India is barely ten days away from finding out whether it will be ruled by a hard charging blow-hard or a diffident boy-man. (Literary exaggeration). Personally, I still think it is India’s core caprice that rules prime minister of the day and the not the other way around. Winning the election is perhaps 36.175% of the deal. The rest, 63.825%*, is in trying to govern the country after winning. Let us say for the sake of this post that Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins because he really, really badly wants to be prime minister. Then what?
I do not propose to get into a detailed political analysis here because that is not what this blog is for. Instead, I would like to briefly focus on just one overriding aspect of this election—efficient governance. Modi and his electoral legionnaires have been relentlessly pushing the success of the so-called Gujarat model of economic development in reputedly turning his own state into India’s red hot growth destination. I happen to hail from there and have been visiting regularly since Modi took over as its chief minister 13 years ago. There is no denying visible physical signs of that growth in terms of roads and buildings. Gujarat now feels like one continuous urbanscape even though it has a strong rural population. The success of the Gujarat model, which is said to be manifest in a 10% annual growth, is at best qualified in so much it has impacted its middle class, the feverishly eager votary of Modi. Unlike many other commentators I am not going to slam this class simply because I can. However, that should not prevent me from pointing out that the middle class anywhere tends to be particularly self-serving and hence supportive of those who facilitate that service to self often to the exclusion of the much less privileged. Modi has mined that innate selfishness with extraordinary success. Of course, there are important factors such as Gujarat having been on a growth trajectory a long time before Modi took charge. Gujaratis are instinctively industrious and entrepreneurial. The trick is often to not stand in their way, something Modi has perfected even while standing on the sidelines and cheering aloud.
That brings me to the point of this post. I have read news stories in the Indian media from states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the traditional laggards of the Indian economic race, and how people in cities and towns here think the emergence of Modi will deliver to their lives the same economic urgency and dynamism that the Gujaratis have enjoyed. In some quarters, there are expectations of a miracle once he takes over as prime minister. In that context, I have uploaded this video of mine that seeks to spoof Vinod Mehta, a well-known and respected Indian newspaper editor and a frequent TV pundit.
Although my attempt is to be funny—a goal I achieve with marginal success—what sadly strikes me is that the content of my comment makes sense to me. The highly raised expectations of transformation under a Modi dispensation, almost as soon as he enters his South Block office in New Delhi, could be counter productive. I say in this video that when a golfer is at a stage where they are supposed to just putt the ball, they should not putt it so hard that the ball is hit out of the golf course. This is what Modi seemed to have done during his campaigning. He is setting himself up for a colossal failure if people across India think that within a couple of months of taking office he will transform the entire landscape of a country of India’s size and diversity. That may not be the explicit message of Modi’s campaigning but the subtext has certainly been that.
I find it funny that what I sought to say in my labored spoof actually sounds fairly sensible. With that I have managed to finish today’s post.
* I hope it is realized that these are just random numbers with next to no basis in any seriously measured election versus governance dynamic.