For the first time in his three-and-a-half year rule, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing sustained discontent over his economic policies as growth slows, job losses mount and distressed farmers protest.
Four senior members of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party have hit out at the government, emboldening the country’s weak opposition and challenging the previously unstoppable leader to find quick fixes before the 2019 national polls and a raft of state votes. And as criticism of the Modi’s economic management intensifies, the usually loud voices of his supporters are falling silent.
India lost its “fastest-growing major economy” tag as growth slipped below 6 percent in the latest quarter. The moderation was partly the result of Modi’s boldest moves — demonetization, as well as the chaotic introduction of the goods and services tax that continues to disrupt supply chains. As talk of a stimulus to boost growth sparked concerns of fiscal slippage, foreign investors went on selling spree and rupee started falling.
“The act of dissenters has the potential of snowballing out of control,” said Sandeep Shastri, a political analyst and pro-vice chancellor at Jain University in Bengaluru. The response of the prime minister and party president Amit Shah “is indicative of the serious attempt at damage control.”
War of Words
The criticism of Modi’s handling of the economy is mounting, with Yashwant Sinha, former finance minister under Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s BJP-led-government, writing a strongly-worded piece saying the economy was in a “mess”. In an interview to Bloomberg Sinha said he was the voice of many in the party who wouldn’t speak out of fear.
BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha backed him. Sinha “has shown the mirror on the economic condition of India”, he tweeted, calling it a “matter of grave national importance.” Arun Shourie, also a…