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In the 2014 general elections, the business elites in India decided to stand behind BJP-nominee Narendra Modi, expecting favourable business policies for their fraternity. BJP did deliver much on that expectation during a good part of its last tenure. The business elites did flourish but at the expense of India's social programmes and farmers' wellbeing.
It was during the Modi I.O that the BJP-led NDA coalition government opted for radical fiscal reforms to fill its coffers, triggering an economic decline.
Further, as 2018 election year neared, BJP's focus shifted against Pakistan. It was also during Modi's first term in office that the marginalization of India's minorities began on a massive scale.
As a consequence, the nationality of 1.5 million Muslims has been revoked while around 200 million Indian Muslims are looked upon as aliens, voices of Sikh separatists are once again resurfacing, the Kashmir valley is in a virtual revolt, the Indian civil society is bitterly divided and the threat of a major armed conflict between India and Pakistan has emerged as a real possibility.
All these negative pointers added to uncertainty in the already frail Indian market; as a consequence, the Indian economy has taken a hit with a GDP growth of 5 percent with a declining trend. It means more Indians will be falling below poverty line.
India's noted economists recently claimed that the current slowdown was unprecedented in 70 years of independent India and called for immediate policy interventions in specific industries and fiscal discipline. They are perplexed at the government ineffectiveness to effectively address the issue. They believe that the government is clueless. In panic, the government went around withdrawing some duties and taxes but to no avail as the consumer sentiments are just not coming up.
India's economists had often cautioned that India's economic growth is not sustainable because of a variety of reasons. These reasons include low per capita income, huge dependence of population on agriculture, heavy population pressure, the existence of chronic unemployment and under-employment, slow improvement in rate of capital formation, inequality in wealth distribution, poor quality of human capital, low level of technology, lack of access to basic amenities and lack of infrastructure.
India's core issue has always been a growing large population and poverty. In spite of its impressive economic growth over the last one decade its level of poverty has not improved; it is in fact on the increasing trend.
India dropped further down in the latest ranking of Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2019 for failure to provide minimum healthy and safe living conditions to its people. India ranks at 102 out of 117 countries in GHI 2019, whereas Pakistan stands at number 94. Population-wise India hosts the largest poor of the world.
President Clinton's famous remarks that 'It's all about economy - stupid' has a special meaning in today's India.
It is mind boggling to reason out as to why a prime minister like Modi, who has acquired the reputation of being a great business facilitator and economy builder, should venture into an arena riddled with hate, political-ethnic-religious divide, semitism and security threats across his country's borders. However, Modi was required to expend all his energies on fixing the economy and removing the stigma of one of the poorest nations on the map of the world.
It quite likely that the RSS has entrusted to PM Modi an agenda that overrides all other national considerations.
Modi must revisit his government's priorities in the larger interest of his country and the region. Through his actions, he must show to the world that he is not Hitler, who ruined his country at a time when it was ready to kick-start as the economic power house of entire Europe, and India in the 21st century is not Weimer.
(The writer is former President of Overseas Investors Chambers of Commerce and Industry)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019