Gandhi Returns

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This time it's Sonia, wife of the assassinated Rajiv, who has just registered a stunning victory in India's national elections.

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  1. hooray! when i saw the news, i danced and capered all over my apartment with a huge grin… take that, bjp!

  2. Peachy,
    Just curious. What is your beef with the BJP? All I really know about them is that they are supposedly responsible for cutting the “license raj” down to size, and that seems like a good thing for most Indians.

  3. This is good news? Free market reforms had begun to lift India from its third-world status. Apparently they don’t want to loose the ‘world’s poorest democracy’ title.

  4. It’s important to remember that the big glaring flaw of the BJP is that they are a Hindu nationalist party, which is not really a good thing in the largest muslim country in the world…..

    That said, the Congress party it probably a step backwards. You can’t blame the peasants who voted Congress though — the BJP had been patting itself on the back for something that had left them poor.

    The accounts I’ve read seem to think the Congress Party will have trouble holding a coalition together, and their government won’t last long. Still, it’s nice to see a Prime Minister in India step down without being assassinated as was once the habit.

  5. Here’s the ironic citation fo the day:

    “Under pressure from the communists — who oppose selling profitable state businesses…”

    Now may this is massive misunderstanding of Marxist theory, but I thought that commies didn’t like profits at all? Aren’t they taking more from the proles than we give back?

  6. Eric,

    “The results of this election give me a newfound sympathy for the Chinese government.”

    Especially for the events in 1989, eh? Your apologia for tyranny is amusing.

  7. BJP is good because of its economic policies and bad because it helps incite religious violence. Vaipje (who is a good PM and I know I misspelled his name) couldn’t hold back the negative news that the religious extremists in the party made for them. Not to mention that the BJP focuses on the urban areas to the more populous rural areas. This gives them an electoral disadvantage as well.

  8. Warren

    If I’m not mistaken the liberalization of the economy began under Rajiv. Almost everyone (even the commies) realizes that Grandpa was an idiot.

  9. When I was in India in March, everyone I met (as well as many expat Indians in the US) was glowing with praise and pride for the new highway system, the “Golden Quadrilateral” – a major plank of the BJP infrastructure platform; most took the “India Shining” campaign with a post-modern grain of ironic salt. One person whom I spoke with for a while about the pending elections agreed that the higway was awesome, but the BJP was a bunch of reactionary Hindu rubes with the exception of Vajpayee who was or had to distance himself from.

    I’m serious about the pride in that highway though — sure, I like the G-Love and Special Sauce “I-76” song like any Philadelphian, but I’ve never seen anything quite like the widespread admiration for India’s new road, ever.

  10. “Especially for the events in 1989, eh? Your apologia for tyranny is amusing.”

    I never suggested that I admired the Chinese government, let along excused Tiananmen Square. My point was that upon following how India’s voters have repeatedly screwed themselves over, the Chinese government’s unwillingness to establish democracy at this point in the country’s development doesn’t seem to be such an awful thing. The means that the Chinese government has often used to hold onto power are a seperate story.

    I should add here that I’ve been to India several times, most recently four months ago. It becomes much harder to talk about the glories of Indian democracy relative to Chinese authoritarianism after you see what some of the real-life effects are on several hundred million people.

  11. Eric,

    “I never suggested that I admired the Chinese government, let along excused Tiananmen Square.”

    You most certainly did.

    “My point was that upon following how India’s voters have repeatedly screwed themselves over…”

    Well, whether they have done so is not clear; your pessimism is not merited; indeed, it smacks of the same racist pessimism India has always had to face.

    “…the Chinese government’s unwillingness to establish democracy at this point in the country’s development doesn’t seem to be such an awful thing. The means that the Chinese government has often used to hold onto power are a seperate story.”

    Many apologies, but you can’t de-compartmentalize the two. If you accept the former, then you must accept what it takes to keep the former in place.

    “I should add here that I’ve been to India several times, most recently four months ago.”

    I’ve been to both countries on numerous occassions. As recently as 2003 for both.

    “It becomes much harder to talk about the glories of Indian democracy relative to Chinese authoritarianism after you see what some of the real-life effects are on several hundred million people.”

    And there aren’t hundreds of millions of people living in abject poverty in China? Go to the interior of China sometime, outside the port cities. Your attempt to paint China as some sort of paradise in comparison to India because the Chinese are a communist dictatorship is untruthful.

  12. Isaac, Mo’s and Keith’s commentary are all correct.

  13. Indeed, Gary, they are. But I was responding to Warren. Keith posted after me in fact.

    I’m quite prepared to be corrected, but on the right grounds.

    By the way I too have been impressed by Vajpayee’s ability to rein in the Hindu nationalists (especially since he’s the head of a Hindu Nationalist party). The moves towards Pakistan have been heartening too (as has been the response).

  14. “Well, whether they have done so is not clear; your pessimism is not merited; indeed, it smacks of the same racist pessimism India has always had to face.”

    That’s pretty funny, considering that both of my parents are Indian immigrants. If I was as presumptious as you are, I’d say that your statement smacks of the same post-colonial European mentality that pores over any cultural criticism of a non-Western country for signs of racism.

    Regardless, I said nothing along the lines that Indians in particular are incapable of handling democracy; I’d make the same argument for any other country at a state of socioeconomic development and literacy similar to India’s.

    “Many apologies, but you can’t de-compartmentalize the two. If you accept the former, then you must accept what it takes to keep the former in place.”

    That’s up for debate, as it’s never been tried on a large scale for an undeveloped nation. Hong Kong is one micro-level example that has worked out; and as an aside, the Chinese government deserves all the denunciations that it can get for not allowing democracy at this point. Perhaps Jordan or one of the other Arab states will serve as a future case study.

    But assuming that the two atributes can’t be seperated for a sizable, developing country until it’s reached middle-income status, which country do you think scored a better deal from its governments over the past 55 years: India, or Taiwan?

    “And there aren’t hundreds of millions of people living in abject poverty in China? Go to the interior of China sometime, outside the port cities.”

    I’m quite aware of all of that. But as I mentioned in a different thread, China is now well ahead in just about every important metric related to economic development, and quite a few social ones as well. The statistics are widely available. And all this in spite of the fact that the country was ravaged for three decades by Maoism, and was well behind India in many fields as of 1978.

  15. Also, I should add that the national-level BJP wasn’t the only pro-development, pro-reform party to be thrown out of office in the current elections. In the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, reform-minded chief ministers who had moved aggressively to liberalize the economies and modernize the infrastructures of their respective states, as well as establish each state as a major IT/BPO hub, were also thrown out.

    Neither chief minister belonged to the BJP – one belonged to an allied party, and the other belonged to the Congress. It’s clear that the voter backlash wasn’t against the BJP in particular, but against economic reformers in general, whom rural voters were duped by populist hacks into viewing as people not representing their interests.

  16. Eric,

    “If I was as presumptious as you are, I’d say that your statement smacks of the same post-colonial European mentality that pores over any cultural criticism of a non-Western country for signs of racism.”

    This isn’t simply “any criticism” on your part. This is you making favorable remarks about a communist tyranny. Furthermore, this is you criticizing India for merely being a democracy.

    “Regardless, I said nothing along the lines that Indians in particular are incapable of handling democracy; I’d make the same argument for any other country at a state of socioeconomic development and literacy similar to India’s.”

    Well, despite your statements, India appears to be doing fairly well, and as well as China for that matter (economically – culturally and politically of course, they are many miles ahead). Which is surprising given your remarks on the glories of communist tyranny.

    “That’s up for debate, as it’s never been tried on a large scale for an undeveloped nation. Hong Kong is one micro-level example that has worked out; and as an aside, the Chinese government deserves all the denunciations that it can get for not allowing democracy at this point. Perhaps Jordan or one of the other Arab states will serve as a future case study.”

    Apologias; apologias; apologias. If you accept that a communist tyranny is the way, then you must accept its methods.

    “But assuming that the two atributes can’t be seperated for a sizable, developing country until it’s reached middle-income status, which country do you think scored a better deal from its governments over the past 55 years: India, or Taiwan?”

    India had far more to overcome than Taiwan (partly simply because its population is much larger than Taiwan’s; its geography is far more expansive, etc.); the comparison is inappropriate.

    “I’m quite aware of all of that. But as I mentioned in a different thread, China is now well ahead in just about every important metric related to economic development, and quite a few social ones as well.”

    That’s also not true.

    First of all China’s compliance with the UN Statistical System is partial whereas India’s is total. For example, China includes potatoes in food grains while India does not and were India to list as China does, India’s production of “grains” would be 25% higher.

    Furthermore, if you adjust for uniform reporting China’s GDP growth for two previous decades is 7.4% and not 10%. India’s is lower at 6% but in the last decade China’s growth is decelerating and about the same as an accelerating India’s 6%.

    There is also the question of how ineffeciently China uses direct investment that China attracts (in the long run, this will be a millstone around China’s neck). For China to catch up with India on efficiency, it needs to face the issue of dead debts with its financial institutions: it is an incredible 45% v. India’s 12%.

    There are alot more myths associated with the Chinese economy; what you are is an apologist for totalitarianism.

  17. FWIW Eric, likely no one here but Jean Bart thinks your expression of “newfound sympathy for the Chinese government” is tantamount to admiration of same or excusing the Tiananmen Square massacre. I wouldn’t bother engaging Jean Bart when he gets that way. Just a waste of blogspace.

  18. Free market reforms had begun to lift India from its third-world status.

    Not if you lived outside the urban centers where the technocrats held sway. And call-centers don’t really trickle down too much.

  19. “sidelining its traditional Hindu chauvanist agenda”

    Huh? Those people are freaking terrifying – from squashing conversions so that they can still have dahlits clean their toilets, to their bullshit “archeaology” projects aimed at proving their eternal Aryan heritags, the BJP are as dangerously fascist as any party on earth, and have acted the part since they took Parliament. Good riddance.

  20. Bush, Adams, Harrison, Gandhi…
    What’s the difference?

    Ain’t democracy the bees’ knees?

    Socrates saw this coming.

  21. Eric,

    “At this point, China’s system is authoritarian rather than totalitarian. I’m sure you’re aware of the difference.”

    Actually, totalitarian, as it is defined by dominance of the state in politics (one party rule); by the use of the Chinese state to surveil and propagandize its population; by the lack of distance between the state and the party.

    “India has only been doing well for the past 12 years, and that’s largely been the result of policies whose current proponents rural voters kicked out of office, more or less for supporting them.”

    They’ve only been in office for eight years.

    “The first reforms, carried out in ’91, were only done because of a massive financial crisis, and even then the government at the time had to do it over the vociferous objections of the Parliament.”

    That’s known as a genetic fallacy. Whether it was carried out at the behest of a financial crisis or not is of no matter.

    “Taiwan is just one example. South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand are a few others that I can think of right now.”

    They are unfair and irrational comparisons.

    “Obviously, you can nitpick at each of these and find differences…”

    The whole basis of comparing two things is to determine differences and similarities idiot. If two things are not really comparable, then a comparison is not only unfair, but not particularly useful.

    “…but I’d be willing to bet anything that most, if not all of these countries would be a lot poorer today if they emerged from the colonial era as democracies.”

    Ahh yes, the totalitarian school of economic development. Numerous countries (indeed, most)have never been democracies post-colonial, and they remain in tatters economically. If the “strong man” or the fascist dicator or the totalitarian party were what was really needed, then all of those states would be incredibly prosperous, but they are not. Indeed, India by its very success – which you try unsuccessfully to tear down – is a model which is contra yours.

    “China’s per capita GDP was about 20% lower than India’s at the time that Mao died. Today it’s about 90% higher, and the difference is about 120% if you don’t adjust for purchasing power.”

    All of which are based on China’s notably conflated and in many cases errant figures; most economists seriously doubt most economic data coming from China.

    “Furthermore, its growth has been steadily above 8% for the past two years, and the government is widely believed to have lowballed the numbers to keep down fears of overheating, fears that admittedly may have merit.”

    Its highballed them actually.

    “Most of the bad debts are tied to loans made out to state-owned enterprises; the government will be able to eradicate much of this problem by selling off these business and funneling the proceeds into the banks.”

    That is if it can actually sell them; furthermore, your statement is in error; most of the bad debt is from privately-owned enterprises.

    “I’m simply pointing out that the story isn’t black and white…”

    Now you are simply changing your argument.

    “…considering the rule that populist economic policies can play in condemning tens of millions (or in India’s case, hundreds of millions) to gut-wrenching poverty in developing nations…”

    Even if I were to accept this as true, this argument doesn’t consider the tens of millions (hundred million?) killed under the totalitarian policies of the Chinese government.

    “…poverty that coincidentally make it possible for authoritarian and totalitarian demagogues to hold an audience.”

    The BJP lost the election.

  22. Eric,

    “Regardless, given how the institutions have been set up, ending democracy in India now, assuming it could even be done, would do far more harm than good, and could even result in the country becoming Balkanized. But that might have not been the case in 1947.”

    Because as we all know, the lack of democracy in post-colonial states around the world has been so rewarding. You say the issues aren’t black and white, yet you treat the issue as black and white.

  23. Sounds like joe has decided to turn the hyperbole up to 11. Newsflash for joe : Politics in India are a tad more complicated than the version peddled by Arundhati Roy to worshipful Nation readers. And don’t bother listing the atrocities – i already know.

    Check this out. It’s the website of India’s premier, far left news mag Frontline. A one-stop shop for 100 %, unadulterated anti-americanism. Happy Birthday.
    http://www.flonnet.com/fl2007/fl200700.htm

    Eric,
    “And I suspect that they’ll be quite vocal during the next couple of weeks”

    You must be completely out of touch if you believe that these clowns stand a snowballs chance of getting a respectful hearing.

  24. “That’s known as a genetic fallacy. Whether it was carried out at the behest of a financial crisis or not is of no matter.”

    And the fact that the elected Parliament vociferously objected to the reforms, and that the government could only go through with them under the cover of a declared emergency?

    “Ahh yes, the totalitarian school of economic development. Numerous countries (indeed, most)have never been democracies post-colonial, and they remain in tatters economically.”

    And you accuse me of faulty logic. Ever heard of the difference between causation and corelation? To spell it out for you: those third-world dictatorships that embraced market reforms, allowed for the development of a middle class, and gradually introduced democracy have generally done well. Those that took different paths have generally fared much worse.

    “All of which are based on China’s notably conflated and in many cases errant figures; most economists seriously doubt most economic data coming from China.”

    India’s numbers aren’t clean either; take a look at how the recent quarter of 10% GDP growth was manufactured. But ignoring that, you’d need to have blinders on not to realize that China’s per capita income and standard of living has moved well ahead of India’s. Don’t let that stop you from obfuscating the issue, however.

    “Even if I were to accept this as true, this argument doesn’t consider the tens of millions (hundred million?) killed under the totalitarian policies of the Chinese government.”

    If you’d noticed, I was dealing with China’s development in the post-Mao era. Regardless, since you insist on building an army of strawmen, I never excused Tiananmen Square, let alone Mao’s carnage.

    “The BJP lost the election.”

    And the election was the first in the BJP’s history where they effectively sidelined the religious issues on which they first made their name, so much so that many of their old militant allies publicly denounced them for it. With the possible partial exception of Gujarat, you’re kidding yourself if you think those who abandoned the BJP were doing so to repudiate religious extremism. They lost because uneducated lower-class voters no longer so the BJP as the party of Hindutva, but as the party of the middle and upper classes.

    And I consider the BJP’s likely reversion to Hindu chauvanism on account of this election’s results as sad a story as the economic damage that’s going to be brought about by the Congress and its Marxist allies.

    The last word’s yours, if you want it.

  25. Eric,

    “And the fact that the elected Parliament vociferously objected to the reforms, and that the government could only go through with them under the cover of a declared emergency?”

    Its still a genetic fallacy.

    “To spell it out for you: those third-world dictatorships that embraced market reforms, allowed for the development of a middle class, and gradually introduced democracy have generally done well. Those that took different paths have generally fared much worse.”

    To be frank, that was not your earlier argument; your earlier argument was that totalitarianism was the sole and exclusive ingredient. To be blunt though, historically your argument is at best mixed. Let’s take the vaunted example of Spain: here economic growth only occurred after (a) massive economic aid from the U.S. and (b) a loosening of controls on the economic, political and social sectors. In the 1960s Spain’s economy was picking up, however, when there was unrest and a desire for more liberty, Franco cracked-down and this sent the Spanish economy into the celler again. It would only return to the 1960s levels until AFTER Franco’s death and political and economic liberalization started anew. If you actually look at the examples given by the totalitarian school of economic development, you will find that most of their arguments concerning those examples are based on myths and half-truths, and that political freedom was as much a part of economic development, as economic freedom was.

    “India’s numbers aren’t clean either; take a look at how the recent quarter of 10% GDP growth was manufactured. But ignoring that, you’d need to have blinders on not to realize that China’s per capita income and standard of living has moved well ahead of India’s. Don’t let that stop you from obfuscating the issue, however.”

    The only one obfuscating here is you. Its per capita income hides the fact that more Chinese live in desperate poverty in gross than is the case of India. Indeed, you try to portray China as if the whole country where Shanghai.

    “If you’d noticed, I was dealing with China’s development in the post-Mao era.”

    So? The totalitarian state which controls China did not spring up de novo in 1976. If you are going to argue that totalitarianism is better for economic growth, then you have accept all the fruits that are borne from that totalitarianism.

  26. KentInDC,

    The BJP has actually become popular enough among Syrian Catholics in Kerala for priests (!) to join the party. Check out the links. In fact the only BJP candidate (a BJP led NDA ally), to win in Kerala (P.C Thomas) did so in a christian majority (more or less) district. Go figure.

    http://www.thatsmalayalam.com/2004/03/26/ker-christian-bjp.html
    http://www.rediff.com/news/2004/feb/19gi.htm

  27. (‘Nother Indian-American posting.) I was always worried that the BJP was a ticking nationalist time bomb just waiting to embarass and horrify me some day. Yeah, glad about market reforms. But still wanting the hinduvta stuff to get gone ASAP.

    If it makes you feel better, the Communists are really just another administrator class that have power in only one state (West Bengal), and the Congress has never struck me as very left or center so much as well, just “there”, growing fat and sucking up lots of public funds.

    Well, it’s a new world out there, such that maybe Congress won’t muck up the reforms too badly.

  28. Addendum: so, as much as anything else, I’m happy for the Congress party in a “lesser of two evils” way.

  29. It would be very easy and narrow-minded to say that BJP lost the elections because the reforms it carried didn’t improve lives of the poor. This theory doesn’t explain a lot: the voting patterns in a ‘rich’ state like Delhi nor what happened in Karnataka, where the BJP & the allies had major victories.

    One should realise that BJP, unlike the Congress, is not a true political party. It has been for a long time a front for other organisations. But since it came to power, it has tried to change itself. It lacks grass-root support without the help of RSS and the VHP. [maybe the last statement by me might be statistically wrong, but i am just making a point]

    Having said that, the BJP did carry on the economic reforms and gave them a new life. They did bungle up once in a while, but they did much better than expected.

    The only thing that worries me about Congress is that they are going to come to power in alliance with the Communists, which I find a little dangerous for the reforms. The communists, though, do realise that they can’t be against the reforms, in this day and age. But they sure can slow them down.

    On the brighter side, Congress does have Manmohan Singh, the original architect of liberalisation in India and he is sure to get a good position in the cabinet.

  30. Jean,

    you have mention that you have been to China several times but from your comment and debate with Eric, I don’t think you have been into the interior. I wonder which part of China interior you have visited. China today is not what you have mention with millions of poor folks. Furthermore, you just don’t understand the culture of the Chinese people before you can use the word “Democratic”.

  31. 90% of the land in India lacks a legal title. If the BJP wants its economic reforms to help out the poor as well as the software companies, it needs to hook up with Hernando de Soto.

  32. Wow, wow …!

    Jean, I hope you didn’t just plug the figures from the sky. Please name the references where you have obtained the figures regarding China economy. I wonder if there are two Chinas in this Globe we live in.

    You wrote :

    “That’s also not true.

    First of all China’s compliance with the UN Statistical System is partial whereas India’s is total. For example, China includes potatoes in food grains while India does not and were India to list as China does, India’s production of “grains” would be 25% higher.

    Furthermore, if you adjust for uniform reporting China’s GDP growth for two previous decades is 7.4% and not 10%. India’s is lower at 6% but in the last decade China’s growth is decelerating and about the same as an accelerating India’s 6%.

    There is also the question of how ineffeciently China uses direct investment that China attracts (in the long run, this will be a millstone around China’s neck). For China to catch up with India on efficiency, it needs to face the issue of dead debts with its financial institutions: it is an incredible 45% v. India’s 12%.

    There are alot more myths associated with the Chinese economy;……”

    No wonder the European are saying the Americans are sleeping while they are making gains.

  33. Thanks, Peachy,
    I really don’t know much about the BJP. My girlfriend is a Christian from Kerala. She said her family supports the Congress party, but she left India over twenty years ago and hasn’t kept up with things enough to know why. I DO know that she could not believe the improvements in India in the past two years. Maybe the BJP was just in the right place at the right time and, like Al Gore, still managed to blow it.

  34. Thanks, SM,
    The second link is pretty interesting. Even my girlfriend can’t read the first link – she speaks, but doesn’t read, Malayalam.

  35. Don’t like the Nation, SM? Fine, take a look at the latest issue of those anti-war apologists for Muslim outrages at The New Republic.

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