Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, May 22, 2014



Here is a story you might have missed:  Last week, the biggest election in the history of mankind took place.  OK...every national election in India sets this record...but this one is of particular interest.  See, the result was the largest landslide since 1984.  The winning BJP Party now has 332 of the 543 seats in Parliament. But..forget the numbers...the real story here is Narendra Modi. This charismatic new Prime Minister has taken the subcontinent by storm.  Let's cover five important topics:

Humble Childhood.  Born in 1950, Modi is the first Prime Minister not born during the British Empire. Although three years independent, India was still dreadfully poor, especially in rural Gujarat.  The son of a tea peddler, Nerndra went to work before he went to school.  At age 18, he married a fellow villager, as arranged by their parents five year prior.  (It didn't work out and they divorced.)

Modinomics.  Asia's third largest economy needs a boost.  The solution?  MODI-NOMICS.  It's a combination of market reforms, increased foreign investment and road and rail projects.  Sounds pretty slick, doesn't it?  It is.  The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) modeled the program after American concepts.  In fact, the BJP is credited with launching India's first modern political campaign.  Modi flew 300,000 kilometers to attend 457 rallies.  In short, the media-savvy Modi ran circles around his opponent.

Gandhi is Gone.  The losing candidate we speak of is none other than RAHUL GANDHI.  The great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi (the founding father of India) barely managed to win his home seat of Amethi. Why such a poor showing?  Well, the irony of this election is the shift in political parties in India. Rahul enjoyed a posh, wealthy upbringing, despite his hardworking last name.  The truth is the Congress Party of India has lost touch with the poor people they used to represent.

Hindu Nationalism. Since the landslide victory, the Indian Stock Exchange has jumped a resounding six percent.  The Rupee broke the elusive 59 mark to the dollar for the first time in eleven years.  However, forgotten in all this pandemonium are Modi's links to the Rashtriya Swayamsvak Sangh (RSS).  This pro-Hindu paramilitary group is at odds with India's 120 million Muslims.  In 2002, religious riots killed 1,000 people in Gujarat.  As governor of the state, Modi did little to stop the bloodshed.  In response, the US refused to grant him a travel visa.  NOTE: Obama has since lifted the ban.

His Adorable Mother. Throughout the lengthy campaign, Modi often mentioned his impoverished upbringing.  While his father has since passed, his 95-year-old mother is very much alive.  She was the subject of many an interview and photo op.  Today, Indians have come to love the matriarch.  On Election Day, sweet Hiraben Modi rode a rickety old rickshaw to her polling place.  "The country will grow," she proclaimed.  "My blessings are here!"

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