The Modi paradox: At 70, his 7 deadly sins for 'liberals' are why his supporters love him
Part of the phenomenon is that the PM's support base grows and gets more solidly behind him for the exact reasons a section of urban, English-speaking intelligentsia hates him
Contd from prev issue
The more this annoys the deracinated intellectual class, the more this endears Modi to his supporters. A silent majority has seen its traditions and way of life being snubbed and looked down upon for decades, even centuries, and now a strong man at the very top has reversed that.
The Modi government has done some quiet work notwithstanding these perceptions. It secured 3.14 crore scholarships for minority students between 2014 and 2019, 20 lakh more than the Rs 2.94 crore grants during UPA-2. It has spent Rs 22,000 crore in the past six years on minority welfare. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the largest evacuation drive in Vande Bharat Mission has been of Indian workers in Islamic countries.
Modi is a drama king
The prime minister has been condescendingly called an “event manager”, “nautanki” and “madari” by his critics. But it is this consummate showmanship that his audience connects with. It is the grandness of his rallies, predictable unpredictability of his 8 pm announcements, flamboyant ethnic dresses, bear hugs with world leaders, breaking down in an event with Mark Zuckerberg, or the sound of colony after colony across the nation clapping and thanking COVID-19 warriors that has made brand Modi overtake brand Nehru-Gandhi, built over eight to nine decades, in just six to seven years.
Indians love drama. It is part of their folk tradition, their culture. Modi obliges.
Modi is ruthless with rivals
The prime minister’s critics attack him for being merciless against rivals and dissenting voices. From insinuations about his Gujarat colleague Haren Pandya’s murder to his relentless targeting of the Nehru-Gandhi family, they have built a narrative of the cold executioner around him.
His supporters love that. The more that narrative strengthens, the more they feel akin to what an Australian cricket fan was once quoted as saying about then Indian captain Sourav Ganguly: “He is a bastard. But what a magnificent bastard.”
For them, Modi is their man to slay dynastic politics, appeasement, real and imagined slights to their culture, faith and tradition.
Modi is a crass self-promoter
Videos of the prime minister pushing out security personnel and even international leaders out of the frame to hog camera time abound. He is accused of snatching the limelight even at local project inaugurations. Adulatory comic books about his childhood and his cloudy-cover theory on Balakot airstrikes have caused much mirth.
But ask the autowallah, cabbie or paan shop guy, and they will tell you that the world has started fearing and respecting India only after Modi arrived. That’s how his actions play out in the mass psyche.
Modi’s economics is a disaster
Not just his rivals, but many within the BJP like Subramanian Swamy or those on India’s ideological right are extremely critical of his approach to economics. They call him an incrementalist and a closet socialist and not a free-economy visionary.
But his socio-economic schemes like Jan Dhan, Ujjwala and PM Awas Yojana have been gamechangers on the ground. And even as India industry has been frustrated by ‘tax terror’ and certain tardy market reforms, the middle and lower-middle classes have been happy that he has brought a slew of socially savvy schemes like Ayushman Bharat.
Modi inspires a troll army
The PM is the Voldemort of liberal social media. They see his dark mark every time ‘death eaters’ take them apart on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. The liberals think every pro-Modi voice on social media is part of the BJP IT cell.
However, an overwhelming majority of these ‘death eaters’ are ordinary, young Indians fed up with what they see as the elitist cabal that ruled the nation. Social media gave them voice for the first time to challenge the ‘snooty’ oped writers, anchors and Bollywood stars who were not used to a two-way communication.
The more this cocooned club dumped every questioning voice as “troll”, the bigger this army grew. Spontaneously, without Modi regime’s help, but drawing inspiration from him.
The more the Left and liberals pummel this faceless mass, the more they relate to the prime minister. “He faced from them what we are facing,” they infer.
That makes Modi keep growing in strength at 70. That is more potent a political potion than Getafix the druid can cook.