Narendra Modi. Is he India's Ronald Reagan, who will light a fire under one of the most underperforming economies in the world? That's a critical question financial analysts and corporate executives around the world are now asking as Modi has emerged as the odds-on favorite to become India's next prime minister.
At present, Modi is the Chief Minister of Gujarat -- one of the most vibrant states in all of India -- and Modi has held that office -- the equivalent of a governor in the United States -- since 2001.
Over the last decade, the Gujarat economy has significantly outperformed much of the rest of India. It is one of just six of India's 32 states that has grown at double digits since 2005.
In addition, Gujarat also is one of India's leaders in attracting private direct investment. And much of the credit has been given to Modi's unique ability to cut through the mountains of red tape that otherwise and elsewhere is tying down the Indian economy.
The major blemish on Modi's reputation is his alleged role in the infamous 2002 Gujarat violence. After a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, was attacked and set ablaze by a crowd of Muslims, Hindus in Gujarat began a coordinated attack against the Muslim community that would last for months and lead to the rape, injury and slaughter of thousands.
As atrocities go, it would be hard to top; and Modi has been widely blamed for both helping to incite the riots and for failing to stop them. Despite this baggage -- and repeated condemnation from the international community -- Modi remains the odds-on favorite to win India's election.
In many ways, Modi's popularity is a testament to the abject failure of the Indian government to spark robust economic growth. Over the last several years, India's annual economic growth rate has declined to a decade low of 5 percent and is widely expected by many economists to fall below that level in in 2014.
Meanwhile, over the last two years, the Indian rupee has plummeted -- losing more than 20 percent of its value. Despite the rupee's fall, India continues to run growth-sapping, huge trade deficit, particularly with neighboring China.
So just what would it mean for the Indian and global economy if Modi becomes prime minister?
First, domestic businesses are likely to face far less red tape -- that will mean more domestic investment, growth, job creation, and wage gains.
Second, foreign corporations, weary of the anti-business Indian bureaucracy, are also likely to see India once again as a favorable destination point. That means foreign direct investment is likely to flood back into the country and also spur growth.
Finally, Modi is also likely to go on a Chinese-style infrastructure-building binge like he has in Gujarat. That will surely help bring India's woeful roads and water and sewer systems and electricity grid up to international standards -- and further facilitate growth.
• All of these factors suggest a higher rate of growth for India's GDP.
• This should spill over into a bull market for equities in India.
• The stocks of foreign corporations with significant Indian exposure should likewise get a lift, and
• The beleaguered Indian rupee should first stabilize and then possibly strengthen.
And that's the Modi bottom line: A bullish forecast both for investors and corporations seeking to increase their Indian exposure.