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Editorial:Narendra Modi's Electoral Setback

【明報專訊】RESULTS OF THE INDIAN GENERAL ELECTION have been confirmed. For the first time in a decade, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has failed to win a majority in the Indian National Congress. It now has to rely on its allies to form a coalition government. This means that while Modi can lead India for the third time as Prime Minister, he will be in a weaker position than before.

In recent years, a wave of enthusiasm about India has swept the Western world against the backdrop of a new geopolitical situation. The "Indo-Pacific Strategy" and the Indian stock market have taken the West by storm. This Indian general election has of course attracted much attention. Over the past ten years when Prime Minister Modi has been in power, he has presided over India's jump from the world's ninth-largest economy to the fifth-largest. Last fiscal year, its GDP grew by 8.2%. As for politics, the BJP led by Modi pursues a Hindu nationalist ideology and has a broad voter base.

In this election, the BJP wooed voters with India's economic development and the enhancement of its international status over the past ten years, as well as the reconstruction of the Hindu Ram Mandir in Uttar Pradesh, as the main achievements of Modi's government. Observers were generally optimistic about the BJP's election prospects, with Modi even crowing that the BJP could win 400 out of the 543 seats of Congress. Unexpectedly, the party won only 240 seats, having suffered severe loss of votes in rural areas.

While India's economic growth has been impressive under Modi's leadership, the country also faces serious problems of high unemployment, high inflation and the disparity between the rich and the poor. India has an unemployment rate of about 8%. For young people between 15 and 29 years of age, the unemployment rate is even as high as 17%. Over the past six months, the food inflation rate has been above 8%, putting people's lives under great strain. The BJP's lacklustre electoral performance has been directly related to this.

Of course, as the right-wing coalition led by the BJP has won 295 seats, thus enjoying a majority in Congress, Modi has been successfully re-elected. However, the electoral results have inevitably come as a setback to Modi's strong position. Observers are concerned about how the results will affect India's direction in the next five years. As Modi has emphasised that he will deepen cooperation with Europe, the US and Japan, at the same time maintaining interactions with China and Russia, his diplomatic policies will not change much.

Right now, what concerns the market most is that a weakened Modi will not be good news for economic reform, as the government might slow down the pace of labour law reform and the requisition of land for industrial development so that it will not worsen unemployment and further infuriate rural voters.

Raghuram Rajan, former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, believes that in the era of the Internet and artificial intelligence (AI), India can blaze a trail in the development of the service industry. It can leverage the Western demand for various services to drive India's development, argues Rajan. However, this model of modernisation, which is not driven by manufacturing, has never been attempted before. Unlike the Chinese model, the path of development taken by India under Modi's rule is one in which plutocrats play a prominent role, which is similar to the model of South Korea.

Some experts on India even believe that India's development in recent years is somewhat similar to that of Russia in the 1990s, which was accompanied by the rapid growth of oligarchs and the worsening discrepancy between the rich and the poor. The results of this election are a backlash against this model. The direction of India's development is not only related to the well-being of 1.4 billion people but will also have a bearing on the changing global situation.

明報社評 2024.06.10:中印發展模式差異大 莫迪受挫突顯前路艱

印度國會大選塵埃落定,總理莫迪領導的印度人民黨10年來首度無法拿下過半數議席,要依賴盟友組織聯合政府,意味莫迪雖可三度出任總理,惟難復昔日強勢。

地緣政治新形勢下,近年西方世界出現了一股「印度熱」,由「印太戰略」到印度股市都受到熱捧,這次印度國會大選,當然也備受關注。總理莫迪在位10年,印度由全球第九大經濟體,躍升至第五大,上年度GDP增長達到8.2%;政治方面,莫迪領導的人民黨,奉行印度教民族主義路線,選民基礎廣大。

今次大選,人民黨將過去10年印度經濟發展和國際地位提升,以及在北方邦重修印度教羅摩神廟,作為莫迪政府主要成就,各方普遍看好人民黨選情,莫迪更豪言,人民黨可望在543席的國會中拿下400席,未料結果只得240席,農鄉選票流失尤其嚴重。

莫迪治下經濟增長亮麗,但高失業、高通脹和貧富懸殊也甚為嚴重。印度失業率約8%,年輕人(15至29歲)失業率更達17%;糧食通脹率半年來一直在8%以上,對民生也構成重大壓力。人民黨選舉失利,與此有直接關係。

當然,人民黨為首的右翼聯盟,拿下過半數295席,莫迪順利連任,惟強勢地位無可避免受挫,外界關注選舉結果如何影響印度未來5年走向。莫迪強調深化與歐美日本合作,同時與中俄等保持交往,外交路線不會大變。

現時市場最關注是莫迪無復強勢,不利經濟改革,不排除當局為免失業惡化、進一步惹怒農鄉選民,放慢勞動法改革和徵收土地發展工業的步伐。

印度央行前行長拉詹(Raghuram Rajan)認為在互聯網AI世代下,印度可另闢蹊徑,以發展服務業為進路,借助西方對各類服務的需求,拉動印度發展,但這種不靠製造業推動的現代化模式,實屬史無前例。有別於中國模式,莫迪治下印度所走的發展道路,財閥集團角色突出,與韓國模式有相似之處。

有印度問題專家甚至認為,近年印度發展情况,有點似1990年代的俄羅斯,寡頭財閥迅速壯大,貧富懸殊也在加劇,今次大選結果是對這種模式的反彈,印度發展何去何從,事關當地14億人福祉,亦將影響世界變局。

/ Glossary生字 /

crow:to talk too proudly about something you have achieved, especially when somebody else has been unsuccessful

blaze a trail:to be the first to do or to discover something that others follow

plutocrat:a person who is powerful because of their wealth

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