In its second term, will Indias ruling coalition be bolder about reform?

INDIAS NEW finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman (pictured below), is an unusual figure in the countrys politics. She is the first woman to head the finance ministry since Indira Gandhi seized the post (while also serving as prime minister) 50 years ago, after nationalising many of Indias banks. She is an economist. But unlike most in her Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) she hails from the countrys south, having grown up in Tamil Nadu, one of the few big states to resist the BJPs advances in the recent election. She claims a humbler background than her predecessor, Arun Jaitley. Her father worked for Indias railways and she spent a month selling home furnishings at Habitat, a shop in London.Ms Sitharaman thus embodies the BJPs broadening appeal to aspirational Indians outside its traditional heartlands. But will she help it fulfil those aspirations? On the day she was appointed, Indias statistical authority reported that growth in the first quarter of the year had slipped to 5.8%, its slowest since Narendra Modi was elected prime minister in 2014 (see chart). The government also belatedly released a report it had withheld showing that unemployment had risen to 6.1% in the year ending June 2018. In India, the jobless are often not the poorest, who cannot afford not to work, but the newly educated, qualified for better jobs that have yet to arrive.
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