In 2018, tens of thousands of poor farmers flooded cities all across India calling for government action to ease their difficult lives. Their immediate demands were higher prices for their output and loan waivers for their debts. With elections looming in 2019, pundits predicted serious problems at the polls for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Modi offered the farmers limited price supports but held the line on loan waivers. Instead, he promised to implement structural reforms after the election. The opposition Indian National Congress countered with a promise to “waive all farm loans” across the entire country—an expensive solution decried by economists as a populist magic wand.
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