New Delhi: As Donald Trump tears globalization apart, serious powers around the world are scrambling to control the damage. They are reordering their internal priorities and attempting to form new trading blocs without the United States should they have the economic heft to do so. Not India. The Narendra Modi regime has gotten into full campaign mode and couldn’t be bothered about the economy. The SME sector, the backbone of the economy, is in the doldrums with bank loans having dried up. In the wake of the bank scams, bankers are reluctant to lend. In a further populist move, the Modi government is demonizing bankers and undermining the banking system. This puts the economy in direct peril. So mindless and self-defeating is this populism that a jeweller commissioned an advertisement with an ageing movie star (since withdrawn) which should indubitably have stoked anger against the banking fraternity.

With the recovery of SMEs ruled out in the short- and medium-term, the lakhs of jobs they provide are also in jeopardy assuming that they still exist. This is over and above the twin shocks of demonetization and an extortionate GST of horrendous complexity and disorder which have left businesspersons across the country tearing their hair out. Businesses are shutting down or business leaders are making frantic and desperate efforts to stay afloat. The small- and midcaps segments were the darlings of the stock-market before demonetization and introduction of a perversely formulated GST. Those segments have crashed leaving masses of retail investors stranded. But it is not merely the SME segment of the stock-market that has been battered. Reaching higher, a bulk of the Nifty 50 stocks is performing poorly. A handful of companies are shoring up the bourses. This is bad news. The introduction of a long term capital gains tax has proved the last straw. It has sucked the life out of the market.

Radicals of the Left and Right are generally scornful of stock-markets, business, wealth creation and the spread of general material well-being even while personally (and often surreptitiously) enjoying the fruits of enterprise. So Adolf Hitler could speak of having known hunger and privation (as he did in Mein Kampf) while indulging in the comforts of magnificent Mercedes cars, luxury hotels, his own home in the Bavarian Alps, and so on. Hitler’s finances (inflow and expenses) were a secret well before he came to power. On the Left, you have the erstwhile nomenklatura of the Soviet empire and the present one of Vladimir Putin. Nevertheless, for all the double standards and scorn displayed towards wealth creation, capitalism, stock markets, etc, a country has no future without them. Stable and predictable policies, ease of doing business, an absent inspector raj, a low tax regime and fair and benign regulation are sine qua non of economic growth. None of them are available today. Indeed, the Modi regime has lurched in the opposite direction from reforms and liberalization, compelling, inter alia, state companies to take over stressed assets, destroying balance sheets and paring investor wealth in the process. India is in clear economic decline under Narendra Modi.

And the smallest chance that another leadership could set things right faces the greatest risk from social discord which is gathering speed under the Modi regime. A week barely passes without some report of lynching, usually of a Muslim, for alleged cow slaughter. BJP-ruled states have become notorious for the breakdown in law and order and the license given to communal vigilantism. The latest to occupy the national headlines is the lynching case in Rajasthan where the local administration was derelict in its duties and obligations. In a bid to deflect the blame from Modi, it is argued that the prime minister does not directly administer the states. But Modi undeniably rules over the BJP with an iron hand. What prevents him from sacking a BJP chief minister who cannot control vigilantism? What prevents him from condemning vigilantism as and when it happens? Why has he remained silent when zealots have trolled his foreign minister? It is in a similar atmosphere of hate and violence that Hitler rose to power only to destroy Germany a dozen years later.

Even in the limited domain of the economy, growth cannot occur in a climate of hate and violence, compounded by, as at present, populism, tax terrorism, inspector raj, unpredictable policies and government highhandedness, and megalomania. Economic growth requires reforms, vision, and a roadmap to deliver it. These are unavailable with the regime. To make things worse, Donald Trump is tightening the screws. The United States is no longer open to free trade. Terrified of its implications for their economies, Western Europe, Japan and the other powerhouses of East Asia with the exclusion of China are trying to come together. India, on the other hand, has turned regressively to vigilantism. The “good days” are here.