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May 21, 2014
The historic May 16th election of India’s Prime Minister-Elect Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) marks a seismic shift ranging from India’s national government through to how Indians view their new leadership in terms of aspiration and hope for India’s economic future.
From a political perspective, the BJP’s victory marks the first time in virtually 30 years that one party has won a sweeping majority in Parliament. For years, the Gandhi family and the Congress party held sway in virtually all aspects of India’s government. In this election, rather than relying on traditional politicking and power-brokering, Mr. Modi and the BJP engaged in more of an Obama-style campaign that recognized the way younger voters communicate and leveraging social media outlets. This new campaigning style effectively conveyed Modi’s message of “boot-strapping” himself through business, politics and social stigmas as a “chiawala” (tea-seller) to become the Chief Minister of the Indian State of Gujarat.
Culturally, Prime Minister-Elect Modi represents a true break with India’s colonial past and a fading caste system of who can have access to both affluence and influence. Born in 1950, Modi will be the first Prime Minister born in India after the country became independent from Britain in 1947. As a man who rose from a low caste in India’s social ladder, his administration as Chief Minister of Gujarat was noted for the state’s pro-business and limited government policies. With predictions that India will have 1/5 of the world’s working-age population, Mr. Modi’s “Good Time is Going to Come Now” campaign slogan has clearly resonated with India’s increasingly educated youth workforce.
For all the aspirations, U.S.-Indian diplomatic relations have been strained over U.S. immigration policy.
In 2005, Mr. Modi was subject to a U.S. visa ban over alleged human rights abuse of Muslims in deadly riots in Gujarat. Last year, an Indian diplomat underwent a particularly difficult and public removal from the U.S. At present, the newly-elected head of the BJP, Vijay Jolly, is raising his strong concern over a proposed June 2014 House consideration of Senate Bill 744 (the “ U.S. Immigration Reform Bill”) that could significantly reduce the number of H-1B work visas available to Indian nationals. However, it also remains to be seen if the BJP will consider relaxing India's national immigration policy. As part of his campaign platform, Mr. Modi has voiced his strong enforcement views on illegal immigration in India.
With such a sweeping mandate by reportedly the world’s largest democracy, India is sending a clear message to the world. President Obama has extended his good wishes to Mr. Modi and signaled his administration wishes to heal strained diplomatic ties and both countries have a vested interest to do so. Mr. Modi is keen to develop new industry and investment in India to deliver those much-needed jobs to his clamoring electorate while the U.S. wishes to develop a “strategic partnership” to counterbalance China’s presence in the East. Hopefully, enhancing the business immigration environment in both countries will help bring about positive results in Mr. Modi’s “Aspirational India”.
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