Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged on Wednesday to write off bank loans to farmers and took a swipe at economists, such as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who criticized his government’s November decision to suddenly void about 85% of India’s currency notes by value. “Hard work is more powerful than Harvard,” he declared at an election rally.
The opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, whose Congress Party is struggling to stay afloat after a string of humiliating defeats, continues to peddle a tired message of class envy and suspicion of business. He regularly accuses Mr. Modi of neglecting poor farmers in favor of fat-cat capitalists. Akhilesh Yadav, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, appears inordinately proud of meeting a campaign pledge to give away laptops in a state where most people don’t enjoy uninterrupted electricity.
India is hardly the only democracy where politicians traffic in simple ideas that voters can easily grasp. But arguably no other major economy exhibits as wide a distance between electoral and policy discourse.