Rohini Kappadath, director of Cross-Border Business at Pitcher Partners Consulting, who writes extensively on how India and Australia can benefit from mutual trade, talks to Kshipra Cariappa about the elections in India
What is your understanding of the ongoing elections in India?
One of the most significant aspects of this election is the probable end of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. It is a historic moment because it is hard to think of a political dynasty in any other democratic country that has exercised so much power for so long. Traditionally a two-party race between Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party, these elections find a major new force in the Aam Aadmi Party.
Arvind Kejriwal and AAP
AAP found its roots in the Team Anna movement. A member of the movement, Arvind Kejriwal, decided that entering the political race was the way forward for the Jan Lokpal or anti-corruption Bill. The AAP came to prominence when it attained the second highest number of votes at the 2013 Delhi legislative assembly election.
Rahul Gandhi and Congress
The Congress has been plagued by major scams and has lost credibility. The foundation of dynastic rule is being questioned in India today. The face of the campaign, Rahul Gandhi, has at many junctures shown his lack of experience, culminating in a catastrophic first television interview in January. His second, in March, was largely disregarded as a result.
More seasoned members of the Congress Party admit privately that Rahul Gandhi has not shown the ability to win elections that they hoped he would.
Narendra Modi and BJP
When Modi was identified as the BJP campaign chairman, opposition leader LK Advani reacted by handing in his resignation, which was promptly rejected. The fact that the senior most member of the party, despite initial apprehensions, has aligned with Modi—indicates the influence he yields.
Beyond the three main parties, regional parties may suffer a setback because of the induction of first-time voters. There are 14 crore new voters who are primarily concerned about jobs and governance. This new vote bank finds favour with Modi.
Recent revelations by the Pew Research Survey has sent deep shock waves through Congress ranks. This Washington-based company says that 78 per cent of Indians want Modi as prime minister compared with only 50 per cent who want Rahul. Even Anna Hazare at 69 per cent and the prime minister at 52 per cent did better than the heir to the dynasty. This poll found that 70 per cent of Indians were dissatisfied with the direction that India had taken in the past decade. Sonia Gandhi had even lower approval ratings than her son.
So for the moment I think it is safe to predict that one of the most significant aspects of this Lok Sabha election is that it is likely to bring with it the end of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
What is more important issue India needs to deal with—corruption, poverty or growth?
The three primary issues addressed in these elections are corruption, anti-incumbency and governance. I think governance is one of the key issues that needs to be dealt with. Good governance will eradicate corruption and release funds to eradicate poverty. Sustainable growth can only occur when these issues are addressed. India will be well advised to take its cue from sovereign city-states like Singapore, which has gained economic prosperity on the back of better governance. Good governance leads to inflow of capital and investment. This is what India needs most.
Which party do you think will lead to better Australia-India ties? Why?
Modi comes with high pro-development credentials. In the last decade, Gujarat has seen phenomenal development which has only been possible under Modi’s stewardship and policies. Modi’s style of governance—though labelled by some as dictatorial—has allowed bureaucrats to function in Gujarat, and will do so for India. His pro-investment approach is supported by the Indian corporate sector and will bring forth a stronger, more powerful, pragmatic foreign policy. Modi’s trade policies will encourage capital inflow as well. The Australian government indicated its alignment towards Modi a few months ago as well.
Who has been the best campaigner for these elections according to you? A) NARENDRA MODI; B) RAHUL GANDH; C) ARVIND KEJRIWAL
As a campaigner, Modi has outperformed. His understanding of the evolving voting demographic is clear through the campaign trail as he used targeted social media to connect with the youth on Facebook and Twitter. Beyond that, grass roots voters were engaged through very large rallies.
Rohini has a 20-year background in the IT industry, holding leadership positions such as national sales manager of SAS Institute Australia and managing director of SAS Institute India.
Rohini has been on a number of trade missions both to India as well as to ASEAN countries. And now, with India one of Australia’s top trading partners, Rohini stresses the importance of finding the right partners, reading social cues and understanding cultural norms in India so Australian companies can expand their market overseas.
Published in The Indian Sun/ Indians in Australia