As politics moves to the centre-stage in India, the stakes are high at home and abroad
The Indian General Election may still be months away but as the political scene hots up, India Inc. Founder & CEO Manoj Ladwa does a deeper dive on what may be in store for 2019.
I meet people of all walks of life on my frequent visits to India – politicians, bureaucrats, business people, analysts and ordinary citizens. Over the years, I have come to consider the last group of people the best indicator of the political mood in the country. I guess it’s a bit like the proverbial ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ test that English courts use where they seek out what a reasonable assessment of any given situation could be.
On my last couple of visits, I have found that Indians are spending a disproportionate amount of time on predicting the winner of the Lok Sabha elections, which are still eight months away. This has given me the firm impression that the political scene is certainly hotting up. And politicians are clearly reacting to that mood of anticipation.
An overwhelmingly large number of the people I have met tell me they expect Prime Minister Narendra Modi to return to power in 2019. The reasons vary – some are obviously voicing their own political choice; others try to be objective and offer various reasons why they feel the electorate will retain faith in the incumbent government, and some simply because they know my preference, and would like to stimulate further discussion.
Though the General Election in India are still some time away, I thought a deeper dive into this issue would be of interest to foreign investors and global policy experts. This group, incidentally, forms the core readership of ‘India Global Business’.
My team have over the past month been examining every issue from the perspective of international India-watchers who may or may not agree with my politics or the editorial line of this magazine.
Our research led to the finding that most people – though not necessarily the ones who write columns in English language newspapers – give the Modi government high marks on the following issues: Leadership, combating corruption, economic and administrative reforms, handling of the economy, war on poverty and foreign policy.
These issues critically affect investment decisions, especially of foreign investors, so we have analysed the performance of the Modi government on each of these parameters, juxtaposing them against the situation prevailing before he stormed to power in 2014 to arrive at our conclusions.
We realise that in a vast, complex and diverse country such as India, it is not only performance but also electoral arithmetic – the preference for one’s own caste and clan – that influence peoples’ choices. So, we have also highlighted the challenges that Modi and his government face from the likely coming together of caste warriors such as Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the politically crucial north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which account for more than a quarter of the BJP’s 282 members in the present Lok Sabha.
Will the electorate prove us right? We will have to wait a while to find out. But what is certain, is that the Indian General Election of 2019 will be the most widely watched globally of any democratic process in the world. The stakes domestically for Indians are of course very high, but given India’s rapid march to globalisation, and the current flux in regions and markets around the world, the stakes on whether Modi wins or not are also high for the rest world.
Meanwhile, the Cover Story of the latest edition of ‘India Global Business’ – titled “Can Modi return to power in 2019?” – digs deeper into this building election fervour.
Manoj Ladwa is the founder of India Inc. and chief executive of MLS Chase Group @manojladwa