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From India With Hope
India is a developing country found in central southern Asia. Bordered by a number of nations along its northern half, India has the benefit of a natural border in the form of the Himalayas which it shares predominantly with Nepal and China. India has a colourful relationship with many of its neighbours. A few are allies and friendly, nations such as Bhutan and the Maldives to the south. To really understand India in the present day we must look at history. The most relevant of which is what occurred after independence in 1947. Post-independent India can be divided in time into 3 distinct eras.
Hindu rate of growth
The first phase is the lull and sense of content and achievement immediately after the independence. The people were very loyal to the Indian National Congress which was in power, blindly supporting the party, even electing the Prime Minister, Nehru, unopposed. This period extended a tad longer than it should have been for India’s development. At the time India was seen in the international scene as a leader among the third world. A term coined by Nehru for the countries which were not in direct alignment with the two super-powers of the time (USA and USSR). The foreign policy was very much moralistic which gave India high regard but also irritated its allies and alienated it from the major powers. Internally heavy regulations meant no foreign investment due to the fear of colonialism repeating itself. Memories of the East India Trading Company were not yet out of the memory of many Indians. It allowed indigenous institutions to develop, some of which serve India well today such as the IIT’s. The economy was slugging with the rate of growth below 4% which was then termed the ‘Hindu rate of growth’.
India is Indira and Indira is India
The second phase was post-Nehru era which was dominated by somewhat dictator type of ruling by Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi. During this period, the loyalty of people switched from party to person. Even though Indira Gandhi was not in power for a brief period during this time, it was dominated by corruption and inefficient government which had scant respect for the well being of its subjects. Notwithstanding some of the charismatic and able politicians within the ruling congress government, Indira Gandhi created an impression, “India is Indira and Indira is India”. During this era, loyalty was rewarded; incompetence was ignored and efficiency was punished. As India realised that non-alignment was no longer the best strategy for the country it began to lean more towards the USSR where an unlikely but strong partnership built up. This aggravated the relationship with the USA and is perhaps regretted with hindsight of the outcome of the cold war and the subsequent collapse of the USSR.
India needs toilets not temples
The third phase was post-Indira when Rajiv Gandhi, son of Indira Gandhi came to power and the autocracy gave way to real democracy. More than 50% of people living in India were born during this time. It was unfortunate for India that the then young Rajiv was assassinated by Sri Lankan Tamil extremist group LTTE. Rajiv had great ideas for India and was instrumental in pumping money into various science & engineering programs, infrastructure development, health and education. After Rajiv, the real third era has started with congress coming back to power. The experienced and enigmatic Prime Minister opened the economy for foreign investment by entrusting his Finance Minister; the Oxford-Cambridge educated Manmohan Singh. During this period, the economy has been expanding at almost 7% annually, making it, one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The change of government has only helped to accelerate the growth as the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) which came to power vigorously implemented the new economic policy initiated by the previous congress government to everybody’s delight. Ironically, Manmohan Singh, who initiated the economic revival, was not able to implement it at the same vigour as the BJP. The past ten years of Manmohan’s leadership reminded the India ruled by Indira. It was not Manmohan who was regressing India to those dark days, but it was the party president, Sonia Gandhi, widow of Rajiv. Rahul tearing down the Supreme Court order on disqualifying convicted parliamentarians in public is just one example which was flashed in news as, “Rahul tears ordinance and the PM”. This was not seen as a mark of disrespect by the Congress party, but instead was praised by all the supporters surrounding Sonia & Rahul. India was slowly regressing to its earlier dark days. The annual growth slumped back to less than 5%; communal violence, corruption to unimaginable scale by coalition partners, rise of cult cultured regional parties, inefficient ministers due to political compulsions, scant respect for human rights, etc., were the highlights of the second term in power led by Manmohan. The people became impatient. They silently said enough is enough and we are not going to stand any of this nonsense; be it Oxford educated or not!
This is when I would say (or want to believe), the second part of the third phase has started. During the 16th general election, the ruling Congress was thrown out of power. For over 3 decades no party has come into power with a ruling majority, this is precisely what Narendra Modi did in 2014. Winning huge swathes of the country, dominating most of the states except for Tamil Nadu he has politically united India in a way that has not been seen for decades.
There has been a great power bestowed upon Modi but as the cliché goes, with great power comes great responsibility. He is expected primarily to bring back growth to the 7% mark and look to eventually head to double figures. There are also much needed infrastructural changes that need to be brought into place. This is illustrated by his now famous phrase “India needs toilets not temples.” There are many challenges that India faces but Modi in recent history is in the best possible position to overcome these challenges. Much has been promised but only time will be able to tell us the level of success that he will attain.
By Barath G.D. Krishnan, edited by Ranju, published by Dalriada Books.
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