Bloomberg News in an opinion piece says: ‘Modi’s Reform Momentum Has Finally Hit a Wall in India’

In a democratic set up, any decision is taken on the basis of large public interests. Only in an authoritarian system, decisions are taken on the whims and fancies of rulers. Since India is the largest democracy of the world, and the current political establishment is very sensitive to public happiness and unhappiness, it decided to withdraw farm laws as they were not welcomed by a section of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh.

But instead of seeing it as the Narendra Modi-headed central government’s flexibility, the Bloomberg News took it as the ruling party’s retreat from its reform agenda. It viewed it as surrender to the dictates of electoral politics. “Modi backed them (farm laws) to the hilt against relentless protests by farmers. But since the overall package gave the impression that the state was going to retreat from grain procurement, leaving farmers at the mercy of large business groups, it became too hot a potato to hold through next year’s state elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab,” Bloomberg News said in its opinion piece on November 26.

Before arriving at any conclusion on the repeal of the three farm laws, it must be understood that in democracy, politics is not a subset of prejudice and bigotry, rather a tool to guide people to their glorious path. And this apart, what must not be overlooked is the timing of the withdrawal of the three farm laws enacted last year.

In an opinion piece, “Farm laws: The political rationale of the repeal’ published by the Hindustan Times on November 22, Rahul Verma wrote: “The key to any political judgment is timing. The political actor must make a move at the right time to deny any advantage to opponents from the emerging situation. How the PM and his party communicate the decision to repeal the laws will determine their political and electoral success.”

Writing in the same English daily on November 22, Shashi Shekhar, Editor-in-Chief of Hindustan, said: “The (farmers’) agitation was a shot in the arm for the Opposition, something that it used to attack the image of the PM and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Now, this weapon seems to have been neutralized to an extent. The PM chose the occasion of Dev-Deepawali and Prakash Parv to announce what is a political message. The BJP and its allies now have enough time to make up for any loss caused by this agitation.”

Yet the Bloomberg News described the repeal of the farm laws as “a U-turn on the three laws that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to use to shake up the stagnant farm economy.” In fact, the New York based news outlet played with semantics of the Modi government’s announcement of withdrawal of the farm laws, while ignoring that the government decided to shelve the farm laws as the government couldn't convince farmers on benefits of these laws.

The Bloomberg News expressed its fear that the Modi government “may delay implementing the four codes that have been billed as the biggest labour reforms in independent India.” The US business daily may be right in its assessment that the much expected labour reforms could be delayed for some time in India. But it will not impact the overall growth story of the country.

And this assertion is made by industrialists, businessmen, entrepreneurs and also the rating agencies. “India is a fast growing economy with a diverse society. Since 1991, this year (2021) has been a watershed year with reforms like labour codes and fixation of legacy issues in telecom,” Chairman of the Aditya Birla Group, Kumar Mangalam Birla was quoted by PTI as speaking at the virtual annual session of ICC on November 26. He also said that the ‘Gatishakti’ plan of coordinating ministers will be of great help to the economy.

Still, the Bloomberg News said that “the closer India gets to the 2024 general elections, the more the government will want to step out of the shadow of big business, and the more his opponents will try to keep it there. In the process, significant chunks of Modi’s economic agenda could get delayed or scrapped. The reversal of farm laws and a possible stalling of the new labor codes could be the beginning of two years of inertia.”

The US business daily has, however, failed to see what IMF has said about India. According to it, the Indian Economy will grow at 9.5 percent in 2021 and 8.5 percent in 2022. Obviously, without effective fiscal management, policy reforms and the resolve to quickly vaccinate a vast majority of the country’s population, it will not be easy to have such a positive assessment from the IMF. In its November 4, edition, the Bloomberg News itself maintained that India “though trailing its rival to the north for decades, India is positioned to radically expand its economic footprint.”