Tuesday, January 22, 2019

How an airline is casting a shadow on India's coming elections

Narendra Modi rode to power five years ago on his business friendly credentials and the promise of generating millions of jobs. Now an airline is on the verge of collapse, bringing Modi’s image under attack just months before national elections.
Struggling in a competitive market where basic air fares can get as low as 2 cents, Jet Airways India Ltd., the country’s second-biggest airline, has piled on $1.1 billion in debt and failed to pay loans and salaries. With about 23,000 jobs at stake, pressure is building on Modi for a rescue package as a collapse would mean bad optics in his re-election bid in a poll due by May.
While Modi is not to blame for the unraveling of Jet Airways -- the airline was brought to its knees because of high fuel prices and intense competition -- his policies to make air travel affordable to more and more Indians didn’t help it either. The fate of the teetering carrier is now part of the opposition’s narrative that businesses are ailing, with the $2.6 trillion economy losing jobs on Modi’s watch.
The issue of jobs “is going to be at the forefront of the campaign,” said Manish Tewari, a spokesman for the Congress party. "There has been gross mismanagement of the economy," Tewari said. "It is not surprising that even aviation and some of the airlines that have been doing very well in the past are now bleeding and hemorrhaging."
22/01/19 Anurag Kotoky and Vrishti Beniwal/Bloomberg/Economic Times