Archive for » March, 2015 «

Modi at the crossroads

Whatever doubts I may have had about Narendra Modi’s final impact on the lives of most Indians (as opposed to the wealthiest ones), seeing him on television (during his recent Sri Lanka visit) made me feel good about him. Especially because he looked trustworthy. If he says he wants to make the lives of all Indians better, I’d tend to believe that he does indeed want to do so. He does not come across as at all slimy. Quite a contrast with many smarmy others we see on the global political stage (Obama anyone, Hollande or Cameron?).

My real wonder is at how someone’s visage alone can create such impressions about character. How likely am I to have been deceived?

In the case of politicians, image is carefully nurtured to convey the desired impression. Maybe we should learn to correct for the deceptiveness of the ‘look’ of politicians. Even after applying this correction I still feel that this Modi looks trustworthy. His actions will show me soon enough whether my groundless impression is mistaken. Will he strive to bring more joy, security, comfort and respect to vast numbers of people? Will he sell them out to please the global corporations, and their underlings in rich countries (also known as ‘Governments’), who were alleged to have helped make him PM?

The corporate world beyond India should then expect juicy pickings. Who knows, it may even be possible to induce Modi to sabre-rattle against China or Pakistan, as justification for diverting even larger sums than already, for defence equipment. Or to obediently sign on to trade agreements that are inimical to the public interest, enable fund managers play games with the Indian rupee and allow the exploitation of natural resources with no concern for the plight of humans who may be in the way. In other words, be a replica of one Manmohan Singh, but more vigorous. And Modi should not face any ideological problem doing this: he does not have to pretend to hold the allegedly pro-poor economic views that Congress Party folk must.

But I do not sense glee about Modi in the global media. The global corporates must still be undecided whether Modi is really a good thing. Their minions, western governments, aren’t giving clear signals either. I suspect that their doubt is partly because Modi is a nationalist. He is unlikely to sell out the interests of India for whatever carrots or sticks that global forces can use with him personally. Being a committed nationalist means standing up for the country’s interests. External forces will have to genuinely convince Modi that their recommended course of action is in the nation’s interest – a problem they would not have faced with M Singh.

Modi’s economic views will make it easy for him to deliver to the global rulers the policies they want. But his nationalist feelings may not. I suspect that his nationalism is the deeper rooted value and the economic outlook secondary. He believes that his preferred economic policies make for a better India. If ever the two appear to be in conflict, he is honour-bound to go with what is likely to be the best for Indians generally, for that is what he marketed to the electorate. And that is what the people (or at least one third or so of voters) voted for.  My impression, from the flimsy evidence of visage and manner, is that he can be trusted not to sell out his voters to please outside interests. I wonder whether the interested outsiders too sense this, for they are being extremely cautious as they tiptoe round him.

Modi is already at the crossroads. He has so far avoided doing things that could grate too seriously against his conscience, without irking alleged paymasters. Working for peace with, and within, neighbouring countries will irk.