Narendra Modi now faces huge backlash for squandering people's powerful mandate

Aug 22 2014, 21:49 IST
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Narendra Modi's pledge to clean up the political system has been tainted by the appointment of Amit Shah as BJP president. (PTI) Narendra Modi's pledge to clean up the political system has been tainted by the appointment of Amit Shah as BJP president. (PTI)
SummaryEven supporters accuse Narendra Modi of squandering a powerful mandate.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power in India's most resounding election victory in decades, he promised to revive the sluggish economy, rein in rising food prices, tackle corruption and overhaul his predecessor's lackluster foreign policy.

Many Indians, long accustomed to political stagnation, believed him.

But in recent weeks, critics - and even many supporters - have started to accuse him of squandering his powerful mandate in this boisterous country of 1.3 billion people, where such overwhelming election victories are exceedingly rare.

While acknowledging that Narendra Modi only took office in May, they say they see no change, just more of the same.

Despite Narendra Modi's declarations to engage Pakistan - and inviting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration - ties between the two nations remain stuck where they have been for at least a decade.

The recent national budget announcement - despite promises of urgent reforms - failed to provide new direction to India's listless economy. And Narendra Modi's pledge to clean up the political system has been tainted by the appointment of Amit Shah, a longtime adviser, to a top political post even though he is facing murder charges.

"For a government that promised a new narrative, the adjustment to old ways is striking," Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who heads the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, wrote in The Indian Express newspaper recently.

The grumbling can be seen on newspaper opinion pages and heard in the bazaars of New Delhi, where Indians from all walks of life shop for food. Staples of the Indian kitchen like potatoes and tomatoes continue to cost well over a dollar per kilogram, exorbitant for many people. Under the campaign slogan of "Better Days Ahead," Modi's party had promised to control food prices, among other things.

"Who can afford to eat tomatoes these days?" asked Sunehri Devi, a 70-year-old who says she's learning to cook without the key ingredient in almost every Indian curry. "If I buy the tomatoes I won't be able to buy anything else."

As she filled her shopping bags with potatoes and pumpkin, Devi said the new government has dashed her hopes of a quick fix to the surging living costs.

"These politicians all make big promises before elections," she said. "And now not a squeak out of them."

Some say Modi's government should be given some breathing

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