Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The top 10 misses of Narendra Modi’s first year

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had some major wins—including opening new sectors up to more foreign investment and raising India’s global profile as outlined in this accompanying post about Mr. Modi’s triumphs—he has also had some surprising losses.

Here are 10 that stood out:

Delhi defeat

Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made big bets on the Delhi elections in February and lost almost every seat to the upstart Aam Aadmi Party. The small but high-profile local poll proved that the BJP was not invincible. Sambit Patra, a spokesman for the party, admitted that the BJP had misread Delhi voters and has learned from its mistakes.

The war on tax terrorism

Mr Modi came to power promising to stop the tax harassment of corporations. The decisions not to appeal tax cases against Vodafone Group PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC were a step in the right direction. Some foreign investors though were then slapped with huge surprise back tax bills making everyone question whether anything has changed. India’s ruling party has said it is working hard to clarify tax laws but it cannot erase cases that had been brought before they came to power.

Minority concerns

While there has not been anything close to nationwide backlash against minority groups that many had feared, critics say the prime minister has not yet gone far enough to calm the concerns of minority communities.

Some worry that people within the BJP and others with Hindu-nationalist leanings seem emboldened by the rise of Mr Modi’s party, making them more likely to speak out and act out against Muslims, Christians and other non-Hindu communities. Mr Modi has strongly condemned intolerance and reprimanded BJP members for controversial comments. The party says it represents all Indians and it cannot be responsible for every fringe group that makes trouble.

“No one should be scared of anybody, the government supports every community,” said BJP’s Mr Patra.

No big bang

Two budgets down and still no sign of the big bang economic reforms optimists had expected from Mr Modi. The changes he has promoted have been more incremental while attempts at some unpopular changes have been blocked in Parliament. He’s unveiled many promising campaigns to do everything from building more toilets and “smart cities” to promoting manufacturing and yoga. However, it’s too early to decide whether his campaigns represent a revolution in thinking or just rhetoric. The BJP spokesman said the party will continue to push for reform.

Paltry profits

GDP growth has accelerated and inflation has plunged under Mr Modi, but the Modi magic is not trickling down to the bottom line. For the fiscal year ended March 31, many of India’s largest companies are expected to announce their weakest profit growth in more than five years.

Visa glitches

On his many trips abroad, Prime Minister Modi expanded the number of countries eligible for so-called visa-on-arrival privileges. Travellers said the new visas ended up causing a lot of confusion forcing the government to rename them, more accurately, e-visas. There was a similar muddle about new rules combining the PIO and OCI visas held by people of Indian origin around the world. The change, which was meant to make it easier for people with Indian heritage to stay in India, ended up causing some angst about whether their right to remain was about to run out.

WTO battle

One of Mr Modi’s government’s first global moves was to reject a World Trade Organisation agreement set in Bali. India had agreed to abide by the agreement before the BJP came to power but changed its mind, saying it needed more protection for its farmers. With few other countries backing its position, India eventually backed down. The Bali deal, which will simplify customs procedures world-wide, is now moving ahead; both India and the countries that pressured it to accept the agreement claim not to have blinked.


While Mr Modi has been in charge, India has restricted funding of non-government organisations, including Greenpeace. It blocked the broadcasting of a BBC documentary about the 2012 gang rape of a woman on a Delhi bus. New Delhi also stopped Al Jazeera from broadcasting in India for five days for mislabelling India’s disputed border with Pakistan.

Government officials said the government was not trying to silence critics. In the case of the non-government organisation funding, officials said they were just enforcing foreign exchange laws. A court said the ban on the BBC documentary was to avoid law and order problems. Meanwhile the Al Jazeera blackout was punishment for showing maps with “parts of Indian territory inside Pakistan,” an official of India’s information and broadcasting ministry said at the time.

This outfit

When the prime minister greeted US President Barack Obama wearing this dapper suit in January, many applauded his bold choice of subliminal advertising; others called it an embarrassing display of gauche narcissism.

Photo: AFP

This solo

As with most of his international trips, Mr Modi was not shy about putting on the local attire during a recent visit to Mongolia. He should have considered ending his tryst with Mongolian culture at that though as his attempt at playing an instrument called the Yoochun—for more than two minutes—was painful to watch.

You can watch the video here.

Photo: Screenshot

The piece originally appeared here.

from The Express Tribune Blog

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