Lauding him "as people's Prime Minister", noted economist Jagdish Bhagwati today said Narendra Modi is committed to expeditious reforms and guessed that he will open FDI in multi-brand retail in a year.
"Traditional base of BJP is shopkeepers. Now he (Modi) has got a wider constituency, and he may be able to move on. Whatever little discussion I had with him when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat, I never found any anti-multibrand retail sentiments expressed by him.
"... This is a matter of my forecasting, I guess in one year, he will consolidate himself and open up FDI in multi-brand retail," Bhagwati said.
The comments by the eminent economist, who has always been vocal with his support for economic policies of Modi including during his tenure as Gujarat Chief Minister, assume significance as the BJP has been opposing foreign investment in multi-brand retail.
"Modi is in a position of going fast on economic reforms and he is moving fast ... He is scaling up trade liberalisation and he is scaling up direct foreign investment," Bhagwati said while delivering Madhavrao Scindia Foundation lecture here.
The Columbia University professor also termed Modi's predecessor Manmohan Singh as 'people's Prime Minister' and said both of them came from relatively modest backgrounds.
Singh was present during the lecture, which was also attended by a host of other Congress leaders, including former Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
Replying to a specific question on multi-brand retail, Bhagwati hoped that the Modi government, which is moving fast on economic reforms, would open the sector to foreign investment within a year.
"He (Modi) is willing to experiment. He is much more flexible...Modi is in a position of going fast on economic reform and he is moving fast. Now things are moving faster.
"He is scaling up trade liberalisation and he is scaling up direct foreign investment. And I think it is something that can be scaled up ... He knows that trade works," he said.
Citing the Gujarat model, Bhagwati said growth is important because it helps in creating more employment and generating revenue for social sector spending.
"The Gujarat model is not just creating prosperity. It is about you accumulate money and spend on social sector.... Growth is important because it helps in creating more employment and generating revenue. And we will...Spend money on social sector," he said.
Asked about his views about the government using the ordinance route to push through key bills, the noted economist said: "President Obama is in exactly the same situation. My brother and former Chief Justice of India P N Bhagwati had a famous judgement saying executive orders are constitutional...But it is not good in the long run."