CAMPBELL, Calif. — Economic growth in India is thriving, despite the bungling of the Modi administration, stated Indian Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor in a May 8 interview here with India-West.
“We are looking at economic ineptitude of such colossal proportions that it's affected the daily lives and, more important, the future prospects of the vast majority of Indians. The promised ‘acche din’ — good day — has never come,” said the Congress party member, who had just finished campaigning to capture his third term in the Lok Sabha from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
Tharoor lambasted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetization initiative, an abrupt move in 2016 which invalidated all Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes over a weekend. He also criticized the new Goods and Services Tax. “The GST was conceived by the Congress party as a simple one rate all-inclusive tax, which would cover all goods and services.”
“They took this sleek horse of the Congress GST and converted it into an ungainly camel with lots of humps,” said Tharoor, claiming that the new initiative offers a myriad of sops to prominent BJP supporters.
He also noted high unemployment rates, a dramatic increase in farmer suicides, and stagnation of exports in several sectors.
But, added Tharoor: “Economic growth in India is actually one of the great success stories of the world economy, despite the ineptitude of the Modi government.”
“Indian companies are able to hold their own with American companies around the world. And that's for us a matter of some pride. The Chinese did it by artificially banning American companies from their markets. Google, Amazon, Facebook, and WhatsApp were all kept out of China and that's how Baidu and Alibaba and Tencent grew in China, but from our point of view, we don't believe in doing that.”
“We're a democracy. We believe that we can actually benefit from these American firms while at the same time, encouraging the growth of our own,” he said.
Tharoor characterized Tamil Nadu as “the Detroit of India,” noting the large number of multinational automotive companies doing business there. He also noted Nissan’s move in December of opening its digital global hub in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, the district from which he is campaigning, and that his home state overall is increasingly focusing on information technology.
A day before the interview with India-West, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — addressing a gathering of business leaders in New Delhi — urged India to open its markets further, stating that foreign companies were at a disadvantage due to India’s tariff and non-tariff barriers and myriad regulations. Ross said India was already the world’s third largest economy and by 2030 it would become the world’s largest consumer market because of the rapid growth of its middle class. “Yet today, India is only the U.S.’13th largest export market due to overly restrictive market access barriers.”
"Meanwhile, the United States is India’s largest export market, accounting for something like 20 percent of the total. That’s a real imbalance, and it’s an imbalance we must drive to counter,” he said.
But Tharoor told India-West: “Barriers are easily overcome, if you acquire an Indian partner who's familiar with the lay of the land and knows their way around the regulatory maze. I'm not sure that the regulations are should be maintained, but that's a different issue,” he said, adding that India needs to take an ax to its myriad of regulations.
Decrying the popular notion that the BJP had won the national election even before polling started, Tharoor stated that he was very confident that the Congress party could form a coalition with regional parties to lead India again.
“The large number of opposition parties that are not allied with us at the pre-poll stage will definitely not want to ally with the BJP in a post poll stage, and if they’re going to ally with anybody, it will be with us.”
Tharoor mentioned “obvious examples,” such as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who leads the Trinamool Congress; former Uttar Pradesh Chief Ministers Mayawati and Akilesh Yadav, who head the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party, respectively; as well as regional parties.
“For all these reasons one can't imagine that the Congress would find it difficult to form United Progressive Alliance 3 because there would be far more willing partners than the BJP would find to get the National Democratic Alliance,” he asserted. (read earlier story here: https://bit.ly/30j1EkM)
Rahul Gandhi, president of the Indian National Congress, has found his footing on the campaign trail, said Tharoor. “He had been so completely lampooned and caricatured by the BJP, especially on social media over the last few years, that it's only now on the national campaign trail that he is able to establish a convincing profile for himself.”
“He is now much more so than even a year ago seen as a credible national leader and a more than viable alternative to the present megalomaniac ruler Mr. Modi,” he stated.
Tharoor characterized the national election as a battle to recapture the soul of India. “It’s not just an ordinary election. It’s going right back to the freedom struggle for India,” he said. “Our freedom struggle is for everybody irrespective of language or religion or caste or creed or region. And therefore the country we win freedom for will be a country for everyone as well. That was the idea of India.”
Tharoor spoke May 9 evening at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif., and engaged in a fireside chat May 10 evening at TiECon in Santa Clara, Calif.
The entire interview can be viewed here: