The most serious position to adopt in politics is the Centre. Fareed Zakaria made this point on CNN recently. He held up the highly successful presidency of Bill Clinton as an illustration.This, of course, was in the context of the run-up towards the US presidential election in 2016.
But how does Zakaria’s notion fare in relationship to the ‘fastest growing major economy’ in the world, also its most populous democracy; and the oldest democracy, which is also the most powerful and rich country in the world?
The Clinton presidency was indeed economically brilliant. Clinton created over 21 million new jobs, raised the GDP significantly, took a budgetary deficit of 4.7 per cent in 1992 and turned it into 2.6 per cent surplus by 1997. He was lucky too, with record low oil prices; 1999 prices were a mere $10 a barrel, and ‘gasoline’ sold at 95 cents a gallon.
Clinton appointed and supported Republican Alan Greenspan to manage interest rates with great success as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank. Greenspan first came to be Fed Chairman in 1987, under reformist, anti-big Government/high taxation President Ronald Reagan. And he left after five consecutive terms, during which the American economy boomed for two decades straight. Greenspan served without interruption under Presidents Reagan, George HW Bush, Clinton, and finally George W Bush; three out of four of them, Republicans – handing over to Ben Bernanke in January 2006.
Things have not been so good for the US economy since. And in hindsight, many of Greenspan’s monetarist and ‘easy money’ nostrums are being held responsible for the borrow-and-spend excesses.
In India, successive pre-election opinion polls suggest a victory in the Bihar Legislative Assembly election for the NDA alliance. One just has to wonder why the promise of vikas counts for more than everything else.
Particularly, given the recent beef controversy and murders, attacks on Dalits, the Sahitya Akademi awardees returning their citations, LK Advani acolyte Sudheendra Kulkarni being inked, the growing intolerance, farmer distress and suicides, all alongside trenchant criticism of the Prime Minister for neither speaking up against, nor reigning in, the Sangh parivar/NDA ‘fringe elements’. And this, coming after the monsoon session of Parliament was washed out with another set of controversies.
The use of a different yardstick to judge the Modi Government has become routine. Though, it does seem strange how controversy after controversy seems to be raked up, almost as if they are being manufactured.
Recently, Chief Justice of India HL Dattu observed that he found it peculiar that there have been no further Vyapam scam-related deaths reported since the CBI took over the probe monitored by the Supreme Court.
However, if this latest Bihar poll result comes to pass; at a minimum, the formulas and assumptions on the State’s electorate will have failed. The NDA is apparently set to win over 160 of the 243 seats in the Bihar Assembly.
And, if that happens, the ‘grand alliance’ will be routed. The rising challenge to the Modi administration over the past months, after the NDA’s defeat in the Delhi election, will quickly disintegrate.
Modi’s personal popularity ratings, which are impressive, and not only in Bihar, according to a Mint/Instavaani poll in August, and yet another Pew poll in September 2015, will soar, and even greater authority will come to his elbow. But can a win in the Bihar Assembly election be understood as an over-arching voter approval for the centrist, developmental approach of the Prime Minister? This, in spite of the accusations that his party and Government are promoting a majoritarian agenda?
The Opposition accuses the Modi administration of communal polarisation and saffronisation, both of institutions and national narratives. But voters, if the opinion polls are accurate, do not seem to care much.
In America, meanwhile, flamboyant businessman-cum-presidential aspirant Donald Trump leads the GOP’s list of contenders. This suggests that the silent majority is reacting to the liberal policies of the Obama Administration.
Trump’s appeal, his continued lead in opinion polls, might just be suggesting this. The public may be endorsing his can-do brand of Reaganesque politics. He wants to make America great again, militarily and economically, and the public is responding favourably. Trump’s politics may well be to the far right of the GOP, but is the American public too, by backing him, wanting to return towards the Centre?
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