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  • There is no one in India more powerful than this man.

  • Victory to India!

  • Four years after leading his party to a spectacular general election win, Indian prime minister

  • Narendra Modi remains a favorite to win again in 2019.

  • Modi travels the globe promoting a new modern India, bear hugging world leaders along the way.

  • He tweets regularly to his 40 million followers

  • and even connects with supporters through an app named after him.

  • Prime Minister Modi and I are world leaders in social media.

  • Still, Modi's record is mixed.

  • There are questions about whether the ground reality has changed much under his leadership.

  • And some of his biggest economic reforms have caused confusion and disrupted the economy.

  • This is the story of how Narendra Modi is trying to rebrand India as a modern economy

  • and how the reality does not always match the rhetoric.

  • Since taking office in 2014, Modi has become India's “salesman in chief”.

  • He's largely singing the same tune,

  • Iain Marlow covers Indian politics for Bloomberg News in New Delhi.

  • Come invest in India.

  • Come start a business here.

  • Trade with us.

  • Buy Indian goods. Do yoga.

  • He openly courts countries like Japan, Israel and Saudi Arabia and he's gotten closer

  • to the US, even addressing a joint session of congress in 2016.

  • To all of these countries, his message is the same.

  • India is now the fastest growing large economy with the most open investment climate.

  • It's not just a dusty place where people hang off the sides of trains.

  • It's a new modern economy.

  • It's the skyscrapers in Bombay. it's the start-ups in Bangalore.

  • Modi came into power with the reputation of being a pro-business reformer.

  • For 13 years he was the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat where he presided

  • over more than a decade of rapid economic growth.

  • His policies became known as the 'Gujarat modeland they were the promise of what

  • he might do for India.

  • But his economic policies have gotten mixed reviews.

  • On the plus side he's opened millions of bank accounts for the poor, attracted more

  • foreign direct investment and India has eclipsed China as the world's fastest growing major economy.

  • He's also seen a number of setbacks.

  • In November 2016 Modi surprised the nation by banning 86 percent of India's cash overnight.

  • The 500 rupee and 1,000 rupee currency notes presently in use will no longer be legal tender

  • from midnight tonight.

  • It was as if the US banned the $20 and $100 bills overnight.

  • The idea was to tackle so-called black money, a local term for cash stashed away to avoid taxes.

  • A lot of poor people thought he was hitting the rich and then you had his critics who

  • said, oh my god, what are you doing?

  • You just eliminated the vast majority of cash in a country that basically only operates on cash.

  • The day after people lined up outside banks to deposit their money.

  • And small businesses didn't know how to pay their workers.

  • It caused India's expansion to slow to a three-year low.

  • Then in June 2017 Modi introduced a national sales tax, called the goods and services tax, or GST.

  • The goal of the GST was to unify India's complicated tax structure and make it easier

  • to do business, but

  • In some cases, the tax rates were really confusing.

  • Say one nut, a cashew, would attract a different tax than an almond or a peanut.

  • So, if you had a bag of mixed nuts, what was the tax rate?

  • Nobody knew how to do business.

  • People stopped buying things.

  • The economy basically seized up.

  • While the cash ban and GST have not been economically beneficial in the short term, they still helped

  • build Modi's reputation as an authoritative leader.

  • There's no single reason for Modi's enduring popularity.

  • On the political side, the Hindu nationalist agenda of his Bharatiya Janata party, or BJP

  • has made him electorally successful but it also makes him controversial.

  • There are parts of the population that will never forgive Modi for his handling of the

  • 2002 gujarat riots which killed as many as 2000 people, mostly Muslims.

  • A lot of human rights organizations accused the government at the time, which was run by Modi.

  • It actually Lead to Modi being denied a US visa.

  • But he was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.

  • More recently, he has come under fire for failing to quickly condemn attacks by Hindu nationalists on Muslims.

  • Members of his own party have even supported people accused of raping and killing a young Muslim girl.

  • So while India has moved up 30 places in the World Bank's ease of doing business ranking

  • since Modi became prime minister,

  • Many of the problems that India is known for:

  • lack of infrastructure, poverty, malnutrition, bad education system, bad health system

  • haven't changed much.

  • What has changed to some extent, is the momentum that people see around India.

  • Modi is trying to create an India that people can believe in, that people can be hopeful about.

  • Modi remains India's most popular leader.

  • Many Indians are likely to re-elect him in 2019 with the hope that changes will come

  • and it just takes time.

There is no one in India more powerful than this man.

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The Global Ambitions of India's Hug-Loving Leader

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    Samuel   posted on 2018/05/07
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