Friday, May 16, 2014
India Changes Hands
This is a very important story you're not hearing much about.
India's government has changed hands radically as the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the elections in a landslide, displacing the Congress party coalition that had ruled the world's most populous democracy for a decade. This was a massive election that took five weeks and involved tallying over 550 million votes.
Not only did the BJP win decisively,but they apparently have won enough mandates in India's 543 seat lower house, the the Lok Sabha to rule without having to form a coalition (The Lok Sabha is diorectly elected by India's people, while the upper house, the Rajya Sabha consists of members appointed by India's president and elected by thv ariuose state and territorial legislatures).
This means that India's Prime Minister will be Narendra Modi.
In his victory speech, he pledged to create a “shining India” that will make the 21st century “India’s century.”
“India’s social differences will come together and make a flag, just like different threads come together to weave a cloth,” Modi said. “People rose above caste rhetoric, a new foundation has been laid and will build a new shining India in the coming days.”
Modi is from one of India's lower castes.
Some of the key issues in the election were corruption, economic stagnation and ineffectual leadership by the quasi-socialist Congress party. India's growth rate has slowed, inflation is a major problem and investment has been curtailed by corruption and over-regulation from India's bureaucracy.
Modi promised voters a pro-business administration, fiscal responsibility, a more muscular foreign policy and clean , honest government.His record of economic growth in his home state of Gujarat was amjor selling point. His election sent the Indian stock market, the Sensex, soaring, and the rupee strengthened against the dollar.
A key question is how the Obama Administration is going to get along with Modi and the BJP. Relations between America and India plummeted to a new low.
One of the first things President did was to hammer on the Indian government about how they needed to 'make a settlement on Kashmir'. This shocked the Indians, who responded forcefully that the status quo was fine as far as they were concerned and the president (this is almost a direct quote) was 'barking up the wrong tree. He further angered them by excluding India from any meaningful input on Afghanistan, and by making a disgraceful deal with terrorist David Headly, AKA Daood Gilani. Headly, you might remember was the 'point man' for the hideous 2011 Mumbai terrorist attacks promulgated by Lashkar-e-Tiaba and Pakistan's ISI, scouting out targets in advance and recording coordinates for the terrorists on a GPS. The Obama Administration refused to even let Indian intel interrogate Headly directly, let alone extradite him. The President's conduct while in India where he refused to visit the Golden Temple further alienated India, and the recent disrespectful handling and arrest of one of India's diplomats last December in New York pretty much destroyed whatever was left of any good relations between India's previous Singh government and the U.S.
The Obama Administration has similar problems with Modi, mainly because the BJP's Hindu Nationalist stance was felt to be 'anti-Islamic'. However, the president took the initiative to telephone Modi, congratulate him on his election and invite him to visit the United States.
In a sense, Modi appears to be on the path to be India's Reagan. A populist, he faces the same challenges in many ways economically that President Reagan did, and his historic election appears to have been sparked by the same issues.
This is an historic change for India, and hopefully one for the better.