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The Economist: A Useful Campaign

February 28, 2014

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"For years Congress dominated nationally by ignoring how growth is sustained, but promising handouts, especially to villagers, through make-work schemes, subsidies on food, fuel and fertiliser and cash transfers. That approach now brings shrinking electoral returns, ironically, as rural voters get less poor."

Is the ghost of Margaret Thatcher lurking in Indian politics? Rahul Gandhi, a leader of Congress party, which is best known for promoting welfare, has taken to saying that "poverty cannot be fought without growth" and praising markets for creating wealth. Last week Arvind Kejriwal, head of AAP, a left-leaning party of urban, anti-corruption types, told business leaders he now likes capitalism, just not cronyism. He says an end to the "inspector raj and licence raj" would cut graft and free business to create jobs.

That was perhaps mostly posturing. More outspoken is the front-runner to be prime minister, Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In Delhi on February 27th he and Arun Jaitley, a potential finance minister, hosted liberal-leaning economists, business leaders, bankers and investors for a daylong seminar on raising growth. That marked the start of the BJP spelling out its economic policies. Mr Modi (some of whose supporters are pictured above) has long talked up his pro-business record as Gujarat's chief minister.

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