Can Narendra Modi be India’s Thatcher?

On Wednesday, just two days before the release of India’s election results, AEI’s Sadanand Dhume hosted a Google Hangout discussion with three experts from India to discuss whether Narendra Modi, India’s frontrunner for prime minister, could bring about an economic turnaround like that of Great Britain’s Margaret Thatcher.

Economist Vivek Dehejia of Carleton University argued that economic reforms in the vein of Thatcher would be too much to expect from Modi. Rather, in a socialist country like India, it is perhaps good for Modi to be vague about reforms to first test the waters, and a Modi government should also be careful to avoid populist ideas and signal India’s openness to business.
Mihir Sharma of Business Standard spoke to Modi and Thatcher’s similar backgrounds and mutual care for small business. However, Sharma said they differ in that Modi has not yet built the constituency for reform — privatization, deregulation, and breaking unions — that Thatcher did, and likely will not do so in the near future.

James Crabtree of the Financial Times argued that, like Thatcher, Modi has a large challenge to start with: a messy economy. In a leftist country like India, Modi may start out moderately but may become more radical as he shows signs of political capital to change the country. His success will depend largely on picking the right players for his team, especially the right finance minister.

So what would the first 100 days look like? Dehejia reckoned Modi will jumpstart infrastructure, foreign investment in multibrand retail, and a positive investment cycle. Sharma predicted that the Modi government would question the numbers the previous government left behind. Crabtree concluded that, overall, Modi will first tackle the easier challenges to make his first 100 days look impressive.
–Hemal Shah

Event Description

With results of India’s national election just two days away, this Google Hangout will answer a hotly debated question: Can Narenda Modi, India’s front-runner for prime minister, revive the country’s moribund economy? Against a backdrop of sharply slowed economic growth, massive corruption scandals, and loss of investor confidence, it remains to be seen whether Modi’s “Gujarat model”— symbolizing double-digit economic growth, ease in doing business, and high-quality infrastructure — can solve India’s problems.

Like Great Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, Modi is attempting to use economic messaging about decentralization, small government, and development to restore India’s economic standing and to court foreign investment. During this Google Hangout, three experts will discuss whether comparisons between Modi and Thatcher are sensible or overblown. Moderator Sadanand Dhume will be participating live from India, where he is observing the elections.

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An anchor with CNBC TV18 for almost 4 years. Also co-anchors prime-time market shows like Power Breakfast, Traders only, Markets Mid-day and NSE Closing Bell.