News / Asia

India Awaits Change as New Leader Takes Over

India Awaits Change as New Leader Takes Overi
X
Steve Herman
May 19, 2014 1:22 PM
The world’s largest democracy this week experiences a transition of government. After a total defeat for the Congress Party in elections with a record high turnout of more than 553 million voters, 81-year-old Manmohan Singh gives way to the forthright 63-year-old Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi, of the Bharatiya Janata Party. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in New Delhi looks at Modi’s leadership style and governing priorities as he takes charge of the world’s second most populous country.
India Awaits Change as New Leader Takes Over
The world’s largest democracy this week experiences a transition of government. After a total defeat for India's Congress Party in elections with a record high turnout of more than 553 million voters, the soft-spoken Sikh, Manmohan Singh, 81, gives way to the forthright Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi, 63, of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Over a decade while the Congress Party was in power, the economy created just one-tenth of the jobs necessary to keep pace with its growing population.

The country also watched itself fall farther behind neighbor China in terms of gross domestic product and foreign direct investment.

Agriculture remains the backbone of both econonmies of the Asian giants but China's techniques to grow crops are considered more advanced than India's, producing better yields.

The big question: can the next leader improve on India's record?
 
Narendra Modi, the man set to become India's next prime minister:
 
  • Member of main Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party
  • As a child, helped his father sell tea at a railway station
  • Served as chief minister of Gujarat state since 2001
  • Criticized for handling of deadly Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002
  • 63 years old; unmarried; has no children
Modi is known for pro-business policies and has pledged support for two long-elusive goals: a corruption-free government and universal secondary education. But he is criticized as an autocrat.

“I cannot recall a prime minister who has been quite so polarizing a figure and who brings to power as much divisive baggage as Mr. Modi brings,” says Siddarth Varadarajan, senior fellow at the Center for Public Affairs and Critical Theory who adds that civil society now needs to be especially vigilant.

Modi's party comes into office with enormous political power: able to pass laws without any coalition partners and with the Congress Party severely crippled.

Critics contend that during Modi’s dozen years as chief minister in Gujarat, his state waged a systematic campaign against justice for Muslims and other minorities.

“One troubling feature of the campaign Mr. Modi ran was that he was often counter-posing his promises of growth with secularism and saying ‘do you want growth or do you want secularism?’ which I think is really a very false choice to offer the electorate because a country like India needs both,” says Varadarajan.

Those among India's intellectual class express hope the staunch Hindi nationalist to moderate his style and accommodate those beyond his base, once he becomes the country's 17th prime minister.

“I do think Mr. Modi is smart enough to know you can run a small state in a particular fashion,” says economist Parth Shah, who runs the Centre for Civil Society think tank dedicated to India’s social challenges. “You can’t run 1.2 billion people large country with so many diverse interests and so many different strong personalities at the state level, in the way you could run a single state.”

There is also a tremendous level of frustration across India with the failure for previous government to establish the rule of law. Police are regarded as corrupt and inefficient. Extrajudicial killings as a counterinsurgency tactic are common. High level judges frequently face accusations of financial and moral corruption.

“There's quite a bit of consensus on what needs to be done,” says Shah. “That could be a very easy and clear way to set a tone for the new administration that they mean business, they're going to be able to provide the right services to the citizens and at the same time stem the corruption that is happening in these two very particular areas of public life.”

Whatever their political stripes or policy objectives, India's top political leaders since independence in 1947 have not lost sight of the government's primary mandate to uplift the underclasses

“More than anything else and above everything - beyond the foreign policy disputes, entanglements, et cetera, is this huge compulsion to try and pull up people from poverty,” explains Observer Research Foundation distinguished fellow Manoj Joshi

Modi - who comes from humble caste and class - in his youth worked in tea stalls. Now his supporters among the masses, who gave him a landslide victory, are hoping he can deliver on his promise to serve them their tall order for achieving upward mobility.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Danny from: Shanghai
May 19, 2014 9:29 AM
change is the theme of the world , so it for India this time .

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs