fredag 20. august 2021

Narendra Modi exploits nationalism to distract Indians from a failing economy

"Good times are about to arrive," Narendra Modi tweeted to his followers in May 2014. The result of the 16th general election to the Indian parliament had just been concluded. The National Democratic Alliance, led by his BJP party, had emerged victorious with a full majority, upstaging the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government. The tweet announcing the arrival of acche din was more than a euphoric proclamation of this electoral victory. It hinted at his plans for a fast track to capitalist prosperity, the acceleration of the fabled “Indian growth story”, which would lead the country to a $5tn economy and consequently the high table of the world’s great powers. The promised future was now within reach, or so it seemed.

Yet seven years on, the capitalist growth story of freedoms – economic and political – appears to have gone off script. Consider this: the Indian economy is in troubled waters once again, beset with rising unemployment, sluggish growth and stagnation in terms of human development. The pandemic has only accentuated a downward trend, which began after the 2016 demonetisation shock that overnight wiped away 86% of cash from the Indian economy. A crucial indicator of economic disruption is the increase in poverty levels, a reversal of the trend that is said to have lifted millions out of poverty.