16 June, 2021

The Snake Oil Salesman

He’s master of his domain. But what would Modi do in a House so riven?

Illustration by Sorit
The Snake Oil Salesman

What would Narendra Modi do? Would Gujarat’s chief minister harness the fiscal deficit and manage India’s economy well at a time such as this? Would he puff up corporate confidence? Would he be able to handle combative coalition partners better than Manmohan Singh?

I cannot say. Modi can’t either. Because he has never run a coalition. Or come close to running one. Modi inherited the BJP’s two-thirds majority when he was made CM in 2001. Gujaratis had been seduced by Hindutva long before Modi. The Congress lost power in the state in the 1990s after the Babri Masjid was torn down, and has shown little sign of mounting a resurgence since. And so Modi has ruled a state whose population shares his party’s dislike of Muslims and love of big business. Demagoguery comes with a natural ease in such circumstances.

Modi has never had to build consensus as Manmohan Singh has had to; on laws, on policy, on administration. He has faced no pressure from his party over social spending for Bimaru states, no...

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