Prime Minister Narendra Modi is losing his air of invincibility which had gathered around him after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a landslide victory in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election in March. Demonetisation, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and sacrificing governance on the altar of politics have taken the sheen off Modi’s image. That’s what London-based English-language weekly magazine The Economist has written in an editorial last week.
“Until recently another landslide at the next national election in 2019 seemed inevitable. The BJP is still likely to win, but Mr Modi is losing his sheen—and for that, he has only himself to blame. All governments have their ups and downs. Mr Modi’s recent setbacks, however, stem in large part from his preoccupation with presentation over substance,” says The Economist.
The editorial says that after demonetisation brought the GDP down, “shambolic implementation of the GST is likely to make matters worse”. “Mr Modi triumphantly declared the GST a “good and simple tax”. But he did not listen to his own advisers’ suggestions on how to make it so. He plumped for six rates instead of three, burying small businesses in paperwork and allowing politics to seep into the rules (the government recently cut the rate on khakras, a popular snack from his home state of Gujarat, from 12% to 5%). He is now suffering the consequences, as businessmen across India howl at the complexity,” says The Economist.
The editorial says the government does not tolerate criticism and punishes its critics. “Media firms are anxious not to offend it; journalists who take it on often lose their jobs. The press has been asking awkward questions about the finances of a firm owned by the son of Amit Shah, the BJP’s number two; they were greeted with rebukes from ministers and a lawsuit. Even comedians who imitate Mr Modi have mysteriously disappeared from the airwaves,” it says.
The editorial says due to the culture of Modi’s adulation and his crackdown on media, his policies and proposals are not debated or scruitinised enough.
Finally, The Economist offers a piece of advice to Modi: “If Mr Modi wants to keep winning votes, he must concentrate not just on campaigns; he must also show that he knows how to run the country. Sooner or later, voters will tire of grandstanding.”