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India sans Modi preferable, Congress worthier recipient of Indians’ votes: The Economist

By Our Representative
In a strongly-worded and crucial commentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the electoral political battle is on, influential British weekly “The Economist”, has declared that “Indians, who are in the midst of voting in a fresh election, would be better off with a different leader”, even as pointing out that that under Modi, “India’s ruling party poses a threat to democracy.”
Insisting that “voters should turf it out, or at least force it to govern in coalition”, the top weekly, in its unsigned commentary, says, though Modi “is campaigning as a strongman with the character to stand up to Pakistan for having abetted terrorism”, the fact is, “sending warplanes to bomb India’s nuclear neighbour earlier this year was not so much an act of strength as recklessness that could have ended in disaster.”
The weekly believes, Modi’s “tough-guy approach” has been a “disaster” in Jammu & Kashmir, accusing him of inflaming “a separatist insurgency rather than quelling it, while at the same time alienating moderate Kashmiris by brutally repressing protests.”
Pointing out that Modi’s “impetuousness disguised as decisiveness has infected economic policymaking, too”, the weekly recalls how in 2016 Modi “abruptly cancelled most Indian banknotes in an effort to thwart money-laundering”, and the “plan failed… not without causing huge disruption to farmers and small businesses.”
Criticising Modi for cowing down the press, even as “showering bounty on flatterers while starving, controlling and bullying critics”, the weekly underlines, Modi’s biggest fault “is his relentless stoking of Hindu-Muslim tensions.”
According to the weekly, Modi “personally chose as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, a fiery Hindu cleric who paints the election campaign as a battle between the two faiths”. Commenting on BJP president Amit Shah, without naming him, it adds, “Modi’s number two calls Muslim migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh ‘termites’.”
On fielding Pragya Thakur from Bhopal, the weekly says, “One of the BJP’s candidates is on trial for helping orchestrate a bombing that killed six Muslims”, adding, as for Modi himself, he has “never apologised for failing to prevent the deaths of at least 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, during sectarian riots in the state of Gujarat while he was chief minister there.”
Asserting that the “closest he has come has been to express the sort of regret you might feel ‘if a puppy comes under the wheel’ of a car”, the weekly says, “This is not just despicable, it is dangerous. India is too combustible a place to be put into the hands of politicians who campaign with flamethrowers.”
“As it is”, it says, “Vigilantes often beat up or lynch Muslims they suspect of harming cows, a holy animal for Hindus. Kashmiris studying in other parts of India have been set upon by angry nationalist mobs. And even if the BJP’s Muslim-baiting does not ignite any more full-scale pogroms, it still leaves 175m Indians feeling like second-class citizens.”
Supporting the Congress, on the other hand, the weekly states, “BJP’s only national rival may be hidebound and corrupt, but at least it does not set Indians at one another’s throats.” Praising Congress leadership it adds, “It has come up with an impressive manifesto, with thoughtful ideas about how to help the poorest Indians. Its leader, Rahul Gandhi, although a much-derided dynast, has helped modernise the party a little.”
Contending that the Congress “is a worthier recipient of Indians’ votes than BJP”, the weekly suggests, while the Congress, which may improve its rally in Parliament, is unlikely to form the government, BJP, which is “more likely” to remain in charge, it would be “preferable if it were forced to govern in coalition.”
According to the weekly, while the risk is that a coalition ngovernment might delay economic reforms, the fact is that “they were not progressing quickly anyway” even when BJP had a complete majority in the outgoing Lok Sabha.
It adds, “A degree of bickering and stasis would be a price worth paying to curb the BJP’s excesses. At the very least, coalition partners might be able to bring down a truly wayward BJP government by leaving it.”

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