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Nehru’s last stand?

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(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

The victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its leader, Narendra Modi, in India’s general election last month has raised a crucial question about the country’s future. With the BJP sweeping to power on a platform of aggressive nationalism and business-friendly corporatism, has the socioeconomic consensus dating to India’s first prime minister, the democratic socialist Jawaharlal Nehru, come to an end?

The “Nehruvian consensus” facilitated India’s democratic maturation and accommodated the country’s many diverse interests, without permitting any one group or section to dominate the nascent nation-state. It is fashionable today to decry Nehruvian socialism as a corrupt and inefficient system that condemned India to many years of slow economic growth. But at its core was the conviction that in a land of extreme poverty and inequality, the objective of government policy must be to improve the welfare of the poorest, most deprived, and most marginalized.

In Nehru’s day, the best way to accomplish that was by building up structures of public ownership and state control of resources, as well as by boosting economic capacity through government intervention. Of course, Nehru’s economic vision had its flaws, giving rise, for example, to the so-called “license-permit-quota Raj,” under which government control stifled entrepreneurial activity, which in turn held growth rates below those of India’s Southeast Asian neighbors.

Challenges ahead for Narendra Modi

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Supporters of Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), wear masks depicting Modi outside their party office in MumbaiThe swearing in of Narendra Modi as India’s next prime minister is imminent. Voters have given the BJP an overwhelming majority and the party is all set to form the next government on its own.

Modi, who ran a blistering campaign on the promise of better governance and a crackdown on corruption that had progressively hobbled the Congress-led UPA government, raised huge expectations among a jaded and weary populace.

Debating India’s election cheat sheets

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

As the sun set on the final phase of polling in India on May 12, newsrooms were waiting impatiently for 6.30 p.m. — the deadline set by the Election Commission for airing survey results on post-poll predictions.

Elaborate studio sets packed with guests and news anchors flanked by psephologists armed with data sets were all waiting to declare that Narendra Modi is coming to Delhi.

Steps the next government should take

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

India’s economy is tottering, inflation is too high and growth too low. The Congress-led UPA government allowed the economy to drift during its second term. Why? Because it did not focus on real issues, failed to govern effectively and did not carry out any significant reforms.

New legislation became almost impossible, with coalition partners such as the TMC and DMK threatening to pull out (and they eventually did). On top of that, successive scams made it impossible for the government to function normally.

The election question

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(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

With street protests roiling democracies from Bangkok to Kyiv, the nature and legitimacy of elections are once again being questioned. Are popular elections an adequate criterion by which to judge a country’s commitment to democracy? Beginning next month, elections in Afghanistan and India will throw this question into even sharper relief.

How election years affect the stock market

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The ongoing stock market rally has been primarily supported by foreign investors. The rupee also rose to a near three-month high against the dollar on Friday.

It is rather unusual for the Indian market to jump in pre-election months, particularly after 1996 when coalitions became the new political strategy to make up for shortfalls in parliamentary majority. In most election years, the market had actually fallen just before the elections – in 2004, by more than 10 percent.

India’s decade of decay

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(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has been in office since 2004, recently held what was only the second press conference of his current five-year term, which is rapidly approaching an inglorious end. Betraying his yearning for approval, Singh told the assembled journalists that he hoped that history would judge his tenure more kindly than his political adversaries do.

Time to ride the rally in the run-up to 2014 elections

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Election fever in the world’s biggest democracy is gripping India in the run-up to general elections due in 2014. In the coming months, politics will be in focus especially among investors.

Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were a prelude to next year’s election. The four states make up 72 seats in the Lok Sabha. Historical data suggests the electorate votes on the same lines for the Lok Sabha in case state polls are held within 12 months of the general elections.

If change does come in 2014

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The market is pregnant with expectations of a change after the general elections which must be held by next May. You would have to travel far and wide before you come across anyone in India’s financial market who is not hoping – even praying – for change.

The mood on the current policy direction is so gloomy that any alternative is looking like manna from heaven.

The resurrection of Congress

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(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

The overwhelming victory of the Indian National Congress in elections in the important southern state of Karnataka in early May has shaken up the country’s political scene. India’s troubled ruling party had appeared headed downhill in the build-up to the next general elections, which must be held by May 2014. Now, following its huge win in Karnataka, all bets are off.

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