Modi Wins May Loses

modi 1

The Indian elections are over. Despite Narendra Modi’s abysmal economic record — industrial production has slumped, farmers are in trouble and had been demonstrating their plight, and unemployment is at record highs — he deftly switched the debate to personalities comparing himself, who pulled himself up by his bootstraps from a poor tea seller, to the scion of the Nehru dynasty born with a silver spoon in his mouth and now heading the Congress party not by merit but birth. It worked.

The hapless Rahul Gandhi thrust into a job he is ill-qualified for because of constant infighting, he could have done with someone like Modi’s Amit Shah beside him, a fixer with a unique grasp of electioneering and politics. Gandhi may be a nice man but if truth be told, he lacks credibility. No one believed him to be capable of delivering on his attractive agenda.

Modi has not been able to keep his 2014 promises either but his charisma, prestige building of India globally, and his Hindu nationalism struck a chord. Even the Kashmir fiasco of dropping a bomb in a Pakistani forest and losing a fighter plane, leading to a captured pilot, was treated as a victory when Pakistan returned the pilot instead of holding him as a bargaining chip. But then Pakistan has its own Rahul Gandhi — not quite a scion but a feted cricket hero and proving himself unsure of the ways of wielding power.

Another with a similar problem has been Theresa May who has finally resigned as British prime minister effective June 7. A tearful May hurried back into 10 Downing Street after the brief announcement as the executioners got busy presenting themselves as candidates for her job.

The problem of course has been brexit and a Gordian knot to unravel. Northern Ireland wants to maintain the open border with its southern Irish neighbor. So Mrs. May first proposed a customs border in the middle of the Irish Sea. Northern Ireland would keep its open border while the rest of Britain would be sealed and have whatever tariffs it chose. This was shot down for allowing Northern Ireland to drift away from the rest of UK leading to God-knows-what — eventually, perhaps even a union with Southern Ireland.

She then came up with the only other alternative given the Northern Ireland problem, namely for all of Britain to remain in the European customs union but without the rest of the entanglements. No, said her fellow MPs because this meant they would be left with European made tariffs without any say themselves.

Labor’s answer to all this is a general election, even a second referendum … on whether or not to stay in the EU. Nonsense say the Conservative brexiteers — the people have spoken. There the matter lies.

Boris Johnson, widely disliked by fellow MPs for his brazen self-interest, is given the best odds by the betting companies. He is seen as being able to get the job done. The remainer who became a brexiteer, he campaigned successfully for its referendum success forcing the then PM David Cameron to resign. He could not get the top job then for his behavior turned many a stomach. Will he this time?

Dr Arshad M Khan ( is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.


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