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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

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Narendra Modi is the most popular leader in the world

GAnesa Canoga Don’t consider myself a BJP supporter. The 58-year-old auto-rickshaw driver voted mostly for the Congress party, as members of his lower-caste Dalit group tend to do.In local elections in Derry, where he lives, he still shrugged off Bharatiya Janata Party, Because he doesn’t like its Hindu supremacist ideology.But in general elections, including one due next year, Mr Canoga is safe People’s Party vote. “Because of Modiji,” he explained.

This illustrates one of the most remarkable developments in global politics.in the past nine years People’s Party It has become India’s largest political party in two general elections and dozens of state elections. However, it is still far from a majority of popular support. It controls only half of India’s 28 states. In general elections, it still appears to be able to lock in power for the next five years or more, thanks to the popularity of Narendra Modi. The prime minister has an approval rating of 77%, more than double that of his party. He is by far the most popular elected leader in the world.

Conversations with political scientists and a cross-section of Modi fans suggest three main reasons for this phenomenon. Mr Modi has benefited from a combination of good luck, political savvy and ruthlessness.

He was lucky among his opponents, and it wasn’t just a mess, but one that played to his strength. Contrary to the story he tells, India’s economy has not done better under his administration than the previous Congress-led administration. Yet Congress, under its weak and uncharismatic fourth-generation leader Rahul Gandhi, has failed to claim that success, let alone promise to repeat it.

It is also tainted by the most effective populist claims of Mr Modi, who stands for the victory of the vernacular, with India against its complacent English-speaking former ruler. Mr Gandhi is half-Italian, and like his father, grandmother and great-grandfather, all prime ministers of India, was educated at Oxbridge. Mr Modi came from a poor background and was largely self-taught, in part because millions of Indians were like that, and was greatly admired for it.Another Cambridge-educated congressional figure once dismissed him as chaiwala (tea seller) – he is. No political barb backfired more disastrously.

Mr Modi’s genius lies in his ability to capture political narratives in this way. He has a knack for reading popular sentiment, and as a relentless campaigner, he has embraced it more than any other Indian leader since Indira Gandhi, if not more. Also like Mrs. Gandhi, he claimed everything the government had achieved – and much that hadn’t – to be attributed to him. His smiling image is ubiquitous on billboards, the face of welfare programs, infrastructure projects and diplomatic carnivals. In a time of turmoil and change, many Indians yearn for a kingly figure whom they can thank for the progress they hope for and who they trust can manage the uncertainty they fear. “Only Modi knows how to implement it,” said Rajdip Ghosh, 34, it Kolkata-based professional (named after Mr. Gandhi’s father, Rajiv). “Modi has given so many houses to the poor,” said Narendra Yadav, a 55-year-old driver in Delhi. “During the pandemic, Modiji has saved many lives.”

Asked to give relative weight to these factors, psychologist Sanjay Kumar attributed 20% of Modi’s popularity to his opponent’s incompetence and 65% to his politics Skill. He attributes only 15% to the prime minister’s callousness – which seems surprising given how prominent it is.

Modi is closely associated with the Hindu chauvinism of his party because of the vicious massacre of Muslims during his tenure as chief minister of Gujarat state in 2002. He denied any connection to the atrocity, but never actually condemned it. Nor has he punished Hindu fanatics who openly incited violence against Muslims during his campaign. It’s good to know that most Modi supporters aren’t primarily drawn to his party’s muslim bashing. The sobering question is, why didn’t he stop?

Modi also touches on other types of illiberalism. His critics in the media were scared into silence.India’s parliament, civil service and judiciary have bowed to his will – as evidenced in March, when Mr Gandhi was ousted by a People’s Party legislators and were disqualified from parliament. Likewise, the fact that Mr Modi’s popularity does not depend on such activity is only partly reassuring. This suggests that his illiberalism was less strategic than coercive.

Read more from our Asia columnist Banyan:
Japan offers reconstruction course to Ukraine (June 8)
The Strange Tale of a Famous North Korean Defector (June 1)
The United States pays close attention to the Pacific island countries (May 25)

Plus: How the Banyan column got its name

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