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

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora