I N A SHORT speech on November 19th Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, made a humiliating U -turn. Barely a year after pushing a trio of laws reforming agriculture through parliament, he announced their repeal . The shame was not only to have handed victory to the horde of tractor-mounted peasants doggedly protesting at the gates of India's capital since last November. It was to have bungled the issue from the start. Indian farming does indeed desperately need reform. Yet Mr Modi made no effort to build consensus for his three new laws last year, instead ramming them through without debate. When north Indian farmers, many of whom happen to be Sikh, protested, he doubled their fury by tagging them thugs and traitors. The most powerful Indian leader in a generation then did nothing for months, as if the stand-off were someone else's problem. That is, not until elections in a couple of important farm states drew uncomfortably near, whereupon Mr Modi crumpled completely. In any other democracy a leader who flouted parliament, broke trust with an influential religious minority and insisted on—and then scrapped—controversial reforms would pay a heavy political price. But although the farm-bill fiasco is only the… Read full this story
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