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2014年5月20日 (火)

(社説)インド総選挙 発展の果実を草の根に

May 19, 2014
EDITORIAL: India’s new leader needs to bring economic growth to the grass roots
(社説)インド総選挙 発展の果実を草の根に

The ruling party will change in India for the first time in 10 years. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist party led by Narendra Modi, won a landslide victory in the recent general election, unseating the Indian National Congress from power.

There was no serious controversy during the casting and counting of ballots, and the Congress party calmly conceded defeat.

There were more than 800 million eligible voters for the election, a fact that shows why India can take pride in being the world’s largest democracy.
Let us first pay tribute to the country’s performance in practicing democracy on such an enormous scale.

As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi has provided powerful leadership for infrastructure development and succeeded in eliminating power outages in the western state. He has also stoked economic growth in the state by attracting foreign investments, including those by Japanese businesses.

His BJP was swept to power by swelling expectations among Indians that Modi may accomplish the development and economic revitalization of India by using the savvy and prowess he demonstrated as the chief of the state.

For the past decade, Indians have been eagerly waiting for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, an economist, to embark on reforms. But his efforts for deregulation have been frustrated partly by resistance from the Congress party’s ruling coalition partners. As a result, the country’s economic growth has slowed. The Congress-led government has also been hit by a series of corruption scandals.

The Congress party tried to improve its chances in the poll by featuring Rahul Gandhi, a great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, as the public face of its election campaign. But the party, which has long controlled India’s government, suffered the worst electoral pasting since its foundation.

The Congress party will face tough challenges in rebuilding itself amid strong public criticism of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty for dominating Indian politics.

With his party now controlling a majority in the parliament to form a government on its own, Modi can exercise strong political leadership for pursuing his policy agenda. The country’s business community is yearning to see the new government take bold reform measures for deregulation and reducing the bureaucracy.

We hope Modi will put the Indian economy on a steady upward trajectory and ensure that the entire nation will enjoy the benefits of economic growth.

India is an IT powerhouse and boasts an advanced space program that can launch satellites. But 60 percent of the people don’t even have access to toilets.

The new government needs to fix the distortions in the country’s economic structure and distribute wealth more evenly.

There are also some reasons for concern about his leadership. Once a senior member of a Hindu nationalist group, Modi was criticized for failing to act to stop violence during massive religious riots in Gujarat in 2002. He was accused of doing nothing while hundreds of Muslims were killed during the riots. Because of his response to the mass killings, Modi was once denied entry into the United States.

More than 100 million Muslims live in India, which has many Islamic countries among its neighbors. The Indian government should make serious efforts to prevent unnecessary conflicts between Hindus and the minority Muslim population. It should also respond in a calm-headed manner to any crises such as terrorist attacks.

Modi has little diplomatic experience and has his work cut out for him in winning the trust of major countries such as the United States and China.

India is a nuclear power as is neighboring Pakistan. The two countries have been locked in a bitter territorial dispute over control of the Kashmir region. Neither country is party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

During his election campaign, Modi indicated his intention to maintain the policy of not launching preemptive nuclear strikes. In its election manifesto, however, the BJP pledged to “revise and update” India’s nuclear doctrine.

Meanwhile, Japan has been in talks with India for a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement concerning Japan's exports of nuclear power plants. The Japanese government should not be lured by India's huge market into rushing to strike a nuclear deal.

Tokyo should try to persuade the Modi government to join the NPT.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 18


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