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Indian economic growth slowed, unemployment hit worst level during Modi tenure: NYT

Indian economic growth slowed, unemployment hit worst level during Modi tenure: NYT
March 12, 2019
NEW DELHI — Only one month ago, Narendra Modi, India’s once unstoppable prime minister, seemed surprisingly vulnerable going into his re-election campaign. Economic growth had been slowing, thousands of farmers were marching on the capital (some even dumped gallons of nearly worthless milk in the streets), and unemployment had hit its worst level in 45 years — an unpleasant fact that Modi’s government tried to hide. In a recent batch of critical state elections, his party got trounced. And with the country’s weekslong election process set to begin on April 11, the rejuvenated opposition was landing punch after punch with corruption allegations. But one bombing in Kashmir, and weeks of military brinkmanship with Pakistan afterward, appears to have interrupted Mr. Modi’s slump. A young suicide bomber blew up a military bus in Kashmir on Feb. 14, killing more than 40 troops. Modi ordered airstrikes on Pakistan and Pakistan struck back. From the outside, Modi was widely criticized as being willing to risk war for even the chance at a political boost. And when an Indian pilot was captured in Pakistani territory — and was then quickly returned in a good-optics moment for Pakistan — some international analysts thought Modi’s military adventurism had backfired. Political analysts say that Indians are rallying behind Modi again, and that he seems to be making crucial gains among independent and undecided voters. The fact that India’s airstrikes probably missed their targets, and that a fighter jet was shot down by Pakistan, doesn’t seem to matter to most Indians. Their country was hit, and Mr. Modi hit back. India has a parliamentary system, and for Mr. Modi to return to power, his Bharatiya Janata Party must win a majority of the 543 elected seats in the lower house of Parliament or form a coalition with regional parties. The same goes for the Indian National Congress party, which ruled India for about 50 of the country’s 71 years of independence. Congress’s leader, Rahul Gandhi, is determined to swing the election discussion back to domestic issues. With a population of 1.3 billion and improving education, India produces nearly half a million new job seekers each month. This would be an overwhelming burden for any leader, and Mr. Modi raised expectations even higher by promising to create 10 million jobs, a wildly ambitious goal that, by most accounts, he has failed to achieve. –New York Times