[India’s economy is performing well, with 7.6 percent growth and the lowest inflation in decades, but even by the government’s own admission, growth is below the 8 to 10 percent needed to provide jobs to India’s rapidly growing population of young people.]
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of
create jobs for the one million people who enter
has become subsumed in political turmoil.Credit Bernat
— A flash fire sent the
star-studded audience at Prime Minister Narendra
Modi’s “Make in India”
convention fleeing into Mumbai’s streets last month. But that was minor
compared to the political firestorm caused by his government’s arrest that same
weekend of a student leader accused of participating in a university rally in
support of a man put to death for a terrorist attack in India years ago. India
The arrest, and the government’s ensuing campaign against people deemed unpatriotic, dominated the headlines, once again distracting attention from the promise of economic rejuvenation that lay at the core of the electrifying campaign that won Mr. Modi overwhelming support in elections nearly two years ago.
That has largely been the story of Mr. Modi’s administration. His promise to shake things up and create jobs for the one million people who enter
’s work force each month has
become subsumed in political turmoil, often stirred up by radicals in his party
pushing a Hindu fundamentalist agenda. India
“He came to power with high expectations that have not been met,” said Harsh V. Pant, who teaches international relations at King’s College London.
He and other experts say
missed the boat because Mr.
Modi’s third budget, like his first two, did not call for major structural
reforms. They blame the prime minister’s reluctance to wage those battles on
political struggles at home as well as on his party’s losses in local elections
last year. India
“Unless he reins in the Tea Party elements of his party, he’s not going to be able to take
where it has the potential to
go,” said Surjit Bhalla, a New Delhi-based columnist and macroeconomic adviser
on India to the Observatory Group, a
consultancy in India . New York
India’s economy is performing well, with 7.6 percent growth and the lowest inflation in decades, but even by the government’s own admission, growth is below the 8 to 10 percent needed to provide jobs to India’s rapidly growing population of young people.
The budget stuck with the government’s plan to lower the fiscal deficit to 3.5 percent of
’s gross domestic product in
the next year, as urged by Raghuram Rajan, the widely respected governor of the
Reserve Bank of India , the central bank. India
The austerity measures, combined with increased social spending, were accomplished by allocating far less money than needed to recapitalize government banks, which are struggling with bad loans and are less able to lend to
’s cash-starved corporate
sector. Infrastructure spending was higher in the proposed budget but fell far
short of the enormous infusion needed to spur growth, experts said. India
Mr. Modi came to power in May 2014 on the promise of bringing more growth and jobs, with his government pledging to make the economic changes needed to lure private investment.
He did try to change the investment climate, raising foreign investment caps for military contractors and insurance companies to 49 percent, from 26 percent. But the refusal to allow outsiders to gain majority stakes remains a disincentive for foreign investors.
Mr. Modi ran into political trouble when he tried to ease
’s strict land-use laws to make
it easier for the government and private companies to build industrial plants
and infrastructure. Opposition parties used a Hindi phrase to cast him as
running a “suit and boot” government, working only in the interests of the
rich, and Mr. Modi stopped pushing the plan. India
He also proposed a constitutional amendment aimed at creating a more business-friendly environment by putting in a simplified nationwide tax system to replace a patchwork of state levies, but that stalled in Parliament last year.
Adding to Mr. Modi’s woes, he has found himself on the defensive as the right wing of his party and offshoots have adopted an aggressive agenda that has sometimes spilled over into violence.
An offshoot group began a “ghar wapsi,” or “homecoming,” campaign, holding ceremonies to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism. Members of Mr. Modi’s party pushed for bans on eating beef, which many Hindus do not eat because they believe cows are sacred. Late last year a Hindu mob killed a Muslim man in a village near the capital, saying — mistakenly, as it turned out — that he had killed a cow. Some members of a local group that initiated the attack were affiliated with the youth wing of Mr. Modi’s party.
There was also a series of attacks on Christian schools and churches.
So outraged were some of
’s top writers that, starting
in September, they protested what they called an atmosphere of intolerance by returning awards the government had given them over the
Mr. Modi has made some conciliatory steps, including giving a speech at a Christian church in
early last year, saying he
would not “accept violence against any religion, on any pretext,” but his
efforts fell short in the estimation of many. Delhi
“The people who supported the B.J.P. were voting for Mr. Modi, overlooking the radical right wing of his party, because he promised to focus on jobs and growth,” Mr. Bhalla said, referring to the Bharatiya Janata Party. “It’s a mystery as to why he hasn’t acted more strongly to rein in the Neanderthals. He has to take action.”
The latest political frenzy surrounds the government’s arrest of students at
in Jawaharlal Nehru University on Feb. 12. The students are
said to have participated in a rally in support of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri
convicted and hanged for his role in a deadly attack on the Indian Parliament
in 2001. New Delhi
Despite widespread criticism, the Modi government has gone on the offensive, with the education minister denouncing the students in a passionate speech in Parliament last week. Business was adjourned in the ensuing mayhem.
Tarun Das, a former director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry who works informally on Indian relations with the
, said Mr. Modi had worked
behind the scenes to stop the right-wingers in his party, and that the prime
minister would do so again. United States
“He will take action, just give him some time,” Mr. Das said.
, there will always be a new
eruption,” he added. “But believe me, this prime minister is determined not to
lose sight of his economic agenda, and calm will return.” India
Nonetheless, Mr. Modi’s popularity has diminished as observers question his desire or ability to implement the ambitious agenda of economic changes.
“The economic and the political cannot be separated,” Mr. Bhalla said. “The prime minister needs public opinion on his side to get bills through Parliament. How can he have public opinion on his side if he’s arresting students?”
“It will make economic progress impossible,” he added.
Hari Kumar contributed reporting.