Boycott, Not Sehwag 14 Sept 2015
Modi’s record on economic reforms contrasts unfavourably to NDA under Vajpayee
It Prime Minister Narendra failing the India right? On the face of it, the very notion appears preposterous . For the true believer it verges on heresy.
After all, no other BJP leader can claim credit for dramatically catapulting his party from the margins to the heart of national power. No other right wing politician-neither Atal Bihar Vajpayee as prime minister, nor Lal Krishna Advani in his heyday-ever enjoyed such nationwide popularity. On social media cultural and economic conservatives don’t always see eye to eye, but both tend to agree that the prime minister is India’s tallest leader by a distance.
On foreign policy-recent flip-flops on Pakistan notwithstanding- Modi has given the right little cause for complaint. His successes include boosting ties with the US and Japan, publicly embracing the special relationship with Israel, and building a bridge to the vast Indian diaspora. On social issues the prime minister has done little, either for good or for ill, belying exaggerated fears of the threat he posed to secularism. The disappointment stems, ironically, from what was supposed to be Modi’s great strength-his stewardship of the economy.
Thus far, Modi’s approach to the economy has been timid and lacing in any obvious conviction. His over reliance on the bureaucracy suggests a prime minister who has yet to outgrow a chief ministerial style of administration.
Despite being constrained by coalition politics, Vajpayee set out to curb the over bearing role of the state in India’s economy. He opened up telecommunications and quickly transformed a perpetual shortage into one of the developing world’s great success stories.
Both of Vajpayee’s finance ministers-Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh-will be remembered for pushing the envelope on reforms. Perhaps most importantly, the Vajpaee years ended BJP’s old reputation as a party of Luddites reflexively opposed to all change. This brought the party in line with a middle class that had little time for economic theory but could nonetheless see how liberalization had improved their lives.
What economic legacy will Modi leave his successors? Even his most vocal supporters don’t claim that he has lived up to expectations by blazing a bold reformist trail. Borrowing from cricket, they liken Modi to an opening batsman playing a cautious knock-more Geoffrey Boycott than Virender Sehwag. Alternatively, Modi the architect is credited with carefully laying a foundation from which the shimmering skyscraper of reform will inevitably rise.
Well, by any reasonable yardstick 15 month is long enough to wait for a sign. Unless he changes course, Modi will be remembered as neither a solid opening batsman nor a great architect. Rather, he will be footnoted as the general who famously won the battle of 2014 but somehow managed to lost the war.
A simly on cricket –by Sadanand Dhume-From Washington