I remember listening to my father’s stories about growing up in India and the difficulty of living in a country that, for centuries, was squeezed so tightly by the grip of colonialism, only to be so suddenly released.

The bare necessities were scarce, the opportunities to advance few and far between and the wars against Pakistan frequent. Unfortunately, despite all of these rather grim issues, India’s policy leaders did not have the vision or character of Mahatma Gandhi and corruption ran unchecked. Hope of sustained growth for a rapidly growing population ebbed and flowed — things would go well for a few years and then progress would stagnate. A new administration would arrive, only to deliver more empty promises.

This time is a little different.

Narendra Modi visited the United States last week and was greeted with a fervor that seldom meets a foreign state leader. A sold-out event at Madison Square Garden usually means that the Knicks are on a winning streak — rare as that might be — and is not often reserved for political heavyweights. But the promises Modi has made, backed up with actual substance, has bucked this trend.

Modi is a pragmatic guy who understands the serious ideological challenges that accompany governing a nation as diverse as India. He realizes the importance of stronger United States-India ties, notwithstanding the fact that the United States denied him a visa in 2005, and has commensurately made America one of his first foreign visits as head of state. Instead of pushing a more aggressive stance against Pakistan than the mild-mannered Manmohan Singh, he invited Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration.

In gauging what must be focused on at home, he remains similarly practical. Modi looks to address issues that former politicians have not touched because they do not offer great political talking points.

He seeks to address the huge lack of infrastructure by implementing bank accounts for every citizen (and thereby increasing the tax base and lending opportunities), signing an infrastructure deal with China worth $20 billion, re-evaluating public health and sanitation and ensuring that the poorest of citizens have access to the benefits created by these programs.

In a rare ideological alignment, Modi looks to increase social programs while also articulating a firm pro-business strategy. The idea is that such a strategy will provide the ancillary financing necessary to provide such ambitious infrastructure programs.

From 2004 to 2012, Gujarat, the state in which Modi served as chief minister, enjoyed a 10 percent growth rate, higher than the national average. Some of this growth was tied to greater foreign direct investment. Public projects also increased during this time. I remember visiting India in 2007 and noticing a new highway system modelled in quality after the interstate, a far cry from the earlier weak, maintenance-heavy roads in Gujarat.
Of course, his opponents cite the very poignant case of neglect or sordid compliance with the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002, where hundreds of Muslims were killed. While a valid concern, Modi has been acquitted by India’s Supreme Court on three occasions and in light of his increased national role, has moved away from advocating stringently divisive politics.

It would not only be poor governance to ignore the 150 million Muslims and other minorities of an eclectic India, but would also place a damper on hope of re-election, both legislatively and in the executive branch, as India operates under a parliamentary structure.

The man is a workaholic, hates unnecessary bureaucracy and is a bachelor with few known vices so the potential for corruption seems limited. The legislative authority he enjoys with the complete overhaul of Parliament as a result of the recent election is unprecedented, allowing legroom to pursue policies that can make an impact.

Constraints are far more pronounced on the national scale to conduct policy with a sectarian agenda and Modi does not seem like he is interested in prioritizing such an agenda over his vision of growth for the entire country.

ParthShahParth Shah is a junior in the College. Politics of Parth appears every
other Tuesday.

One Comment

  1. Kaushik Andra says:

    Excellent Insight! Although the Knicks joke was a low blow…

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