Opinion

John Lloyd

Will India’s Modi resist the lure of nationalism?

John Lloyd
May 20, 2014 21:12 UTC

Nationalism is in vogue in the world’s largest states.

President Vladimir Putin has called upon the specter of nationalism in staking Russia’s claim to Crimea and as a justification for destabilizing Ukraine’s east. He and the Russian military have acted to protect and, where possible, bring “home” his nation’s ethnic kin.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a World War II shrine, in spite of predicable outrage in China. While, in China, President Xi Jinping has emphasized nationalist themes in advancing his “Chinese dream.”

Now India has elected Narendra Modi as prime minister by a landslide. He’ll be sworn in next week. The streets will be packed, the media will be hysterical, markets will rise, and the hopes of the poor will soar.

But it seems unlikely to last.

“The fiscal situation is much worse than is known publicly,” says Arun Shourie, an economist and a former minister in India government. “Maneuverability for the government will be limited,” he said.

It will be tough to turn around an economy with a growth rate that has declined to a little over 4 percent — too low to create the millions of jobs needed.

Modi: Democrat or divider

John Lloyd
Apr 9, 2014 19:25 UTC

India’s 815 million voters started the five-week voting cycle earlier this week. It’s already being celebrated as a triumph just for taking place — “the largest collective democratic act in history,” according to the Economist.

The winner will matter. India now punches far below its demographic weight — its 1.24 billion people are served by just 600 diplomats, about the same number as the Netherlands. The United States, with 314 million people, has 15,000. But that apparent lack of interest in making a mark on the world seems about to end.

What had seemed a likely victory for the first minister of the northwestern state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, has now hardened into a near certainty — at least for much of the Indian media. Modi, self-made, ambitious and energetic at 63, has the ability to project India’s latent power. He wants growth, which India greatly needs to raise more of its citizens out of poverty and to provide jobs for its expanding population.

  •