News You Really Need To See: “Hopes Fade As India Leader Starts Quietly”

“Hopes Fade As India Leader Starts Quietly”

The New York Times, August 13, 2014, p.A4

During the months leading up to the spring parliamentary elections, Indians looked at Narendra Modi and saw what they wanted to see.  Right-wing Hindus saw a cultural warrior.  Working-class voters saw an incorruptible outsider who would impose discipline, from the ‘Delhi durbar,’ the elite cliques dating to the Mughal courts, down to police constables.  Industrialists counted on having an advocate at the top.  And public intellectuals in New Delhi, among them centrists who had abandoned the Indian National Congress party, saw an economic reformer who would use his enormous mandate to introduce bold, potentially unpopular policies that would reawaken growth.  Someone was bound to be disappointed.  By the summer, around 70 days after Mr. Modi’s swearing-in, the first chorus of disappointment emerged from advocates of radical change, including some who served as economic advisers during his campaign.  What they had expected was not happening.  Mr. Modi’s government introduced its first budget on July 10, to the kind of breathless television coverage typically reserved for royal weddings or moon landings.  But it was absent any move that could be described as bold… Mr. Modi is proving to be a quiet leader.  He does not attend the late-night, whiskey-fueled gatherings that drive social life among the New Delhi elite, instead maintaining the monastic schedule he kept as the chief minister of the state of Gujarat.  His most confident steps have come in the realm of foreign policy, where he has used his rhetorical gifts as hypnotically as he did in his campaign.  At home, his trademark oratory — ubiquitous for months before the election — is rarely heard.  Instead, the prime minister is said to be spending many hours in conference with senior bureaucrats, trying to identify bottlenecks and regulatory obstacles that have kept infrastructure projects in limbo for years.  This is consistent with what he did when he took control of Gujarat.”

Quickie Analysis:  Can a “transformational” leader ever live up to his hype?  Is that even a good thing in a pluralistic society?

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