18 September, 2018

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What Is Modi’s Game-Plan?

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

A Motivated Administration But Liberals And Leftists Are Still Wary:What Is Modi’s Game-plan?

There is no denying that the Modi government is panning out in ways that, speaking for myself, we leftists did not anticipate. Both leftists and liberals were concerned, nay obsessed, with his reputation as a Hindutva zealot and feared for the safety of India’s Muslims and its sterling reputation as a secular state. Second, the left was convinced that Modi was a neo-liberal who would aggressively push a capitalist programme marginalising the poor and excluding them from the fruits of progress. Let’s be fair; neither apprehension has materialised. The Modi government has done things that would upset me if I were a Muslim but there has been no bashing of Muslims. I cannot recall any large anti-Muslim action after Modi became PM to compare with attacks on Muslims in Sri Lanka in the Gotabaya period.

Here is a long extract from Wikipedia about the Gujarat horror that implicated Modi but then cleared his name. Nevertheless, an anti-Muslim pall hangs over him and the BJP.

“A Concerned Citizens Tribunal Report estimated that as many as 1,926 may have been killed. Other sources estimated it in excess of 2,000. Brutal killings and rapes were reported as well as looting and property destruction. The Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi was accused of initiating and condoning the violence, as were police and government officials who allegedly directed the rioters and gave lists of Muslim-owned properties. In 2012, Modi was cleared of complicity by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court. The SIT also rejected claims that the state government had not done enough to prevent the riots. The Muslim community reacted with anger. In July 2013 allegations were made that the SIT had suppressed evidence but in December an Indian court upheld the SIT report and rejected a petition seeking Modi’s prosecution”.

The Babri Masjid mosque was destroyed in 1992 by a BJP crusade led by senior leader M.K. Advani but to the best of my knowledge Modi was not implicated though organisations he is linked to, the RSS and BJP, were the culprits. However, a Hindu friend whose judgement I value says this: “It was too hasty a judgement on the part of the Indian Left to dub Modi as a racist, extreme rightist and fascist. Unlike Nehru he is a strong Hindu but not an anti-Muslim. Being a strong Hindu does not make one Hindutva! It is RSS that made him a bad egg but that influence has eroded”.

There are others, Ram Jethamani in India’s Sunday Guardian of 20 Feb 2018 for example, who say Modi is being demonised and add: “Not seen a single action or statement of Modi suggests any communalism or divisiveness or hatred for the Muslims”. Interestingly, educated, intellectual Hindus, not Muslims, hate Modi. Hence the report card is that though his reputation as anti-Muslim cannot yet be brushed aside, there is also reason to believe that it may be exaggerated or untrue.

Modi the man of action

Readers in Sri Lanka will find a parallel between Modi and Premadasa. I would argue that the similarities are more than recognised. Modi is a doer, a man of action who gets plans executed and this reputation goes back to his days as Chief Minister of Gujarat. Though in scale they inhabit spaces that are orders of magnitude apart, there are many parallels. Both are workaholics well in control of their Ministers and bureaucracy. Both are of humble origin. Supposedly both are weak on pluralism but this has been contested in the case of Premadasa, and as outlined above in Modi’s case as well.

The most significant point to my mind is that both Premadasa and Modi were thought of as right-wingers of neoliberal orientation, but the story is turning out different. There was a side to Premadasa that was deeply concerned about the poor and the meek. He is best remembered for mass employment creation in the garment industry, low-income housing and Janasaviya and Gamudawa poverty alleviation programmes.  The Colombo elites hated him; the parallels with Modi are glaring. Can either be tarnished with the neoliberal brush? I think not.

In the heat of Sri Lanka’s post LG-election political imbroglio I find it irresistible to add that Modi’s is the only Indian government that has not been tainted by massive financial scandal. The Rajapaksa era and the Ranil-Sirisena duo, in comparison, are in the dock. Economists argue about the success or failure of demonetisation, but no one says Modi made a buck out of it. Demonetisation was enormously visible and popular even among the masses who sweltered in long queues.

Modi-care and money for care

“I find the budget quite a game-changer because it brings the social sector centre-stage” said an Indian commentator referring to the grand declaration of a new publicly funded health insurance scheme that will cover half the population with potential pay-out of Rs 500,000 per family per year. It is touted as the largest healthcare programme in the world when it gets up and running; I think largest in number of people cowered.  The needed cash flow is estimated as $4 billion per year and may reach $7 billion, but the allocation in Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s 2018 budget is just $310 million; where is the rest to come from?

Modi does recognise that there is a grave agrarian crisis and wants to modernise the sector, but the budget is unable to address the financial challenge. Doubling agricultural income in four years seems another impossible pipe-dream; but 2019 is election year and though Modi is ahead of the pack, victory is not yet guaranteed. Without money it will be an empty promise. Economic prudence is the watchword on the lips of the wise but political wisdom will trump it; the same lesson the Sri Lanka government is in the process of learning right now.

How are funds for these two, as well as for significantly enhanced public investment, which are not forthcoming from current revenue, to be found? Here are few numbers for readers who do not live with a statistical almanac in their pockets. GDP in 2017 was $ 2.5 trillion and growth rate hovers around 7%; expected fiscal revenue in 2018 will be $370 billion, expected 2018 expenditure including capital programmes $460 billion, so the fiscal deficit is $90 billion – all numbers rounded. [For comparison Sri Lanka’s 2017 GDP was about $85 billion – 3.4% of India’s – and our growth rate has been 4.5% in recent years].

The question, since the days of money printing have come to an end, is where is the money to implement these programmes to come from? Annual expenditure on these two is $7 billion, and other essential infrastructure (railways, highways and ports) will add another $3 billion making an annual total of $10 billion. But this is not staggering. It is 2.7% of current revenue (a mere 0.4% of GDP). The way forward is a little more borrowing (debt), taxing the rich more and aggressively targeting tax avoidance. State revenue currently is only 15% of GDP in India compared to over 50% in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, 36% in the EU, 26% in the US and 25% in Turkey. More money for health-care and farmer support, by higher revenue collection, is feasible. On these two points, Modi will stand as firm as the gravity-defying tits of an Indian film star.

The right-wing Indian Express and anti-Modi “radical” economists like Jayanthi Gosh at JNU shake their heads: “The scale of increased spending that is required for all of this is unlikely to be met, given self-imposed constraints of fiscal responsibility. Expect a lot of talk, not action”. Methinks the lady protesteth too much. Hair pulling and chest beating by elite left intellectuals and the right-wing media is a quarrel with Modi-populism. The right-wing media and the elite-left will be ignored; Modi feels confident of electoral victory in 2019 thanks to populism and can-do aggressiveness (the polar opposite of Ranil and the UNP). He will persist in his strategy; conversely, Sirisena and Ranil, despite a kick in the teeth on 10 Feb, continue to fumble.

Disposal of state assets

I would support the disposal of unproductive state assets, except what are called “key public goods”, whether productive or not. In the case of Sri Lanka this would include petroleum and the CEB, the telecommunications backbone (SLT), railways, water supply and highways. Massive restructuring of all, of course, is needed to enhance productivity, but that’s another story. I also favour trade pacts with China, India and Singapore and the leasing out of real estate and harbours for reasonable periods to support economic development zones. Leasing out for 99 years is madness.

In this frame of mind, I find the sale of some state assets by the Indian government to raise funds for populist measures (Modi-care, farmer-support) appropriate. Privatisation of Air India will fetch about $7.6 billion according to Bloomberg but the government will have to transfer $4.7 billion of short-term debt to some government instrument. Still $3 billion is good money. The government owns 9% of cigarette maker Indian Tobacco Company which it can flog for $5 billion. It owns a minority stake worth $7 trillion in Hindustan Zinc and a more valuable stake in Oil & Natural Gas. It should not consider privatising the latter two. But there are other useless encumbrances be rid of. Finding money is not an insuperable obstacle.

Though demonetisation was controversial an after-effect has been that a huge number of new tax payers have emerged out of the woodwork. Tax evaders got a fright; next time may be less lucky. The government seems determined to go after them. The Modi-BJP outfit, for all its shortcomings, will get something done, but in poor Lanka a month after the electoral drubbing signs are that Ranil-Sirisena will get bugger-all done in the next two years. Yes, this piece sounds optimistic on Modi; maybe the reason is my despondency at home.

The big shadow hanging over India is the China-factor including India’s recent setback in Nepal, Indian Ocean security concerns and the relationship with America. The relationship with the US will not come on an even keel till Trump goes. But foreign policy considerations are beyond the scope of my word count today.

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Latest comments

  • 13
    1

    Couple of days ago i red that Indian economy us growing faster than the Chinese economy.In the last 70 years India has become a economic powerhouse.Modi is welcome all over the world for doing business.In the 5o’ s 60’s Indians came to Srilanka illegally.We called them kallathonis.Now it is the other way around.Srilankans go to India as kallathonis.Srilanka has become one of the begging bowl countries of southeast asia.Srilanka has been economically and politically destroyed by the political
    jokers of this country.Just see these faces of these 3 jokers.MS.RW.MR.Just wasted 70 years.Very sad.

    • 11
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      At least in Gujrat violence where over 2000 people were killed and property damaged, investigations were done first by a citizens tribunal and later by supreme court appointed team, where Modi and Gujrat governments were exonerated from allegation of instigating violence and not taking action to stop it. In Sri Lanka however despite incriminating evidence that ministers in SL government planned and executed 1983 riots where over 3000 people were killed and property damaged, no inquiry was made. Not only that, in the days following riots JR, Premadasa, Athuathmudali, Gamini Dissa and Anandatissa appeared on TV justifying the atrocities committed on Tamils.

      • 1
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        Hey Professor David,
        I don’t know about the economics, but:
        “On these two points, Modi will stand as firm as the gravity-defying tits of an Indian film star.”
        Standing firm? Gravity defying tits?
        So you are as human as the rest of us, or better. You got two puns in one sentence!

      • 6
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        The author of the article and the commentator above are taking refuge behind exonerating individuals who took great pains to cover their tracks, and were aided by a biased system; rather than look at the poisonous effects of ideologies underpinning their power.
        For instance pinning criminal culpability on President Jayewardene for the 1983 communal violence would have been hard for many reasons. But he advanced his Mahaveli Project behind a heavy dose of Sinhalese Buddhist ideology (Patrick Peebles) and sought cover for his Open Economy behind the same. The tragedy of communal violence and the misadventure of Weli Oya were waiting to happen.

        Similar misjudgments were made by several of our progressives about the LTTE, wanted them given a chance to build their Singapore, and failed to understand the destructive potential of their ideology, which characterised dissidents as traitors and killed them.
        The author’s misjudgments about Modhi are contained in his observation that there has been no large scale anti-Muslim violence under Modhi. Silence is too often treated as some kind of approval. Talking to a few individuals and coming to sweeping conclusions is dangerous. The Press has been intimidated, activists are closely monitored, Arundhati Roy has taken a retreat and the Muslims are sepulchrally silent. What does that tell us?

    • 2
      1

      This is why Modi supports Kothapaya (not MR or BR).
      This is why RSS supports BBS.
      This is why BJP general secretary wants Kothapaya to become the next president.
      This is why Srilanka is too scared to touch Kothapaya.

      Modi doesn’t want SL to end up like Maldives.

      Think!

  • 1
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    Prof. K. D.’s assessment of Modi will give great strength to Mr. S. Sivathasan, who regularly supports Modi’s mission in CT.

  • 1
    1

    A fair assessment of Modi for the first time by a Leftist journalist.

    • 0
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      I think it is a knee jerk assessment that completely ignores the effects of the demonetisation process.
      It would have been of more interest if KD had said something about the Tripura CPIM’s debacle after 25years instead.

  • 3
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    The more pertinent question is, what is Modi’s game-plan for Sri Lanka, after he told Tamil politicians during his visit to SL that they should just trust him to solve the problems of the Tamil people and follow his advice on working with the GoSL? With the GoSL not having kept its promises to India and the UN, what has Modi done on that front?

    Despite the BJP having hard line RSS and VHP elements within its wings, the BJP, whether with Vajpayee or with Modi as the PM, has always been pragmatic. So on that front I wasn’t overly worried. I talked to some non-Hindu Indians in the US who liked the BJP simply because they are considered far less corrupt than the Congress Party controlled by Indira Gandhi’s family.

  • 3
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    I am surprised people with PhD’s don’t understand that the Aluthgama Attacks were orchestrated by the same people in Yahapalana Government and their operatives to roll Rajapaksa.
    Even the Ampare attacks were carried out by the same Dark Forces, which I am sure Modi’s Intelligence are aware of and actively or passively support.
    Dr Ranil’s Cops went easy on those dudes who attacked Muslims.
    But Pujitha attacked the Sinhala Buddhists in Rajarata with Venom using Water cannons and long Batons.
    While Dr Ranil’s UNP cadres wearing White Helmets were belting the poor farmers’ Kids with 2 by 2 s, while UNP cops were holding them in head locks.
    Dr Kumar must at least read what NFF Muzamil says.
    I don’t think NGOs pay Muzamil.

    • 2
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      They are not PhD’s, they are also more appropriately called ‘ Arikcarl Marxists’.

  • 3
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    Modi is anti Muslim there are no two words about it, and the proof was when he looked the other way while Muslims were being massacred in Gujarat.

    As for “The Modi government has done things that would upset me if I were a Muslim but there has been no bashing of Muslims. I cannot recall any large anti-Muslim action after Modi became PM to compare with attacks on Muslims in Sri Lanka in the Gotabaya period”.

    “Muslims were the target of 51% of violence centred on bovine issues over nearly eight years (2010 to 2017) and comprised 86% of 28 Indians killed in 63 incidents, according to an IndiaSpend content analysis of the English media.

    As many of 97% of these attacks were reported after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government came to power in May 2014, and about half the cow-related violence – 32 of 63 cases – were from states governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) when the attacks were reported, revealed our analysis of violence recorded until June 25, 2017.

    Of the 28 Indians who died over the seven-year period, 24 were Muslim, or 86%. As many as 124 people were also injured in these attacks. More than half (52%) of these attacks were based on rumours, our analysis found.

    National or state crime data do not distinguish general violence from cow-related attacks and lynchings, so the IndiaSpend database is the first such statistical perspective to a growing national debate over such violence.”

    Perhaps Modi is getting the same advice as the Rajapaksa’s, when it comes to anti Muslim attacks and sentiment.

  • 3
    2

    Is David preying for Modi’s intervention to preven Rajapakse’s come back? Rascals have no principles and they will even sell their grandmother for advantage. Example: the failed leftist David.

  • 2
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    This is not the first time Prof. AKD has misjudged Modi politics. He may have forgotten applauding Modi’s demonitization.
    There are plenty of reports coming out about anti-Muslim violence including events in UP not long ago. (The Hindutva gang is now on an anti-Dalit spree as well.)
    AKD should read more seriously about events in India.
    Modi is still scoring using the communal card, as he did in Gujarat months ago. But the BJP has lost strength in Gujarat, despite the weakness of the Congress.
    *
    As for the Indian parliamentary left, they have yet to learn the lessons that AKD’s mentors learned (I hope) forty years ago.

  • 3
    0

    MODI… His name is Narendra Modi who is a Barbarian Braminya Indu was the HEAD OF KILLING FILED in Gujarat whose , thereafter , entry was banned by USA and several countries .

    In srilanka , Bodu balu sena kaavi terrorists follow Modis killing way having tight connection with a Indu Terror Group called RSS – a Indu sangparivar section.

    See this video for Truth about Gujarat Genocide’.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jsfgqb8972g

  • 0
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    Hinduism has survived the onslaught of colonialism in what is now India. RSS spread a fear that Hinduism is in danger and appointed themselves as the ‘protectors’. Modi started as a RSS member and his heart is still with RSS.
    Modi has honed his skill at observing the Modi-silence whenever Indian-Muslims are at the wrong end of violence.
    Secularism kept India in one piece. Modi thinks that RSS can do this.

    • 0
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      RSS/BBS two sides of the same coin.
      BOTH ARE EVILS.

  • 2
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    This is like Anglican view about Hindus. You are pissed off because Dalits are part of the HInduthwa members.YOu praised the yahapalana Ranil and MS govt. Now, it did not work for you talk against it. You wanted the common candidate. Do you say you did not know. How is ORUMITHTHA GOVT working for you ?

  • 0
    0

    You Talk about MODI. I heard, Latest series of protests are that NAYKKArs want their name and rights accepted by the govt. there are other groups waiting the out come.

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
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    There is another view of demonetisation that has simply gone over Kumar David’s head, who is shooting off his mouth as usual. Demonetisation helped the BJP to fill up its coffers, which in turn helped it with a large scale activist campaign. Hasn’t Kumar David heard of this? Do better homework before you make poorly worked out pronouncements!

    Also, please stay off language demeaning to women! I’d have expected a better understanding of the different registers of language from an erstwhile Professor and an academic.

  • 0
    0

    Sumanta Banerjee cites Wilhelm Reich and calls the victory and the turn toward BJP, ” the mass psychology of fascism.” According to him, it is not just about the left losing elections. It is about what awaits the left in terms of its preparedness for defeating fascism.

  • 0
    1

    I am asking Kumar David a very pointed question and I ask CT to allow it.
    Dr. David! Are you in your post saying that you are relieved and happy that you are not a Muslim, for if you were, you would be upset, but since you are not, you are happy to endorse Modi’s actions? Is that what you are saying?

    If that’s what you are saying, I find it quite reprehensible!!!!!!

  • 3
    0

    It is hard to find a single statement in this article that is true. Modi has not been exonerated for the Gujarat violence by the courts – Zakia Jaffri’s case, in which Modi is the prime accused, is still going on. In another case, which had been transferred to Bombay because of exeuctive interference in the judiciary in Gujarat, the judge said that Modi was fiddling like Nero while Gujarat burned. Innocent Muslims are being hunted and killed right now on any number of fabricated charges: terrorism, crime, cow slaughter, love jihad; it is absolutely not safe to be a Muslim in India. Demonetisation did not achieve any of its stated aims (getting rid of black money, counterfeit currency and funding for terrorism) and instead destroyed several millions of jobs, ruined millions of farmers who are committing suicide in large numbers, and took the GDP down by over 2%. But it certainly paid political dividends for the BJP by depriving all other parties of cash while it got vast quantities of new notes straight from the press. These have been used to buy votes as well as elected representatives. Take the state assembly elections in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya: Congress got the largest number of seats in each, though not an absolute majority, yet the BJP formed the government by buying up MLAs from other parties. Meghalaya is the most scandalous: Congress got 21 seats, the BJP 2, yet the BJP is forming the government! Judges too are being bought, and those who refuse to be bought off, like Judge Loya, are bumped off. Four senior judges of the Supreme Court held an unprecedented press conference in which they expressed their apprehension of executive interference in the highest court of the land through the chief justice fixing benches to give judgements favourable to the government.

  • 0
    0

    I find the phrase ” gravity defeating tits of Indian film stars” very very objectionable and would like the author to reconsider writing like this and Colombo Telegraph to disallow “locker room” language like this of Trump Fame on its pages.

    • 0
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      I agree with Sumathy.
      But this is just one instance of offensive objectionable language in CT.
      *
      The CT should get its act together about offensive language as well as the even more offensive falsehoods published without checking.

  • 1
    0

    Very late I read this article Dr KD please don’t venture into unknown terrain. There is covert Brahmin hirearchy in the name of hindutva is on the rise and sanskritization of India is under planning !

  • 0
    0

    Mani,
    Please share your experiences in Tamil Nadu with respect to how BJP’s rise is affecting the people, including any resurgence of dominance by Brahmins and Sanskritization. And how is the formation of political parties like actors Kamalahasan and Rajnikanth playing into this?

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