'Minimum Government, Maximum Governance': The Restructuring of Power in Modi's India
South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 38, 4 (December 2015): 755-775.
Posted: 10 Jul 2016
Date Written: 2015
This article examines the politics of development during the first year of the new Modi government. In particular, it explores the meaning of its guiding maxim, ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’, by analyzing specific reforms and broader changes in state-society relations. First, the Modi government has imposed greater discipline in public administration through a personalistic, centralized and technocratic style of rule. But it has bolstered executive power by limiting political transparency, parliamentary government and social dissent. Second, the new government has promoted urbanization, manufacturing and infrastructure through greater economic liberalization, public investment and institutional reform. Yet it has weakened many labor protocols, environmental regulations and participatory mechanisms regarding land acquisition and forest conservation. Lastly, the Modi administration has introduced new insurance schemes and championed digitally-enabled cash transfers to deliver social entitlements. However, it has reduced public spending in primary education and basic health, and undercut many rights-based welfare acts introduced by the previous administration. These three trends have narrowed the spaces of power and contestation in contemporary Indian democracy, frustrating the promise of ‘maximum governance’.
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