Tuesday, June 25, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

What's Narendra Modi like?

Update : 14 May 2014, 06:48 AM

The world, is trying to make sense of BJP's prime ministerial candidate and expected next prime minister of India: What's Modi really like? Opinion is divided. The Times of India said Modi's own people describe him as being akin to Margaret Thatcher, the original Iron Lady. Can Modi do for Indian labour laws what she did for Britain's infamous unions? Or could Modi, the outsider from Ahmedabad, be likened to Barack Obama, the outsider from Chicago? Obama ran his electoral campaign by Beltway outsiders, swore to change Washington and pull America out of an economic rut. Sounds familiar? If exit polls are to be believed, Indians appear to be riding on a similar hope. Modi ran a presidential-style campaign and like Obama, he is more interested in national development. If you collate all the recommendations by an ever-growing tribe of pundits, like Obama, Modi will be expected to walk on water. Obama's current approval ratings are below George Bush's. Or should we, as some of his admirers want us to, compare him to Vladimir Putin? (That bare chest of the Russian strongman must certainly be 56"). Putin is hungry for Russian-speaking territories outside Russia, while running a country which has made crony capitalism an art form. He is growling at the US while giving the Chinese bargain basement deals, sitting atop a definitely declining economy. You really want India's next leader to be like that? On the Asian theatre, Modi, in many ways, joins a group of strongmen leaders. The Chinese love him, and many Chinese officials who have dealt with Modi compare him to their present boss Xi Jinping. That's for getting the economy going, targeting corruption and changing the way the Chinese state goes about its business, all this while retaining the primacy of the Party. Some see a glimmer of Japan's nationalist PM Shinzo Abe in Modi (Modi, like Manmohan, is a Jap-phile). While Abenomics is distinct from Modinomics, Abe and Modi have the unenviable task of changing the status quo in their countries and governments. Japan wants to rise again to take control of the nation's security in the face of a rising China, as well as take the moribund economy out of the stagnant decades. India wants to reclaim its growth trajectory, tackle corruption, secure a better deal in the world, and become a credible balance to a rising China. Or what about Ariel Sharon or Mahinda Rajapaksa? Modi has been compared to both. While one of Israel's most famous PMs (Sharon) was forever dogged by the controversy of Shabra-Shatila of 1982, Modi is trying hard to shake off the taint of 2002 Gujarat riots. Closer home, Rajapaksa has put Sinhala chauvinism on a new trajectory, but no Tamil with a newly built home and even a job believes justice has been done. Should Modi draw a lesson there? Reccep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's PM, could bear a resemblance too. Erdogan reinvented political Islam to take Turkey down a more acceptable conservative path. But Turkey's current account deficit is an eye-popping 14% and it has successfully destroyed its regional foreign policy. Lastly, think of Lee Kuan Yew, the man who made Singapore into what it is today. Modi is reportedly inspired by Goh Chok Tong, and the ideals that drove Lee and Goh to remake this Asian tiger. Only Singapore's social engineering is coming apart at the seams, which will have an impact on the city-state in future.


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