.

    Is it true that the social indices in Gujarat are in the middle rung (comparale to Andrhara, West Bengal and Karnataka) while those of Kerala and Tamil Nadu are much better? Of course. But using this information to assess Modi’s performace is flawed because ut fails to separate what he inherited vs. what he changed. In Kerala in 1947 the literacy rate was 47% when all India literacy rate was 8% and that in Gujarat was 22%. The other fact not taken into account is percentage of population that is ribal. In kerala is less than 4% and in Gujarat it is greater than 15%. These populations are much harder to reeach to provide services since they are migrant populations. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/interviews/gujarat-promises-continued-accelerated-and-all-around-progress-jagdish-bhagwati-arvind-panagariya/articleshow/17849401.cms
    What Modi is promising throughout the country is bijli, sadak, pani and rozgar. Everyone across India is promising this but Modi is the only one that has delvered. There are for instance no jobs within Kerala and most Malayalis have to migrate to either other parts of India or to Gulf countries yo find employment. Migrant workers from all ver India who work in Gujarat see the sisituatiom in Gujarat and become ambassadors of Gujarat. This is the reasom Modi led BJP has got such high success in communicating its message. The credibility of his message has been observed and confirmed to people by their friends, family and neighbours. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/interviews/strong-pro-modi-sentiment-in-eastern-up-central-bihar-swaminathan-aiyar/articleshow/34882529.cms

  • Flybouy
    May 19, 2014 - 9:54AM

    @Abdul Kareem. Couldn’t agree with you more. Exposure to people from other religions or way of thinking is the reason why mankind is so backward. Had we all not been exposed to that evil we would have all been as successfull and happy as You.


  • zoro
    May 19, 2014 - 10:21AM

    The author has manged to insult the 3/4 billion Indian voters in one stroke … WOW …
    With Foreign Secretaries like you for Pakistan … India does not need a single bullet to be fired at Pakistan …


  • observer
    May 19, 2014 - 11:11AM

    @Abdul Kareem:

    “If you mix Seekh kebab with Masala Dosa with Ice Cream you something every foul tasting. Same thing if you mix Islam + Hinduism + Parsees + Jains + Christians. This is the state of Indian muslims in India a mixed up chaotic jumble of beliefs.”

    I am glad your choice of Pakidtan has enabled you to live in the land of pure Islam that is not contaminated. Enjoy your pure Islam and strict Sharia laws.


  • Najmuddin A. Shaikh
    May 19, 2014 - 1:14PM

    Thank you for bringing Professor Bhagwatis new book and interview to my attention. there is no doubt that this puts a different perspective on the comparison sin the Hindu article that I had referenced.
    Please note that I had stated clearly that Gujarat had made progress under PM elect Narendra Modi. I am not sure though you may hold a different view that this should be seen as necessarily eclipsing the progress made in other states or qualifying it to be the model for development.


  • May 19, 2014 - 4:25PM

    @Abdul Kareem:
    what a stupid comment.it is the right of G-d to judge who is good or bad muslim not sinners like us.


  • May 19, 2014 - 4:33PM

    that will be bad gesture towards muslims of India.


  • May 19, 2014 - 4:38PM

    @A reader:
    you can try but you will never succeed the services those rulers did for India will remain alive in indian history.by abolishing few buildings will not sarisfy hindus guilt at large that they were the masters of your forefathers.


  • Nayar
    May 19, 2014 - 4:55PM

    @Najmuddin A. Shaikh:
    You are absolutely right. All states have made similar progress. India’s average GDP growth was 8.5%. some states were at 10%, some at 7%. Gujarat has not done anything outstanding that others have not done. Also, Gujaratis are inherently entrepreneurial, and have been blessed with a great coastline, Oil and gas off the coast, and great old ports. Lastly Gujarat has always had better progress than other indian states, since 1960, when it was carved out of Mumbai state. This is not something that Modi invented.
    @Gp65. IIM, NID, Amul, ISRO, baroda refineries IPCL, Reliance were all set up from 1960’s way before Modi became CM>


  • Pmahmud
    May 19, 2014 - 5:20PM

    @Najmuddin A. Shaikh, GP65: If one were to take a step back and look at what Gujrat model of Modi is, it is no different from what China has done for a long time in global economy. Foreign investors require protection of property (intellectual property included), safety of person: low taxes, easy labor laws, freedom to move money and goods etc.The list is long and unending. There are other countries competing in the same field.
    Then there is USG requirements in policy matters and it is compulsive about controlling the outcome. Overall it is not easy.
    I’m glad that Hindu Nationalists have the opportunity to show their magic. My prediction is that if Modi gets embroiled in phishing contest with Pakistan and China, then dreams would come crashing down.


  • Feroz
    May 19, 2014 - 5:36PM

    @Najmuddin A. Shaikh:
    Sir, I must enlighten you on how Gujarat is different today from what it was when I started my career in 1980, when I was marketing in charge covering that State and traveling extensively there. I fully agree that Gujarat was a more developed state with better roads and infrastructure even in 1980, but it was a barren state with scanty rainfall. I last visited two months ago after a 12 year gap, being a Consultant I had an appointment with a senior Minister in that Government. Sir, he was talking like a suave MNC salesman ” Mr X, please bring in Investments, I will clear all of them through single window. Any time you can contact me on email or phone.” Have met Bureaucrats and Politicians but never heard this kind of language. He frankly told me “we have 24/7 Electricity, however I have had to ask my producers to reduce generation because the other States with shortfall, do not have the capacity to pay.” Mind you the Gujarat Government has also installed over 1300 MW of solar power, in the last two years, the highest in the country. Ask me how – they laid the Solar Panels over the irrigation canals, thereby precious land is not used up and evaporation losses from canals is also reduced.
    Irrigation through the Sardar Sarovar project has helped Gujarat show growth rate in agriculture three times the national average. Unlike other States where large sections are exempted from payment for Electricity, Gujarat insists everyone must pay — same for water. There are no freebies unlike in my State where in the last ten years every family has been given freebies galore — bicycle, TV, Laptop and what not, However there is no Power and Industries are bleeding. Now please tell me which model of development should I recommend ?


  • mohammad sajid
    May 19, 2014 - 5:51PM

    where you learned these ‘kebab+dosa+ice cream’ things. sick! I am very happy that my great grandfather didn’t migrated to pakistan.


  • Gurion
    May 19, 2014 - 6:33PM

    The Hindu, one of the most respected
    papers in India

    Respected by who?
    Just the communists and their cronies.


  • someone
    May 19, 2014 - 10:21PM

    @Abdul Kareem:
    Have you tried calling your relatives in India lately? Are they moving somewhere else? Let us know their answer. Either way, it may enlighten you.


  • someone
    May 19, 2014 - 10:28PM

    @mohammad sajid:
    Cool bro. That is they way. When the voice like you are heard in and out of India, that how we know you are as much son of soil as any one else claims to be.


  • Gp65
    May 19, 2014 - 11:16PM

    @Najmuddin A. Shaikh:
    Thank you Sir for your gracious response. It is not my case that there can be only one model of progress. There can be several. Tamil Nadu for instance has emphasized different things and while they have serious problems of bijli and pani, they do have better social indicators. Gujarati voters repeatedly gave mandate to Modi for his model and Tamil Nadu votes seem o be endorsing Jayalalita’s approach also.

    At this time however, the nation has given a mandate to the Gujarat model and that is why Modi led BJP got such a huge mandate, so Modi should be given a chance to implement his ideas and Indian people can evaluate the success of his model pan India and vote for/against him at that time.


  • May 20, 2014 - 12:07AM

    @Alann:Infact this was the reason why our ancestors built a separate soverign muslim state Alhamdollilah


  • gp65
    May 20, 2014 - 2:57AM

    ET Mods (2nd attempt) : 2 people have written to me. Please allow response.

    @Najmuddin A. Shaikh: “Please note that I had stated clearly that Gujarat had made progress under PM elect Narendra Modi. I am not sure though you may hold a different view that this should be seen as necessarily eclipsing the progress made in other states or qualifying it to be the model for development”

    Thank you Sir for the answer. You said Gujarat had made progress but then put a question mark on the legitimacy of that progress by the Hindu url. This is one of the points I soulght to address which you ahve been gracious enough to acknowledge. Secondly, it is possible that there maybe other models also but at this time the people of India have given a massive mandate to Modi led NDA to implement the Gujarat model. People’s mandate should be respected rather than second guessed. AFter 5 years, people will have a chance to re-evaluate and at that time if the model did not deliver for them, they can throw Modi out of power. You can look at the comment of @Feroz (who appears to be from Tamil Nadu going by his comment) to see why people seem to have at least for the time being preferred the Gujarat model.

    @Nayar: “@Gp65. IIM, NID, Amul, ISRO, baroda refineries IPCL, Reliance were all set up from 1960′s way before Modi became CM>”

    Indeed they were. However before Modi, in 7 out of 10 years Gujarat got a drought. In the same Gujarat, agriculture has grown at the rate over 10% p.a. for the last 10 years. The electricity situation in Gujarat was as problematic as other parts of India. Now there is 24×7 electricity even in rural Gujarat. Gujarat was always a communally sensitive state and the past 12 years there have been no riots. A simple google search would allow you to familiarise yourself with the number of governance awards that Modi led Gujarat has received from Indian government as well as respectable international agencies.

    @Mahwish: “Infact this was the reason why our ancestors built a separate soverign muslim state Alhamdollilah “
    Ah and who were the people at the forefront of the Pakistan movement?
    – Bengalis : who realized that the TNT idea did not work for them and separated. The problem India has today is that many of them are returning to India as illegal immigrants
    – Ahmadis(whom Jinnah described as Muslims) – who certainly did not get freedom of worship that they had hoped for in Pakistan and must be looking across the border wistfully to a country they could have been part of and been safe
    – Shias (Jinnah himself was a Shia) : Enough said.


  • Pity
    May 20, 2014 - 1:36PM

    There are comments like yours which strengthen our belief on what Qaid-e-Azam had said during his address on 23 March 1940 in Lahore. He had rightly said that “India is not a nation,nor a country.It is a Sub Continent of nationalities.Hindus and Muslims being the two major nations.The hindus and Muslims belongs to two different religions,Philosphies,social customs and literature.They neither intermarry nor interdine and they belong to two different civilization which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions.Their aspects on life and of are different.It is quite clear that Hindus and Muslims derive their inspiration from different sources of history.”

    Even after 65 years, you want the ‘free trips’ being given to Muslims in India to be taken back. Meanwhile the world thinks that India is ‘a secular’ country where minorities have complete rights. You comment has made me grateful that I am a Pakistani. Even though my country has several problems regarding the rights of minorities but at least Pakistan does not claim of being ‘secular’ like India.

    ET please publish.


  • its ok
    May 20, 2014 - 3:14PM

    @pity….you mean pakistan does not claim to be secular which makes pakistan to discriminate against minority justifiable…. and we hindus give taxes on amarnath yatra and muslims here enjoys subsidy on hajj…….


  • Np
    May 20, 2014 - 7:46PM

    Please explain why free trips to Muslims constitute seculatism when no such free trips are available to Hindus, Sikhs or Christians?

    Secularism means people of all religion are equal before law and definitely hajj subsidy does not qualify.

    In any event, are you saying that because your country is Islamic, discrimination against non-Muslims is justified?


  • May 21, 2014 - 4:00AM

    @Abdul Kareem: I am glad you left for Pakistan. I am not entirely convinced that Ppaksitan is this eldorado as you amke it out be. You have to only look at the plight of Shias, Bahais, Ahmedis, and Mohajirs (I guess you are one) in Pakistan to know how well the likes of you have fared in Pakistan. On every count Indian Muslims are better off and safer than Muslims living in the majority of Muslim nations. Every other minority in India – Parsis, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Jains have all done extremely well and compete with the majority population neck to neck. If Muslims have failed in this regard, they have to only look at their obscurantist religious and political leaders and their yearning to live in the medieval ages. Muslims are pretty much sleeping in the bed they made for themselves. They have no one else to blame but themselves.


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