And another thing …

From India to Canada, the USA, China and back to India again …

Ha ha ha, what a dink … see below

This post is likely to be a little discursive: the snow has gone, the days are stretching longer and spring is on the way, so I’m feeling a little looser.

Do bear with me.

First of all, after addressing in my previous post all the doom and gloom (not mine) surrounding Modi’s and the BJP’s prospects in the upcoming 2019 general election, it is amusing to have to report on the the state election in Meghalaya last week (27 Feb) which led to the crushing of the Congress party and the installation of an NDA government—led by 40-year-old Conrad Sangma, chief of the National People’s Party (NPP)—in which the BJP has just two seats but effective strategic control.

The plain fact is that in mountainous and jungly northeast India, where the party of the plains is traditionally weak, the BJP is now the biggest player, even if that’s as part of local coalitions. The major takeaway is that Megalhaya is yet another state to have been snatched from Congress in a part of the nation that it always assumed was its to command. The frustration for Congress is that this was despite winning the most seats of any single party (21)—but that’s democracy, folks!

BJP party president Amit Shah is no fool, and part of his tactics for encroaching on Congress strongholds out of reach to BJP majorities has been to establish alliances and coalitions. It’s worked like a dream. The BJP is now governing either by itself or in coalition in four times as many states nationally as when Modi won the 2014 election.

In the northeast there are seven states. The BJP holds sway now in all but one of them. Congress still has Mizoram, but for how long? It just lost eight seats in Nagaland and saw its vote share drop to only 2% (from 25% in 2013), while the BJP basically traded places, going from 1.8% in 2013 to 14.4% last week.

When the incumbent government increases its share more than ten-fold  mid term and the challenger (Congress) goes in exactly the opposite direction, what do you suppose the runes are predicting for the next general election?

As always these days, the safest course is to ignore whatever the mainstream media says or simply bet against their forecasts (this is my “Do the opposite of whatever The Economist and Financial Times decree” heuristic).

A La prochain: au fond, Trudeau manqué d’intelligence … So I don’t know whether it’s best to call Rahul Gandhi India’s Justin Trudeau, or Trudeau Canada’s Rahul Gandhi. In a way they deserve each other, although at least Trudeau has been elected to something—probably never again. In the wake of his disastrous costume-drama visit to India, in which he tried to out-namaste and generally out-Hindu every subcontinental alive, Trudeau is even more than usual an international laughing-stock.

Of particular note was the fact that the “guide” he brought with him from Ottowa was a real Sikh-separatist hit-man who attempted to re-invent himself for credulous Canucks, at least one of whom (no names …) believed the ex-assassin’s “I am Indian and therefore spiritual” schtick.

Nota bene that I’m not anti-Sikh at all, just anti-terrorist. In fact it’s likely that India only allowed the murderous Jaspal Atwal back into the country (and without arresting him!) because he’s now working for Indian intelligence to give the lowdown on whatever fresh idiocy The Boy Trudeau is up to. I bow to no man in my admiration for Modi’s NSA, Ajit Doval, and I would expect nothing less of him than to arrange something like this.

(Doval knows Sikh separatists well: disguised as a lowly dabbawala he smuggled himself inside the Golden Temple during the siege in 1984. He gained the confidence of Bhindranwale and managed to relay the strength and dispositions of the terrorist forces inside the complex to the Army outside the walls.)

Alors, when Trudeau set foot on Indian soil it was to the sound of crickets and tumbleweed: nobody from Modi’s administration turned up to meet him, and the government as a whole reacted to his presence as if they had discovered a dead rat in the watertank.

It’s not just any sane person’s healthy disgust with Trudeau that led to this response but more probably (and among other things) Canada’s shameless pro-China double-dealing. Most immediately this has annoyed the USA, but I think that the craven lobbying at the UN and elsewhere that Canada has been undertaking on behalf of lifetime leader Xi could actually be just as provocative to India. (For more information on this see Danny Lam’s excellent article here.) I don’t know if anybody else has pointed this out yet, but I think that would explain a lot of Modi’s antipathy vis-à-vis the Trudeau marionette.

In brief, Canada fell out with the new Trump administration (which Trudeau treated patronisingly and completely underestimated) over the Bombardier airplane company “dumping” suit brought by Boeing. Canada responded by cancelling a $5bn order for F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters. So there. Meanwhile Canada did all it could to undermine the US call for NATO countries to take more responsibility and actually spend some cash on their own defence, while Trudeau refused to pay anything towards the US-architected missile protection system (although still expecting to be protected by it, naturellement); and Trudeau also rudely refused to back the US in its confrontation with Kim Jung-un.

Most serious, though, was the underhand and sneaky way Canada tried to help China get around the NAFTA regulations by arranging to sell it debt-laden Bombardier:

Canada’s government was aware that Bombardier had been in talks with Chinese entities such as the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) to sell out lock, stock and barrel with “everything on the table” including highly sensitive know-how and technologies. Such a sale would have resulted in China gaining a Canadian foothold in an industry dominated by Boeing and Airbus, which are the largest export earners in North America and Europe, accounting for millions of high-paying jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

When the Chinese angle was exposed—The Canadian connection would have allowed the Chicoms to sell Chinese-manufactured civil aircraft as bona fide  tariff-free NAFTA goods—Trump understandably hit the roof and will now probably terminate NAFTA altogether. Well done, Justin! Why the fanatical enthusiasm to help your Chinese friends? Well, follow the money: it’s only crooked Chinese cash that is propping up the Canadian economy, through property taxes paid on houses in the Great Canadian Housing Bubble for starters. The Boy Trudeau thinks his bread is buttered on the Chinese side, but he is about to be most rudely corrected.

And corrected not just by Trump, but by Modi as well. Because although Modi and the US President, living in different neighbourhoods, might find they have different tactics and attitudes towards dealing with the 900lb gorilla, China, in the end they are closer to each other than farther apart on agreeing that they have to do something. Canada and its doleful administration is helping neither; and so I think it will be the case that Trudeau will eventually play cupid to a marriage of Trumpian and Modian policy towards the new dictator-for-life in Beijing.

And lastly: Xi Jinping, whose “philosophy” has now been added to the Chicom’s official bible (just as Mao’s was with his best-selling little red book), is about to declare himself President-Forever, or some such dictator’s self-loving title.

At this point we must all repeat the mantra: never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. For there is nothing more fragilising to a country or an economy than handing it over to the perpetual care of a single person who cannot be dislodged. Never in human history has it been a successful strategy and for bleeding obvious reasons never will be.

Even the Brussels nitwits are starting to be worried by the prospect of an eternal Xi and China’s now blatant turning away from anything resembling democratic progress (phrases such as “I disagree,” “personality cult,” “Animal Farm”, “emigrate” and “Xi Zedong”  have just been banned on China’s Weibo internet) as the Chicoms continue to ramp up their “peace-lofing” Belt-and-Road Initiative that is now supposed to extend even across Europe.

Not many in the world of politics can see the funny side of all this (“funny” being that the bad guys are going to lose big time if they carry on like this). But when  he joked that, if Xi thought dictator-for-life was a good idea then, gee, maybe he should try it himself some time—Trump at least displayed a healthy sense of humour.

And the fact that Trump’s utterly humourless critics thought he was being serious was the funniest thing of all.

An election cometh!

The election’s not due for over a year yet, but it’s best to get your despair in early

It’s always been my contention that Modi became prime minister despite the BJP rather than because of it. His appeal as a singular personality lay in the combination of his auspicious achievements in Gujarat as chief minister and his position as a social and political outsider. Remember the dynamics of charisma: you win charisma by gaining successes; you don’t gain success by having charisma. Modi was elected on his record.

It helped that Modi was a great orator and had fresh ideas and was a moderniser and was the very first social media genius among politicians—Donald Trump was the second Twitter leader, Modi was the first.

The dangers for Modi (and the NDA government) once he was in office and in power came from two sources. The first was the Delhi “swamp”, which included not just the entrenched establishment interests of the Congress party and its sycophants and hangers-on, but also the same in the BJP. Advani and other senior BJP folk were just as comfortable with their lifestyles in Lutyens Delhi as their Congress peers. The political/media class as a whole was the obstruction to change and their privilege easily outweighed any partisan political identity. This is much the same as we see in Washington, DC, where Donald Trump is hated by the elite establishment among both the Democrats and the Republicans, who make common cause against him.

So there was that: would Modi be neutered and domesticated, and eventually dragged beneath the swampy surface as he struggled to re-organise and reform, hampered by establishment enemies close to him in the IAS (the Indian Administrative Service— or as the joke goes, the Indian Asphyxiation Service) and the BJP hierarchy?

But there was also danger from another source: the lack of talent and the regressive impulses within the BJP itself. I know I make a thing of mocking, or rather reviling, Arun Jaitley, for whom I have little regard (see his latest budget idiocies here). But it’s true of him as Finance Minister—I’m not being snooty; the UK also has a useless chancellor—and also as a representative of the herd of BJP cats that Modi has perpetually manage in the Lok Sabha (and Rajya Sabha).

Now, though, the BJP has lost three seats in the Vidan Sabha elections in Rajasthan a few weeks ago and looks set to suffer further losses as state elections ripple around the country. It doesn’t matter that a few weeks before that, there were celebrations for triumphing in Himachel Pradesh and Gujarat (though slenderly): the watchword now is disaster for Modi in the general election due in May, 2019.

It’s possible, of course, that the electorate is so disillusioned with the lack of progress in BJP policies that they cannot wait to kick the bums out. This is certainly the movie that the media class is watching. But there are always at least two different movies, and the typical mid-term flogging of incumbents in local elections should only be assumed with extreme wariness to be any sort of bellwether for the national election, where very different considerations will enter into where the “X” is inscribed.

The media movie, where Modi is doomed, has a plot where “demonetisation” for example was a complete disaster, and has resulted in even more black money being hoarded, to the disgust of ordinary Indians. The online bank account revolution has gone nowhere. Corruption is worse than ever. Investment is down, unemployment up. The goods and services tax has caused industry to grind to a halt. And so on. I call this living in the (Lutyens Delhi) bubble and counsel that it seems real and immediate to that class because it is all the media writes and speaks of. I see it not only in the Indian press but from Indian journalists writing for foreign newspapers, who always manage to put a subtle negative slant on anything that Modi does. I see it in the think-tanks and diplomatic opinion cooked up on the international cocktail-party circuit, and I see it in the “thought” of lauded academics who have always hated Modi and everything they think he stands for.

So let’s just say that I take it all with a pinch of pink Himalayan salt.

Here is what I think is closer to reality, or at least the other movie that ordinary Indians —the vast majority of May, 2019 voters—are watching.

Modi is doing exactly what he did in Gujarat, redesigning systems and processes for long-term benefit, and using the trust placed in him by poor Indians to supply a political “bridging loan” until the fruits of his re-engineering start to feed through in terms of prosperity and development. Meanwhile he is doing what he can to manage his parliamentary party including many ambitious and egotistical no-hopers, and weathering the aspersions of a propagandistic media machine in the pocket of Congress Party interests that also has great influence among bien pensant fake liberals in the West.

It will be interesting to see the villains, hypocrites and clowns that will stand against Modi in the 2019 election. Who will mark their “X” for Nitish Kumar or the Boy Rahul? As many voters as the media class desperately wishes? I beg to disagree because I have observed the quiet dignity of the average Indian, who understands what Modi has set out to complete and is still willing to repose trust in Modi’s patient and long-term programme despite temporary discomforts.

Modi is a mildly left-wing, market-orientated populist technocrat. And yes, he is a nationalist: an Indian nationalist, not a Hindu nationalist. A nationalist is different to a chauvinist, a bigot or a fascist, despite what the Indian elite and media class claim. Their attitude is that India should prostrate itself and act against its own interests whenever possible. This seems entirely illogical until you realise they do very nicely out of the arrangement by being rewarded with money and positions, either by each other while they loot their own country as a privileged class, or by foreign powers, such as the USA and Pakistan.

The model for what Modi is doing remains, as I have said several times, the electrification of Gujarat he undertook in 2002, which involved considerable pain for everybody and was denounced by both Left and Right, but which he weathered and was eventually declared a hero. Gujarat never looked back, and neither, I am sure, will India after Modi’s first term. And for that he will be rewarded with a second.

Modi more popular than ever

What on earth can be going on?

Modi’s been “doing a Trump”.

After winning the state election in Gujarat a fortnight ago—and after a simultaneous victory in the formerly solid-Congress territory of Himachel Pradesh (As BJP wins Gujarat, Himachal, it is Modi vs Modi in 2019”), there can be only one interpretation: Modi and the BJP are doomed.

It is hilarious. These unceasing BJP victories mean the Indian mainstream media is forced to interpret damning defeats for the Congress Party as “a great opportunity” for the boy Rahul. And this despite the latest figures  that demonstrate Modi’s governance is heartily approved of by the Indian population—which must therefore increasingly be seen as “a bunch of deplorables” by the sophisticates in Delhi to keep their hallucination intact.

I’ve been muchly struck by the similarities in the treatment of  Modi, and now Donald Trump, in their respective countries during and after their election campaigns and victories. It’s been enlightening to observe Donald Trump being trashed by the limousine liberals (and even much of the Republican Party) in exactly the same way that previously Modi received abuse and brickbats in India from the Congress Party and its media sycophants (and a lot of the establishment BJP too) before and after he was elected PM.

Both leaders were initially condemned for being “Hitler” (who else?). Modi was to unleash a genocide against Indian Muslims the day after he became Prime Minister, before plunging the subcontinent into a fascist Hindutva dark age. Likewise Hitler Trump was going to deport eight million foreigners from the USA before shooting all the black population and installing the Ku Klux Klan in the State Department.

When these original hallucinations died they were replaced by the second hallucination (I am indebted here to Scott Adams’s insights, which I recommend to everybody either via his website or his almost-daily Periscope broadcasts). This second hallucination implicitly admitted that while neither Modi nor Trump was exactly Hitler, they were instead chaotic and hopeless, and their countries accordingly still doomed.

This story had clung to Modi for some time. He was narrated by the media as an “uneducated” son of a chai-wallah who would be lost in shepherding a nation, despite his two degrees in political science and a stellar decade-plus governing Gujarat. Likewise billionaire Trump was dismissed as a reality TV clown who had taken daddy’s money (one meellion dollars!) and once been bankrupted (administratively, like almost every other big US corporation).

Does anybody recall how the limousine liberals cried that Ronald Reagan would of course be useless because he was only an “actor” (despite already being two-terms gov of California)?

In fact, like Modi, Trump was tough and super-competent (he didn’t tolerate fools, especially ones on the public payroll), and very threatening to entrenched privilege, as has been proven in both cases. By now Modi and Trump have both got a lot done—exactly according to what they said they would do, not according to what their political enemies, still moaning, would like for them to have done.

And this has led to the third stage of the hallucination, in which reality at last begins to creep in. This third stage, in the case of both Modi and Trump, says, “Well then, he might be effective and get things done, but I don’t like it”. Which is fair enough, and tough luck, too, because lots of people do like it. In India they like it very much.

One example of what Modi has accomplished is the much (Congress)-maligned and -obstructed Goods and Services Tax (GST), a nation-wide levy imposed last July to replace and rationalise the complicated, inefficient and legendarily corrupt system of inter- and intra-state charges that kept India’s economy from growing. It was predicted, by me amongst others, that GST on its own would add at least 1% to GDP over time. Now we are starting to see some of the effects. In trucking and transport, for example, where it was expected to have a large net positive effect, GST can be somewhat quantified:

  • The average daily distance covered by a truck in India has gone up almost 25% in a matter of months since the advent of GST, from 300-350 to 400-450 kilometers per day.
  • Previous checkpoints for imposts (and bribes) entailed average five-hour waits before truck journeys could continue. All over India, trucks were parked up in an endless queue to be robbed. Now the stops have gone and the harassment from tax officials has vanished. The truck-stop hookers might moan, but then again, business might be a lot brisker, too.
  • Fewer, briefer stoppages have slashed maintenance costs for vehicles by up to 30%, claim transport firms. They also say that because the journeys are steadier and less interrupted, fuel consumption has improved by 10-15%.

So, conservatively, we could say that trucking has benefited by 15% overall in the last six months, and that’s taking into account the inevitable administrative difficulties of imposing a new system. What’s that going to look like going forward, and across all the businesses of India that will benefit in their own different ways?

Now Modi’s approval ratings start to make real sense, despite the way the Indian media desperately spins it. In fact, Indians are still hopelessly in love with Narendra Modi . Indeed, a new Pew Report out of Washington, DC, is astonished that Modi’s approval rating is stuck at a miserable 90%. Apparently even the Indian media is being forced to admit the economy is “returning to normal” (Is Indian economy on the mend after demonetization shock?  after the “disaster” of demonetization—and you can see here and elsewhere what I think about that particular limousine-liberal hallucination.

Happy New Year!

April update – and the contortions of the Left

Modi gets his man, triumphs in Delhi local polls; how the Left now backs the bankers; a great new magazine

A little bit of a round-up and some thoughts on the plight of the Left around the globe: I have been busy on something else this month (see below), so I am running around catching up on what I want to discuss on here. Back to normal service soon! OK …

At last Vijay Mallya, rural Hertfordshire’s most notorious alleged loan defaulter (but ask the banks and his wretched employees, who should know, or the Central Bureau of Investigation in Delhi, which recently charged the business genius with fraud) was arrested in London on 18 April on an extradition warrant. This doesn’t mean he’ll be dragged, handcuffed and squealing, onto an India-bound jet next week, desirable as that might be. It’s the start of a long, lawyer-enriching process that should nonetheless eventually see the ‘businessman’ back in the country he loves – and I do mean India not the Bahamas. PM Modi tweeted, ‘There is no place for corruption in India. Those who looted the poor & middle classes will have to return what they have looted.’ Not much fun to be in Modi’s crosshairs, I should think. Mallya’s besotted cheerleader at the FT must be sobbing.

Continue reading “April update – and the contortions of the Left”

Antifragile India

What are we to make of the extraordinary progress and results that Modi is achieving? It could be the ‘antifragile’ phenomenon in action.

Of the five recent Indian state assembly elections – in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur – the BJP either won outright or formed a ruling coalition in four of them. Only in Punjab did the party strike out, and this was easily foreseen. I think it is time to begin to speak of Modi making India – and himself – ‘antifragile’.

The most stupefying electoral result was from Uttar Pradesh. At the conclusion of my last post I cautiously guessed at a 60-70% chance of Modi (and I purposely say ‘Modi’ rather than ‘BJP’) winning in UP. It transpired that an unprecedented landslide in Modi’s favour gave the BJP 312 seats (excluding alliances) out of a 403-seat Vidhan Sabha. This is almost unbelievable, especially when the doom-laden predictions of electoral oblivion – heavily predicated on the ‘disastrous’ demonetisation of late 2016 – are taken into account.

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Election fever is breaking out in Uttar Pradesh

In a tight, dirty race, which of the electoral horses in a three-party race will cross the line first in UP?

In legal circles it is said that hard cases make bad law, but in electoral politics the opposite is true, and a crunchy election may be a decisive pinch point and an interesting, perhaps reliable indicator of the future course of events.

At present several Indian states are electing their assemblies, which is done every five years. For those not familiar with the Indian political structure, the simplest way to describe it is to say that it’s mostly like the US federal system, but with bits of the British parliamentary arrangement thrown into the mix.

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We don’t need no stinking dynasties!

The Democrats and the US media gave Trump the Modi treatment – with the same results

My friend Winston the electrician called round last week, a couple of days after Donald Trump’s election victory. I unlocked and swung open the gate and he was pointing at me.

‘You’re the man, Andy, you’re the man! You said Trump would win!’ he said.

I’d briefly forgotten the conversation we’d had the previous Monday, on the eve of the US presidential election, when I’d heretically argued that in spite of all the pro-Clinton hysteria on the TV and wireless, I thought that Trump had a very good chance of stealing victory from under the noses of the Democrat-supporting media. Almost all journalists and commentators were so frantically virtue-signalling that they couldn’t detect the reality of what was happening on the ground.

And so it transpired. I didn’t take any particular delight in Trump’s victory; I wasn’t even gruntled at having been more or less correct in predicting he would win. I didn’t like Hillary at all – a greedy, corrupt, establishment money-grubber and war-monger who had utterly forsaken the ordinary folk who were the Democratic Party’s mass (and essential) voters. Trump was loud, vulgar, abusive and egomaniacal – although he was less boring than the alternative. Like many, I quite liked some of what he was saying but I wondered if it was insincere and crazed gibberish that he had no real intent of making good on. But he certainly knew how to ‘lead and pace’ his supporters.

Continue reading “We don’t need no stinking dynasties!”

So much more than musical chairs

Studying the changing profile of power in Modi’s government will reward those who wish to understand and do business with India

A week ago Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated a major reshuffle of his cabinet and ministers. Halfway through the NDA’s term of government is a good time to take stock in a significant way, and to position the government for the coming election in 2019 whose approach is still just below the horizon.

What seems clear is that with this reshuffle Modi is further putting his stamp on the character of the administration, and that he has one eye on the future electoral profile of the BJP: good performance is rewarded and poor performance, including ministers getting too big for their boots, is punished. The demotion everybody is talking about is Smriti Irani being moved from Employment to Textiles due to her proclivity for never knowingly avoiding a fight and admiring herself way too much. Some claim it is not a demotion but a sideways deployment that positions her to fight in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections. (Note that the Gandhi family ‘pocket boroughs’, Amethi and Rae Bareli – which hold the honours of the most severe child malnutrition in India, and some of the worst highways – are in Uttar Pradesh.) Others say that is nonsense and that caste issues by far outweigh any influence that Irani could bring to bear in that state. We shall see.

Continue reading “So much more than musical chairs”