India's next government will have a growth problem

  • 17 May 2019
  • From the section India
A high-rise residential tower is seen next to shanties in Dharavi, one of Asia"s largest slums, in Mumbai March 18, 2015. In Mumbai, the windows of new high-rise apartment blocks, old low-rise residential buildings and shantytown shacks portray the disparity in living conditions and incomes in the Indian city. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Economists say India's growth is powered by the 'top 100 million' people

As India lumbers towards the final phase of an exhausting general election and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP seeks a second term in power, there's some worrying news. The world's fastest growing major economy appears to be headed for a slowdown.

The signs are everywhere. Economic growth slowed to 6.6% in the three months to December, the slowest in six quarters. Sales of cars and SUVs have slumped to a seven-year-low. Tractors and two-wheelers sales are down. Net profits for 334 companies (excluding banks and financials) are down 18% year-on-year, according to the Financial Express newspaper.

That's not all. In March, passenger growth in the world's fastest growing aviation market expanded at the slowest pace in nearly six years. Demand for bank credit has spluttered. Hindustan Unilever, India's leading maker of fast moving consumer goods, has reported March quarter revenue growth of just 7%, its weakest in 18 months.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sales of cars and SUVs have slumped to a seven-year-low.

One newspaper wondered whether India was "losing the consumption plot". Taken together, all this points to a fall in both urban and rural incomes, leading to demand contraction. A crop glut has seen farm incomes drop. And credit stagnation, partly triggered by the collapse of a major non-banking financial institution, or a shadow bank, has led to a fall in lending and worsened matters.

Kaushik Basu, former chief economist of the World Bank and professor of economics at Cornell University, believes the slowdown is "much more serious" than he initially believed. "The evidence is now mounting to the point where it can no longer be ignored," he told me.

Read full article India's next government will have a growth problem

India election 2019: How sugar influences the world's biggest vote

  • 8 May 2019
  • From the section India
An Indian vendor sits among sugarcane kept at the main wholesale market ahead of celebrations surrounding the festival of Pongal in Bangalore, Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some 30 million farmers are engaged in cane farming in India

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a recent election meeting in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, he was compelled to make a promise relating to sugar, a diet staple.

Farmers who grow cane in the politically crucial state ruled by Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were angry because sugar mills had not paid their dues in time. They held protests and blocked railway tracks. "I know there are cane dues. I will make sure every penny of yours will be paid," Mr Modi told the audience.

Read full article India election 2019: How sugar influences the world's biggest vote

India election 2019: Meeting a 'foot soldier' of the Hindu far-right

  • 25 April 2019
  • From the section India
Sharad Sharma Image copyright Mansi Thapliyal
Image caption Sharad Sharma is a functionary of a radical Hindu group

Ever since Narendra Modi swept to power in 2014, India has seen a resurgence in right-wing Hindu nationalism. The Indian PM has made it the cornerstone of his ongoing re-election campaign. Soutik Biswas meets a self-proclaimed foot soldier of Hindu nationalism, and explores the forces driving the rise of the far-right in India.

Sharad Sharma was 20 when right-wing Hindu mobs tore down a mosque in his city, triggering one of the worst bouts of religious riots in independent India.

Read full article India election 2019: Meeting a 'foot soldier' of the Hindu far-right

'Strongman' image may not win votes for Narendra Modi

  • 22 April 2019
  • From the section India
Indian bottle artist Basavaraj displays bottles designed with photos of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of the Indian National Congress Rahul Gandhi during general elections in Bangalore, India, 12 April 2019 Image copyright EPA
Image caption India's elections are keenly contested

Good intentions are ubiquitous in politics, wrote American economist Bryan Caplan. What is scarce, however, are "accurate beliefs". Elections are always a good occasion to test such beliefs.

Is India's Narendra Modi really a strongman leader in the mould of Turkey's President Recep Tayyib Erdogan and Russia's leader Vladimir Putin? Will he succeed in making the mammoth 2019 election a presidential referendum on his performance?

Read full article 'Strongman' image may not win votes for Narendra Modi

Jet Airways: India's aviation boom runs into turbulence

  • 18 April 2019
  • From the section India
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionTaking the last flight of India's stricken Jet Airways

On the face of it, India's airline industry is flying high - the country is the fastest growing major aviation market in the world.

The airports are bursting at the seams: 138 million passengers flew last year, up from 51 million in 2010. International traffic has burgeoned. On-time performance has improved.

Read full article Jet Airways: India's aviation boom runs into turbulence

India election 2019: The mystery of 21 million 'missing' women voters

  • 14 March 2019
  • From the section India
Indians, including a woman, at a polling booth Image copyright AFP
Image caption More than half of India's "missing" women voters are from three northern states

Indian women got the right to vote the year their country was born. It was, as a historian said, a "staggering achievement for a post-colonial nation". But more than 70 years later, why are 21 million women in India apparently being denied the right to vote?

It is one of India's many social riddles.

Read full article India election 2019: The mystery of 21 million 'missing' women voters

India Lok Sabha election: 11 things you need to know

  • 10 April 2019
  • From the section India
This handout photograph released by India"s Press Information Bureau (PIB) on March 4, 2019, shows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing a gathering during during the inauguration of various development projects in Jamnagar, in the Indian state of Gujarat. (Photo by Handout / Image copyright AFP
Image caption PM Narendra Modi remains his party's main vote-getter

Tens of millions of people will vote on Thursday in the first phase of India's giant general election.

Polls to elect a new Lok Sabha, or lower house of parliament, will be held from 11 April to 19 May. Votes will be counted on 23 May.

Read full article India Lok Sabha election: 11 things you need to know

'War' and India PM Modi's muscular strongman image

  • 6 March 2019
  • From the section India
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he speaks during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) "Sankalp" rally in Patna in the Indian eastern state of Bihar on March 3, 2019. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Modi is accused of exploiting India-Pakistan hostilities for political gain

A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth, American political journalist Michael Kinsley said.

Last week, a prominent leader of India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appeared to have done exactly that. BS Yeddyurappa said the armed aerial hostilities between India and Pakistan would help his party win some two dozen seats in the upcoming general election.

Read full article 'War' and India PM Modi's muscular strongman image

Narendra Modi v Imran Khan: Who won the war of perception?

  • 1 March 2019
  • From the section India
Imran Khan Image copyright AFP

With the release of the Indian pilot captured by Pakistan, tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries over the attack in Kashmir are expected to abate. So who won the battle of perception during the crisis?

On Thursday afternoon Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in parliament that Pakistan would release the captured Indian pilot as a "peace gesture".

Read full article Narendra Modi v Imran Khan: Who won the war of perception?

India and Pakistan in 'uncharted waters'

  • 27 February 2019
  • From the section India
Indians celebrated on hearing news of the strikes Image copyright AFP
Image caption Indians celebrated on hearing news of the strikes

"We are in uncharted waters," says Husain Haqqani, alluding to the latest round of heightened hostilities between India and Pakistan.

The former Pakistani ambassador to the US served as an adviser to three Pakistani prime ministers. He is the author, most recently, of Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State.

Read full article India and Pakistan in 'uncharted waters'