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!

Western “liberals” still not getting Modi’s demonetization move.

If you didn’t laugh at their cognitive dissonance … you’d laugh anyway

Cognitive dissonance is the gap between reality and what you would prefer reality to be. That gap gets filled with error and blindness when you can’t face up to what’s actually happening in the world. It’s thinking wishfully, with an edge of psychotic unreason. The Trump hysteria among Clinton Democrats and others in the USA (what Scott Adams calls “Trump Derangement Syndrome”) derives from an unwillingness to accept that their candidate was poisonously unpopular, lost the election, and that this is really for real.

The Leftish Naked Capitalism website, usually excellent on many matters, has been simply appalling in its coverage of India under Modi, and this I also put down to cognitive dissonance. It uncritically prints articles by notorious Congress Party frontmen inaccurate in details and wholly ideological in content.

Western stooges of Indian fake-liberal media and politico types have aligned their Gandhi-Clinton attitudes and agreed to mutually support each other for many years. Now they are both in agony and for its part Naked Capitalism is acting out its part in the nihilistic, post-modern identity politics activism that condemned Modi sight unseen as Adolf Hitler (it’s always Hitler with these dreary people). I wrote a book showing how stupidly wrong that assumption was and I’ve already spent enough time on it.

But this latest idiocy—endorsed by a writer who is normally very good—deserves some scorn (coming right up). I guess this is what happens when you have a fixed point of view, and then you simply apply it to an area you know only scantily, so that you’re ignorant of even very basic facts and end up looking like a fool.

I regard myself as a Liberal in the classic tradition, in favour of individual rights, liberty and free trade; or as Matt Ridley excellently reformulated it in a recent essay, a free-market anti-capitalist. But it’s revealing to find I have nothing in common with these Modi-hating liars who see themselves somehow as liberals, too.

It’s difficult to know where to start with how the Western media has traduced the so-called demonetization in India. I guess facts are the best way to go, unfashionable though that seems to be with the know-alls who hate Modi’s government.

A factual recap, for God’s sake

In November 2016 the 500- and 1000-rupee banknotes were abruptly withdrawn from circulation in India. This created queues at banks, and other inconveniences, but no major economic troubles ensued. I’ve written before about how the prices of groceries in the chowks didn’t go up at all, so supply chains were clearly not disrupted—India’s poor know how to cope, and they were behind Modi all the way. His popularity actually increased during the period.

The ordinary people supported Modi because he had prepared the ground by ensuring that 300 million (and counting) poor Indians had been given online bank accounts so they wouldn’t have to depend on cash—nor any longer on the vulture-like chit-wallahs who would “look after” their banknotes for extortionate fees.

The withdrawal of the notes was prepared in secrecy. Why? Because Modi wanted to help the ordinary Indians and India’s economy, and penalise the two parties guilty of abuse and corruption: rich Indians who profited from bribery and mostly kept their “black money” in cash (typically piles and stacks of 1000-rupee notes), and the Islamic forgers in Pakistan who were trying to undermine the Indian economy by flooding it with fake 500- and 1000-rupee notes. Surprise was vital.

The false way all this was reported was that Modi was doing away with the notes and trying to take India to a cashless, therefore authoritarian system. (In the West that’s apparently a brilliant move for democracy,  the same journalists say, but never mind …)

In fact, from the his very first announcement on the subject, Modi had explained carefully and slowly, for the hard to understand (journalists), that the old 500-rupee note and the old-1000 rupee note would very quickly be replaced by new ones, and in addition an entirely new 2000-rupee note would be minted to take account of the larger values of cash Indians were enjoying carrying around these days. I’ve put a photo of the new note at the head of this piece so you can see I am not making all this up. In simple terms: Modi was not demonetizing anything.

Did everybody get that? Not journalists, apparently. Endless articles appeared decrying the “chaos” and the failed experiment in a cashless economy. The Indian government had pledged (yes they had) to have cash levels back to normal quite soon and aimed at a January-February dateline for it. I think they got about 90% of the way there by the end of January. Now in India everything is back to normal, with two important exceptions: the beneficiaries of years of bribery winked at by Congress governments are  a lot poorer because their cash became worthless overnight, and the Indian poor are a lot happier with their lot and with Modi. Oh, and a happy by-product is that the Pakistanis have been badly hurt by it too because they cannot forge the new notes.

I know I’m banging my head against a brick wall with all this. To return to the piss-poor article at Naked Capitalism, the idiotic headline was “India’s Demonetization Experiment Fails to Demonetize: Cash Comes Full Circle”. Well, that’s what was supposed to happen all along. I don’t think that anything will ever get through the thick skulls of such fools, so why bother? And yet somehow one must point out lies, I suppose. It goes on:

Demonetization in India has been a debacle, and there is no end to the problems that it has created currently in sight. The best that can be said about it is that it might deter political leaders in other countries think long and hard before initiating similarly ill-conceived, premature efforts to try and nudge transactions away from cash and toward cashless payment systems.

All I can do is refer you back to the colourful photo of that brand-new 2000-rupee note.

“Reform, Perform, Transform”

Meanwhile, in defiance of the fake-liberal gloomsters, India’s economy marches ever upwards and its business-friendly environment continues to improve. A happier headline a few weeks ago related to how India has moved up in the ease-of-doing-business rankings since Modi was elected prime minister.

India’s old ranking, one week after Modi took office in 2014, was a pathetic 142nd, almost like some corrupt third-world state … Since then, it’s just been announced, India has rocketed 42 places to sit at 100, and that it is one of the ten most improved economies, especially in the areas of Resolving Insolvency (136 to 103), Paying Taxes (172 to 119 ), Getting Credit (44 to 29), Enforcing Contracts (172 to 164), Protecting Minority Investors (13 to 4) and Construction Permits (185 to 181).

It ranked higher than China in three of those categories.

Suck it up, Naked Capitalism.


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.

Continue reading “Antifragile India”

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!”

September upsum

A lot’s happened since Bharatiyata! started half a year ago. Let’s have a quick review of what this is all about …

I started this website back in February and now, just over six months later, I’m going to do a quick upsum to see how far we’ve come, where we’ve got to, what topics we’ve covered and where we’re going. It’s a drawing of breath before moving forward again.

First of all, I haven’t done much over the past month – in fact the work has been mostly behind the scenes as I’ve been ‘SEO-optimising’ the site (mind-numbing work) and bringing various things up to date. At the start I decided I wouldn’t take advertising on here because Bharatiyata! was not created to be a money-making vehicle, at least not in the short-term sense of scraping fractions of pennies from click-throughs. I have zero interest in that model of commerce. I’m trying to be generous with this site and am simply attempting to give information and insight to people who might be interested in those topics. Continue reading “September upsum”

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”

Things are finally moving …

Modi entered Delhi facing an entrenched and obstructive government bureaucracy that was bespoke-designed over many decades to serve the bigwigs of Congress

Despite being Modi’s biographer and genuinely liking the man, I am not here to defend him. It is a fact that as we pass the two-year mark of the BJP administration in power, there are justified criticisms to be made. Overall the biggest complaint has to be the apparently slow and timid pace of change and reform – for, incidentally, nothing dramatically disastrous or unforgivable has occurred, despite such being endlessly predicted by Modi’s political and media enemies loyal to the Gandhi dynasty.

When I am asked, as I always am asked, the reason why Modi has not changed everything quickly and delivered India to its wonderful prosperous destiny already, I reply with an offering of a reality sandwich. First of all, Modi entered Delhi facing an entrenched and obstructive government bureaucracy that was bespoke-designed over many decades to serve the bigwigs of the Congress Party and the Gandhi dynasty. Very many careers were owed to and depended upon the established structure; forcing it to change was always going to be a Herculean task. The babus of government service constitute a complete society, unbelieveably  loyal to that Gandhi dynasty, and changing their orientation would be a work of years and would require a master administrator.

Continue reading “Things are finally moving …”

Why India? #2

India is finally waking from its slumber

Soon enough I hope to remove the question-mark from this series of posts even though that might appear optimistic given India’s track-record of (self-imposed) failures. I’m no Aunt Sally: I am not trying to look on the bright side, nor to poke around for morsels of good news among the gristly stuff. I’m not a Trümmerfrau either, picking among the wreckage and piling up the bricks and masonry strewn around the bombsite to start building an impossible future. I am in fact a hopeful skeptic rather than a pessimist.

For pessimism is an aspect of nihilism and nihilism is an aspect of narcissism, which is itself an aspect of solipsism. India has been subjected to quite enough of that.

India has also been the victim of skewed perceptions since Independence, and has mostly believed what it has been told.

For example, it is difficult to grasp the economic potential and promise of India, partly because in geographic terms it is relatively insignificant, covering much less than half the land mass of the USA or China – which are almost identical in size, at 3,805,927 and 3,705,407 square miles respectively – and only one fifth of the territory of Russia, which is 6,592,800 square miles excluding the Crimea.

Continue reading “Why India? #2”

Nassim Taleb: ‘Modi gets it!’

Modi’s making India ‘anti-fragile’

This was Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb – who incidentally is Lebanese Greek Orthodox, not Muslim – being interviewed in Finland last summer. He was discussing the way in which ‘anti-fragile’ entities, those which benefit from untoward events instead of being damaged and diminished by them, are superior to larger, conventional, top-down or traditional ones.

In this interview the thrust of Taleb’s critique of current structures, of government, economics and education, is precisely that they are fragile. Paradoxically ‘fragile’ for Taleb means strong and robust – but only up to a point, beyond which a single blow can destroy them, like a china cup. Taleb was criticising top-down structures for their lack of adaptability and decentralisation/dispersion.

Continue reading “Nassim Taleb: ‘Modi gets it!’”