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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2490

Modi ready with an iron fist and “Gujarat model”

By Philip Fernando

The high decibel debate is over. Narendra Modi seemed ready to govern with an iron fist to reach the avowed goals, one of which is to ensure a secular India. Gujarat’s growth model would be his key ally in quelling the sectarian fissures that may raise their ugly heads. Modi will try to distance himself from the charge that he had been a deeply polarizing figure in the past.

He had strong ties to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an organization engrained in the fundamentals of Hindu ethos yet committed to India’s demonstrable secularism. Modi may not deviate from that marquee as the world's most populous democracy, a nation whose modern character has been defined by the inclusive, secular and liberal approach under different Prime Ministers since Independence.

The only question, they say, is how much of a departure Modi's premiership will be from what has come before. In a recent interview journalist Arati Jerath told CNN that "There will be a big change, way ahead of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party's crushing victory at the polls. We may see Modi solidify his position as a uniter and not a divisive figure- kind of inclusive, secularist vision. Here Modi has to follow what the Congress Party had achieved despite some shortfalls in other areas.

Modi’s popularity in the 80%

Most polls found Modi to be held in high regards and his popularity is in the eighties. This is due to his reputation as a tough, "can-do" administrator, the man with the medicine to kick-start India's stuttering economy. His administrative skills are well documented. According to Ramesh Menon, author of an unauthorized biography of the politician. "He is very strict, gets things done. There is a fear element." To many he is a hard working technocrat bent on seeking higher goals. Gujrat’s rate of growth spoke volumes for his work ethic. He eradicated red tape with great ease and never took no for an answer. The stock market shot up about 18% since Modi won the election.

India's largest conglomerate, theTata Group moved to Gujarat from another state due to Modi’s incentives. It is reported that Modi delivered in three days what other states took months which were also wooingTata.

Tackling inequality

Modi faces the main task of reducing inequality in India- a gigantic hurdle of having to deal with different states and a multiplicity of income levels. Those with moderate to high levels of growth generally take the maximum advantage of the incentives coming their way while those at the bottom rarely get the opportunity to go up—that had been leveled against the Gujarati model of Modi. Some feel that growth in the state has been unequally distributed, and not matched with corresponding gains in human development. Those with some level of education prospered faster than others. Thus the poor remained destitute.

Modi is bound to rely on increased amounts of foreign and domestic investment which may be the way to go but he needs to be astute in dealing with India's vocal civil society groups not enamored by the corporate model of Modi. Tensions would rise and Modi needs to be careful about how the influx of capital gets even shared—easily said than done.

Modi’s commitment to excellence

Modi's hard-nosed, success-driven and abrasive tones are well-documented. He has to avoid being seen as a right-wing, authoritarian corporate figure, closer to the model in China. India is far more democratic and had used consensus building. Modi is at ease pressing buttons and getting things done in a hurry. As Prime Minister he is the coordinator-in-chief and conciliator. That is a role Modi has to learn to practice. He has to be receptive to criticism and be able to work with different groups. He would also be facing a doubting Press, exactingly harsh due to so much of corruption emanating from Delhi culture. Modi has to break away from that by bringing in new names into his Cabinet. .

Modi and Muslims

It is certain that Modi would avoid been called a rigid Hindu nationalist, remember he only garnered 38 percent of the vote. To lead a country as culturally and religiously diverse as India he must be tolerant. He has to start anew with 180 million-strong Muslim community, the country's second largest religious group and rise out of the charge that he did not do enough to halt the violence. A Supreme Court-ordered investigation absolved him of blame for the riots and Modi subsequently expressed regret over the riots but was criticized for not apologizing early enough.

The U.S. State Department denied Modi a visa over the issue, but after his win, U.S. President Barack Obama called Modi to congratulate him and invite him to Washington, according to the White House. The climate seemed to have improved and most analysts were predicting that to get even better.

There are still “hot spots’ in some place--Ayodhya, in Uttar Pradesh, he site of plot of land that has been the subject of a longstanding dispute between Hindus and Muslims is one of them. Hindu hardliners destroyed an historic mosque on the site during a political rally in 1992, triggering riots across the country in which more than 2,000 people were killed.

Foreign policy

Modi started on a good footing inviting all Asian nations despite objections from the Tamil Nadu regarding the presence of the President of Sri Lanka. Modi had ignored that and stuck to his decisions. The relations with China may also be watched by many and here Modi may break new ground by enhancing trade relations with China. USA is another kettle of fish. Obama administration erred in not giving a visa to Modi in 2013 but sent in good wishes after Modi won the election. US is reportedly not attending the Modi swearing-in ceremony. This is an area which Modi would be dwelling in some greater depth. The MOUs that were signed between India and USA provide for the for greater trade deals running into billions. Modi is bound to peruse them with eye for advantages. This is Modi’s forte.

- Asian Tribune -

Modi ready with an iron fist and “Gujarat model”
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