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Modi’s Damaging Dominance

After more than eight years as India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi’s high popularity and formidable electoral clout make him nearly invincible. But, while his success in amassing political power is unquestionable, his ability to use it for the benefit of the vast majority of citizens remains very much in doubt.

NEW DELHI – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently completed eight years in office, and as India approaches the 75th anniversary of its independence, his formidable electoral clout makes him look near-invincible. But his personalized style of policymaking remains impulsive and idiosyncratic – with calamitous consequences for India’s governance.

In May, for example, Modi’s government announced that India would “feed the world” by exporting more wheat as the war in Ukraine disrupted global supplies, before abruptly imposing an export ban and partly reversing it a few days later. And his administration’s plan to replace guaranteed long-term employment with pensions for new military recruits with four-year contracts has ignited protests by young people across the country.

These decisions illustrate not only Modi’s remarkable dominance of India’s fractious politics, but also his over-centralization of power. Modi runs a parliamentary system in a presidential style, giving Indians the worst of both worlds: a powerful executive unfettered by an independent legislature.