Half the voters in India are under the age of 35, and they aspire to a modern Indian Dream of upward social mobility and universal nationality. They chose Modi over his rival Rahul Gandhi in spite of the fact that the former is 63 and the latter 20 years younger.
While most Americans, when pressed, would admit hoping that the United States would continue to lead the world in prosperity, growth, and world influence, the rise of India is not America’s loss. A robust India is an indispensable asset to the United States and the West, as a counterweight to China and an ally with no rose-colored illusions about the challenges of coping with Islamic nationalism–whether emanating from Pakistan, Iran, or elsewhere.
No party or leader is perfect, and it remains to be seen how long Modi can sustain the momentum after the initial euphoria wears off, his party comrades begin to succumb to the temptations of power and perks, the opposition party regroups, and/or the inevitable shortcomings become Modi’s to own. The reality of the policies that will be required to bring India’s economy out of the doldrums will almost certainly offend some by taking away a subsidy or a privilege. Social upheaval in a fragile nation of dozens of linguistic, ethnic, and religious groups is a constant hazard. Modi has had to fend off charges of complicity in riots in 2002–in which over 1000 people died. Some of his own policies may fail to deliver the promised results, such as his lukewarm attitude toward foreign direct investment, a mistake in the eyes of most free-market economists.
But the fact that the electorate itself, across class, caste, ethnic, and linguistic lines, have come down so decisively on the side of pro-growth free-market economics, rejecting the siren song of socialistic welfare, shows greater hope for the long-term prospects for India than any one minister or party. Politicians always fail to some degree to live up to their promises. But Indians are choosing the right promises, with pretty good odds.
India gets it. I wish I could say I thought we did.
Photo credit: Facebook/Narendra Modi
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