Roads ahead for India in new era

Special to Times of Oman

With Narendra Damodardas Modi taking over the reins of power of the world's largest democracy there can be no two opinions that a new era has dawned on India. 

Whether it will be an era of development or riots or both, inclusive or exclusive growth, or a lopsided growth favouring only the corporate class is best left to the future.

But going by the right noises we have been hearing from the BJP and from Modi's own campaign speeches wherein he talked of 'sabka saath, sabka vikas' we are pretty much certain that Modi will reboot the economy and ensure that all sections of the populace enjoy the fruits of development he is to jumpstart soon.

Extrapolating from Modi's track record, one can safely say that he is all set to hit the ground running.

Modi is not just a BJP leader now; he is the prime minister of over 1.2 billion people. So it is incumbent on him to take all sections of society, including those who voted against him, along.

One hopes he would junk the partisan mindset of RSS — where he had cut his teeth — and restore confidence in the minorities who form over 20 per cent of the population.  This would help, to a degree, efface the nightmarish memories of the 2002 riots from their mindscape.

Beyond doubt, the Sangh Parivar foot-soldiers worked their guts out for him during the recent campaign season. So on that score, he is indebted to RSS.

But he would be committing a terrible mistake if he allows himself to be a dirigible at the hands of the RSS patronisers.

 In all probability, a headstrong Modi will keep RSS at arm's length. Remember the argy-bargies he had had with the RSS bosses in the past, not least at the fag-end of his stint as the Gujarat chief minister.  In other words, he was never considered a blue-eyed boy of RSS.

Even so, RSS decided to plump for Modi as the prime ministerial candidate sidelining, in its wake, L.K. Advani, a founding leader of BJP, wising up to the fact that only an out-of-the-box thinker and action man like Modi can catapult the saffron party to power. Post-poll, RSS said that it would not meddle in the governance of the nation.

Nevertheless, nobody expects the Sangh Parivar to jettison its Ram Temple shtick. Will Modi give the green light to build the temple at some point in his term of office?

Or will he choose to put the brakes on the Ram temple plan? If so, how will he tackle an expected Parivar fury? The jury is still out on the issue. By taking a positive stance on Pakistan prime minister's visit to India for attending Modi's swearing-in ceremony, RSS has sent out the right signals. Modi's immediate agenda on the economic front is surely to raise the GDP growth which is now hovering around 4.5 per cent.

A growth rate of around 8-9 per cent plus the right monetary management by the RBI would see inflation slow down or even tumble.  The upshot would, of course, be lowering of the prices, especially of essential commodities.

There are, of course, some Cassandras who remind us that charting the course of a gargantuan economy like that of India is not like micromanaging the state of Gujarat.

As the chief executive of India Inc. Modi will have to endure a spate of pulls and pressures from different quarters.  It is hoped he would ride them out effectively.

For one, unlike former PM Manmohan Singh, he wouldn't have to contend with any coalition compulsions as his party has won a majority on its own. For another, the old guard, representing Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi, is now relegated to the margins.

On his way up, Modi trampled on their ambitions and self confidence to such an extent that Advani was impelled to say in the party's parliamentary party meeting to the effect that the huge victory was down to the grace of Modi.

On the foreign policy front, Modi seems to have started well by inviting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sherif and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksha for his swearing-in ceremony. Relations with Pakistan have remained fraught ever since Independence.

Nobody believes that Sharif's visit will solve the long-festering border problems in an abracadabra fashion. But the visit could at least boost trade ties and generate confidence-building measures.

Who knows Modi may have something up his sleeve which could turn the corner ushering in a new era of friendship between the two neighbours.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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