- In a stunning act of political brinkmanship, Modi turned criticism of the way he handled the Gujarat riots to a criticism of Gujarat itself.
- Modi spun a persecution complex about how the Opposition and the world were insulting and attacking Gujarat.
”India is getting to know who its friends really are,” says S. Jaishankar, veteran diplomat turned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Foreign Minister, on the worried reaction of most of the world on the Modi government’s deeply flawed religious filter Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) followed by a nationwide National Register of Citizens.
You would reckon that a foreign minister of an aspirational United Nations Security Council seat, which is deeply invested in the world’s narrative about India being the world’s largest democracy, would care about India’s world reputation.
You would be wrong.
As world opinion hardens against India for seemingly trying to discriminate against Muslim citizens and after 53 people were killed in what the world is calling a pogrom, the Modi government is defiant, channeling Modi’s absolute disdain for criticism.
This again is a chilling reminder of Modi’s attitude post the 2002 Gujarat riots where more than a 1,000 people were killed.
Modi was defiant, accepting no criticism from even the late Atal Behari Vajpayee, former prime minister, who tried to publicly remind him of his “Raj Dharma” (government duty). When a visibly anguished Vajpayee rebuked him, Modi gracelessly said: “Wohi toh kar rahein. (I am doing that only).”
In a stunning act of political brinkmanship, Modi turned criticism of the way he handled the Gujarat riots to a criticism of Gujarat itself. Modi spun a persecution complex about how the Opposition and the world were insulting and attacking Gujarat.
Modi the victim
Modi’s emotive and cynical ploy worked - he won three terms as Gujarat chief minister by stoking the potent plank of “Gujarat pride”.
Now in his second term as prime minister, I can predict that Modi will do the same with the widespread international censure he has attracted for his majoritarian decisions.
From the Opposition being dubbed “anti-national” and “Pakistani” as the economy tanks, Modi is all set to don victimhood again.
This is the reason that Jaishankar, in distinctly undiplomatic language which cannot be natural for a once serving foreign service official, is berating India’s critics and the foreign Press which is highlighting the protests and the deaths caused by the CAA.
Modi, who is yet to offer a word of solace to the victims and those who lost their family members in the Delhi riots, will soon make it all about himself and India against the world.
Modi has ensured that he has a cabinet of cardboard cut-outs who have now taken to briefing journalists on how the world has ganged up on the “strong leader Modi”.
This is the usual page of every strongman leader’s pitch. Consider Vladimir Putin and his projection as being one with mother Russia. It usually works with voters who don’t mind conflating a leader in the same image as their country. This is one of the fascinating factors about the rise of the so-called strong leaders across the world.
Unfortunately, Modi is playing the same game. Soon a rousing speech will be made on the lines that he made on the justification of the looney demonetisation scheme, which destroyed India’s economy. Modi may tear up (after all strong patriarchs also feel the pain) and then supposedly lay bare the “conspiracy against India’s rise”. “Us versus them” sadly never gets old.
And, Modi who tried to court world approval as a globe-trotting statesman with his hugs to global leaders in carefully choreographed settings in his first term will now morph into a leader protecting India against a sinister global conspiracy.
Don’t be — hard core politicians do many things and don many masks to cling on to power. Modi is not remotely confused — his end goal is power and office under any circumstance.
Because Modi is incapable of admitting that he could be wrong and also because of the second rate hagiography that passes for advice in the Modi universe, the government will double down on the CAA and NRC.
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And all those opposing it, well they oppose India.
It is irrelevant that those opposing these contentious measures are fighting for an idea of India that flows from constitutional values.
On a personal note I, have been in a dialogue with you the reader for a while with my SWAT analysis and to my own misery, have been right in most of my analyses about today’s India.
So as Modi drags us back to an era of religious filters, remember this is just the ruthless divisive politics of a master politician.
For the upcoming Bihar and Bengal elections Modi will play victim.
He was earlier "victimised" and "persecuted" as the chief minister of Gujarat and now as prime minister of India the world is his canvas.