India in Transition

LSE, gave a talk based on his new book “Transforming India”, Harvard University Press. It is the story of a country in transition going to the polls in early 2014. From 1947 onwards, the landscape of Indian politics, according to Prof. Bose can be divided into 3 phases; Phase 1 when a single Party, the Congress ruled both at the Centre and at the State level till about 25 years ago. Congress at the time had around 415 seats, regional Parties were small but growing, particularly in the southern States. Phase 2 from November 1989 which he calls the watershed moment was marked by the permanent eclipse of the hegemony of Congress. And finally post 1999 is post Congress and the era of regionalisation of politics where for the 6 most populous States contributing 291 seats to the Lok Sabha, the two biggest national Parties – the Congress and the BJP are nothing but bit players. He forecasts just under a 100 seats for the Congress and a tentative 130-140 seats for the BJP.

Can Narendra Modi change the fortunes of BJP – a Party in decline for the last 15 years? Prof. Bose admires Modi who he describes as a humble and a self-made man. However, in his view, a regional satrap taking a leap to becoming national leader is likely to prove to be too much of a challenge. Urban middle and affluent classes see Modi as a strong competitor to an ineffective incumbent government. It is an anti-incumbency sentiment and not necessarily a pro-Modi sentiment. He believes that NM is unlikely to become the Prime Minister; Indian politics is beyond a single national leader in charge, it is highly fragmented.

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