Economists Warn Modi of Negative Impact of His Hindu Base's Intolerance

Top economists have now joined the rapidly growing ranks of Indian writers, historians and other intellectuals warning Modi government of the negative consequences of rising intolerance for the entire nation.

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The Wall Street Journal reported that India's chief central banker Raghuram Rajan "made an unusual appeal for tolerance in a speech Saturday, triggering a debate about whether he was trying to send a message to the country’s leaders". “The first essential is to foster competition in the market place for ideas,” Gov. Rajan told students at his alma mater, the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi. “Without this competition for ideas, we have stagnation.”

Arun Shouri, BJP leader who has previously served as a federal minister and worked as World Bank economist, joined the criticism of the Modi government when he said: "there is clearer belief (in the Modi government) that managing the economy means managing the headlines and this is not really going to work.” He said the NDA government was essentially “the Congress plus a cow”, in an apparent reference to the violence against minorities and killings of Muslims accused by the Sangh Parivar activists of consuming beef.

Ratings agency Moody's has also weighed in with its own warnings saying that "in recent times, the government also hasn't helped itself, with controversial comments from various BJP members. While Modi has largely distanced himself from the nationalist jibes, the belligerent provocation of various Indian minorities has raised ethnic tensions.

"Along with a possible increase in violence, the government will face stiffer opposition in the upper house as debate turns away from economic policy. Modi must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility," Moody's said.

While the chorus of criticism of Modi's government has been rising in recent weeks, what is different is that the economists' warnings are inspired by practical economic concerns rather than the moral dimensions of the Hindu militancy in Modi's India.

What Mr. Narendra Modi must realize is that it is hard to reverse the real damage to the nation once the forces of bigotry and intolerance are unleashed. The difficulty he faces is the lack of his moral authority with his Hindu Nationalist power base given his own track record as the chief executive of Gujarat for many years that include the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom on his watch.

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Comment by Riaz Haq on November 3, 2015 at 8:12pm

#Modi's #India's Economic and Business Costs of #Hindu Extremism. #BJP 

The dismay that many ordinary Indian citizens feel about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s willingness to tolerate, even encourage, the Hindu hard-liners in his own party has now spread to the financial community. Last week, Moody’s Analytics, a division of the bond rating and risk management company, warned that Mr. Modi “must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility” — meaning, in so many words, its attractiveness to international investors.

Indian business leaders are no less alarmed. Over the weekend, N.R. Narayana Murthy, a co-founder of the Indian technology giant Infosys, lamented that “the reality today is that there is considerable fear” in the minds of the minority in India, and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairwoman and managing director of Biocon, said business leaders are “concerned with what’s happening all across the country.”

Among the sparks that have set off an extraordinary outpouring of citizen reaction are the August killing of Malleshappa Madivalappa Kalburgi, a 76-year-old critic of Hindu idolatry, and Mr. Modi’s tardy condemnation of the lynching of a Muslim man in September by a Hindu mob enraged by a rumor that his family had killed a cow and eaten its meat.

By mid-October, 35 Indian authors and poets had returned their awards to India’s National Academy of Letters. Since then, Indian sociologists, scientists, filmmakers and more than 300 Indian artists have published public statements of concern and outrage. On the occasion of his 50th birthday on Monday, the film superstar Shah Rukh Khan spoke out against intolerance and warned, “We will never be a superpower if we are not going to believe that all religions are equal.”

The plain truth is that India is being rived by hatred and held hostage to the intolerant demands of some Hindu hard-liners. This is not the India a vast majority of Indian citizens want and it is not an India that will attract the foreign investment Mr. Modi has worked hard to drum up on his many trips abroad.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 7, 2015 at 5:10pm

In #India, tolerance debate shifts focus from #Modi’s economic growth plans. #BeefMurder #BJP via @WSJ

A year and a half since Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power on a promise of rapid economic growth, public debate in India has shifted from development to religious and social intolerance issues that his critics say are unraveling India’s secular fabric.

Prominent Indians, from politicians and scholars to tech entrepreneurs and movie stars, have taken to the airwaves and returned prestigious awards in recent weeks to protest what they see as growing Hindu chauvinism, and to castigate Mr. Modi for not doing more to stamp out prejudice.

The debate flared in late September after a Hindu mob murdered a Muslim man they suspected had slaughtered a cow, an animal revered in Hinduism. At least two other Muslims have since died in similar circumstances, bringing religious enmities to the fore during a pivotal election in the state of Bihar that could shape the rest of Mr. Modi’s term. Official results of the vote are expected Sunday.

“The prime minister is not doing anything, which clearly shows that he approves of these incidents,” said Sonia Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress party, at a demonstration against what she called a “growing atmosphere of fear, intolerance and intimidation.”

Supporters of the prime minister, a politician with Hindu-nationalist roots, say he is being unfairly targeted by the country’s left-leaning elite, who feel threatened by the rise of Mr. Modi’s conservative Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP says the party’s senior leaders have condemned the attacks, adding the criticism is meant to derail Mr. Modi’s economic overhauls.

“While the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to accelerate India’s growth, there are many who have never intellectually accepted the idea of the BJP being in power,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in a Facebook post this week.

Mr. Modi has himself responded to the criticism by pointing to episodes of religious violence during the reign of the opposition Congress party. At a recent rally, Mr. Modi reminded the audience of attacks on Sikhs that killed several thousand across the country in 1984 after Indira Gandhi, then Congress leader and prime minister, was assassinated by Sikh bodyguards.

“That same Congress party is now sermonizing on tolerance?” Mr. Modi asked.

The charged rhetoric has come to dominate national discussion, overshadowing Mr. Modi’s economic program. During last year’s national election, Mr. Modi focused on development and stayed away from issues surrounding India’s culture wars.

Too much focus by Mr. Modi’s party and its right-wing allies on the promotion of a conservative Hindu social and cultural agenda could make it harder for the prime minister to advance his economic plans, said Milan Vaishnav, an India expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It is starting to filter into conversations about what the priorities of this government are,” Mr. Vaishnav said.

Some analysts say Mr. Modi’s biggest challenge in office is reining in the Hindu nationalist groups he draws support from—a tightrope walk he appears to be struggling with. Campaigning in Bihar, he accused his opponents of plotting to set aside spots in educational institutions and government jobs for “another religious group,” widely interpreted as a veiled reference to Muslims.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 8, 2015 at 7:06am

#India's Narendra #Modi concedes defeat in crucial state #BiharElections #BJP via @TIMEWorld

The BJP's performance in the northern Indian state of Bihar could make it harder for Modi to govern India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was heading for a crushing defeat in critical state-level elections on Nov. 8, with the rout highlighting his rapidly falling stock among voters after just 18 months in office.

In May 2014, Modi came to power in India with a stunning electoral victory that saw the BJP secure the biggest national parliamentary majority in three decades, including a successful run in Bihar, where the Hindu nationalist party steamrolled a divided opposition.

But on Nov. 8, early results after a month-long contest for seats in the state legislature showed a significant reversal in support for Modi’s party in the face of an opposition alliance that, by late afternoon local time, had won or was leading in nearly 180 seats out of the 243 up for grabs in the Bihar assembly. As the results flooded in, Modi conceded defeat in a phone call to the leader of the opposition alliance, the current Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.

Modi was not a candidate in the Bihar elections but his party projected him as the face of its campaign, effectively turning the contest into a referendum on his leadership, instead of naming a chief ministerial candidate to take on the united opposition’s nominee. As public debate across India shifted from the economic promises that brought Modi to power in 2014 to questions about religious intolerance under his administration, the BJP faced criticism for running a controversial campaign that attempted to divide the electorate along religious lines in a state where Muslims make up around 17% of the population. (Nationally, Muslims account for around 14% of Indians.)

Issues such as the protection of cows — considered sacred by the majority Hindu community — were raked up, while Modi’s top strategist, the BJP president Amit Shah, sought to whip up nationalist sentiment by telling voters at an October rally that, were his party to lose the polls, celebratory crackers would be lit across India’s western border in Muslim majority Pakistan, the country’s arch regional foe.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 8, 2015 at 7:50am

#India’s #BJP suffers big loss in #BiharElections, thwarting #Modi majority in Upper House - 

...the BJP’s defeat will make it harder for Mr Modi to gain control of India’s Rajya Sabha, or upper house of parliament, because the house’s make-up depends on party weights in state assemblies. Mr Modi’s opponents have used the Rajya Sabha successfully to block legislation, including a long-awaited law to introduce a nationwide goods and services tax that would make the country into a single market and simplify commerce.
Rahul Gandhi of Congress, a junior partner in the winning Bihar alliance, said the election result was “a message against pitting Hindus against Muslims and making them fight to win elections”.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become arrogant,” Mr Gandhi said. “Modi should stop campaigning and start working. He should also stop foreign tours and instead go and meet farmers, labourers and youth to whom he promised jobs.”


The loss in Bihar will be a blow to the confidence of Mr Modi and fellow leaders of the Hindu nationalist BJP only 18 months after they triumphed in the 2014 general election. In the Bihar campaign, they sought in vain to galvanise Hindu voters by focusing as much on caste and religion as on development, but appear to have ended up alienating moderate Hindus as well as members of the Muslim minority.
As in the Delhi state election, where the BJP was crushed by the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi (Common People) party in February, the BJP won a substantial share of the vote but was unable to translate that into assembly seats in the face of a united opposition in the first-past-the-post constituency system.
Mr Kumar and Mr Yadav — who together defeated Mr Modi with the help of Congress by pooling their resources and sharing out constituencies before the election — make an unlikely couple and their government may prove unstable. Mr Kumar, once a BJP ally, has been credited with restoring order and investing in roads and education over the past decade, after a period of violence, criminality and extreme corruption known as the “jungle raj” when the state was run by Mr Yadav and his wife.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 8, 2015 at 10:06pm

70% #Indians who voted against #Modi's #BJP are #Pakistanis, #Delhi Minister Kapil Mishra pokes fun. #BiharElections

In a sarcastic attack made at the Baharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Delhi Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra said that '70% of the Indians who did not vote for BJP are Pakistanis.'

"SRK is Hafeez Saeed, Badal is Mandela, Modi is biggest thing happened to India & 70% Indians are Pakis for not voting BJP," Mishra tweeted.

BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya had on Tuesday triggered a controversy when he tweeted that Shah Rukh's "soul" is in Pakistan though he lives in India. His remarks came a day after the 50-year-old actor said there is "extreme intolerance" in the country.

Controversial BJP MP Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday compared Shah Rukh Khan to Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of 26/11 Mumbai carnage and suggested he go to Pakistan. However, later the BJP strongly disapproved of the comments, saying there cannot be any comparison between a law-abiding Indian citizen and a Pakistani terrorist, more so Khan, who is loved and respected.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 9, 2015 at 8:28am

Soul searching for #India's #Modi after crushing #BiharElections defeat via @Reuters

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met leaders of his party on Monday to discuss whether to overhaul policies and priorities in the wake of a humiliating defeat in elections in the eastern state of Bihar.

Modi and a dozen senior colleagues of his Hindu nationalist party, including its president Amit Shah, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, gathered at the party's offices to analyze the reasons for the defeat."There are lessons to be learnt," Jaitley told reporters after the meeting, without outlining specifics. "In elections you win some and lose some."

Sunday's loss in Bihar, India's third most populous and poorest state, is the most significant setback for Modi since he won a crushing victory in a general election last year.

For the first time since he came to power, party leaders are openly starting to question the direction of the government.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office in New Delhi was virtually deserted on Monday, with only a few workers compiling newspaper clippings on the election defeat.

Indian shares, bonds and the rupee opened at six-week lows as investors who had backed Modi worried he would struggle to push economic reforms through parliament against an emboldened opposition. They later regained their footing.

PARLIAMENTARY SETBACKThe Bihar loss may hamper Modi's reform agenda because he needs to win most state elections in the next three years to gain full control of parliament. India's states are represented in the upper house, where the BJP lacks a majority.The government announced on Monday that parliament will resume for the winter session on Nov. 26. Over the last year, Modi has struggled to pass laws, including tax and labor reforms, and now faces an opposition with political momentum.

The election came against a backdrop of concerns in India over incidents in which Muslims have been targeted by Hindu zealots. There have been protests by prominent intellectuals at what they call a climate of rising intolerance.Some BJP lawmakers called for the party to promote a more unifying agenda focusing on economic development, after a campaign in Bihar that sought to polarize voters along caste and religious lines."We have to be single mindedly focused on development, development, development," said Chandan Mitra, a BJP member of parliament. "We can't afford to be distracted by anything else."

In contrast, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who led the anti-Modi alliance in Bihar, was able to trade on his record of turning around a state that was once widely considered to be among India's most corrupt and lawless.

Arun Shourie, a minister in the last BJP government, called for a change in course."We should be grateful to the people of Bihar because the direction has been halted," he told NDTV news. Asked what went wrong with the party's Bihar campaign, he said: "Everything".

Read more at Reuters

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 9, 2015 at 3:58pm

Jitan Manjhi blames #beef, RSS chief's #Dalit quota opposition, #Pakistan remarks 4 #Modi's loss in #BiharElections

A day after the NDA’s defeat, BJP ally and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi identified the beef controversy and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks on reservation as the “turning point” in the Bihar Assembly elections. He also blamed BJP chief Amit Shah’s firecrackers-in-Pakistan remark.
“The beef controversy and remarks about it from various quarters alienated the NDA’s vote base… Amit Shah’s unintended and casual reference to Pakistan bursting crackers in case of the NDA’s defeat was misinterpreted and blown out of proportion by rivals,” said Manjhi. His Hindustani Awami Morcha (Secular) managed to win only one of the 21 seats that it contested.
“What Mohan Bhagwat said about the need for a review of the reservation policy was right. I would agree to his suggestion, but he chose the wrong time to make this remark. Our opponents spread the word that the RSS was preparing to appoint an upper caste chief minister who would scrap reservation benefits,” said Manjhi.

“By the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi clarified the stand on reservation, it was too late,” he said, adding that the Grand Alliance had “succeeded in making it a vital electoral plank” against the NDA.
“After the reservation controversy, it was made out to be a fight between backward and forward castes, and opponents gave BJP the tag of an upper caste party. The EBCs and Dalits were misguided by Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, who are masters of such campaigns. The Grand Alliance had no electoral plank till they latched on to Bhagwat’s reservation remarks,” said Manjhi.
He added that Nitish also cashed in on the “Bihari versus Bahari” row.
Manjhi said he would remain in the NDA and work as an MLA, inside and outside the assembly. “I am heading a party. I will start campaigning from the panchayat level to spread the message about empowerment of Dalits. Losses and wins are part of the game. I am with the NDA and will speak up against Nitish when needed,” said Manjhi.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 16, 2015 at 8:58am

#India's Holy Cow Vigilantes. #Beefmurder #BJP #Modi

Arun Shourie, once one of the BJP's most respected leaders but now marginalized under Modi, believes the prime minister’s silence was deliberate—and it was interpreted as a green light by rowdier sections of the movement. After an incident of inter-religious violence occurs, other members of the BJP and affiliated organizations keep it alive by making provocative statements, Shourie said in a televised interview with a national channel. Only after weeks pass does Modi comment, and then it is to say something cryptic. “It almost comes out as if it is by design,” said Shourie.

Supporters reject such criticism. “To defame Modi, a negative campaign is coming from the so-called secularists,” said Surendra Kumar Jain, All India Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Hindu nationalist group leading the push for a national ban on cow slaughter. Vigilante action has to be understood in the context of the failure of law enforcement, he says. “Suppose a woman is being raped? Will you stand by and wait for the police?”

It's not only the beef and leather industry that is at stake. India has climbed in the World Bank's ease of doing business rankings and has replaced China as the most popular destination for foreign direct investment since Modi came to power in 2014. But both the devastating loss in Bihar and the flirting with sectarian strife could further derail his plans for the economy.

The vituperative atmosphere will make it more difficult to reach a consensus with the opposition. And the election loss itself means Modi is drifting further away from a majority in parliament, where several proposals for big bang economic reforms have already withered and died.

“Along with a possible increase in violence, the government will face stiffer opposition in the Upper House as the debate turns away from economic policy,” Moody's Analytics said in a November report. “Modi must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 18, 2015 at 9:05pm

Emerging market fund managers bearish on #Modi's #India, Favor #China - The Hindu

Nation’s rating has fallen to neutral from most overweight

For the first time since October 2014, India has fallen out of favour among emerging market and Asian fund managers with its rating falling to neutral from being the most overweight. China has replaced India as the economy on which fund managers are most bullish on, as per the fund manager survey released by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofA ML).

“Based on our Asia-Pacific ex-Japan investor panellists, India has fallen out of favour from being most overweight to neutral, something not seen since October 2014. China moved up to the most overweight as investors probably anticipate more easing from the authorities to combat the sharp slowdown and deflationary pressure,” said the survey released on Tuesday. The change in view towards India is already being witnessed in the form of an overall slowdown in foreign fund flows into the domestic equity market.

Lower inflows

The current calendar year saw a net inflow of Rs. 23,409 crore ($3.55 billion) in the equity market, which is significantly lower than the annual flows witnessed in the past few years. For instance, in 2014, Indian equity markets saw net foreign flows pegged at Rs. 97,054 crore ($14.73 billion), as per data provided by the National Securities Depository Ltd. (NSDL). The benchmark 30-share Sensex has lost nearly 6 per cent in the current calendar year.

Market fund managers bearish on India

As per the BofA ML survey, which saw participation of over 90 fund managers managing $213 billion, a recession in China and a debt crisis in emerging markets remain the biggest concerns even as the overall confidence in emerging markets remain near record lows.

“According to our survey, global fund managers’ positioning in emerging markets remain near record lows, even with improving China growth prospects at the margin and massive undervaluation, as investors worry about weak earnings outlook, collapsing commodity prices, stronger U.S. dollar and higher global yields,” said the survey report.

Even as a recession in China remains the biggest concern, fund managers have expressed confidence in the monetary and fiscal easing steps taken by China in the last one year that has led them to believe that the Chinese economy will see some improvement in the next 12 months.

Interestingly, a growing number of fund managers are expecting a rate hike in December by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which would again impact the foreign flows in emerging markets, including India.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 22, 2015 at 8:17am

Indian #Hindu Activists Take Down Floating Cow Exhibit in Jaipur #India - ABC News. #Modi #BJP - via @ABC

Right-wing Hindu activists have taken down an exhibit of a Styrofoam cow that was suspended in midair using a balloon, organizers of an art fair in western India and police said Sunday.

R.B. Gauttam, an organizer of the Jaipur Art Summit, said that the exhibit was meant to highlight how cows suffer after ingesting plastic waste at India's many garbage dumps. The activists, however, deemed the exhibit offensive and took it down on Saturday.

Cows are revered by India's majority Hindus, and the slaughter of the animals is banned in several Indian states.

"The activists claimed that the cow in the exhibit looked like it was hanging from a noose and that was disrespectful," Gauttam said. "They argued with us and took the cow down and even put a garland around it."

The cow exhibit continued to be a part of the art fair, but on Sunday it was no longer in midair.

Gauttam said the activists were just "looking for any type of publicity." Mahendra Singh, a police official, said the incident was being investigated.

In recent months, violence based on rumors of beef-eating by India's Muslim minority has spiked. A man was beaten to death by a mob over rumors his family had eaten beef, and two others were killed for allegedly transporting cows for slaughter.

Over the last several weeks, dozens of Indian intellectuals, writers, scientists and filmmakers have blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party for not speaking out against such brutal religious attacks. They say the government's silence has encouraged hard-line Hindu fringe groups to terrorize minorities and assert Hindu superiority.


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