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OpinionsModi’s India is part real, part make-believe and the rest in between...

Modi’s India is part real, part make-believe and the rest in between Leadership, Progress and Controversies in a changing nation

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By Girish Linganna

Prime Minister Narendra Modi renamed his official residence Lok Kalyan Marg in 2016. The new name reflected Modi's populism and inclination to shed 's colonial past. Beyond a strict security checkpoint, “Seven LKM” features peacocks and inner courtyards adorned with intricate flower arrangements. The premises itself has a meeting room with ceiling frescoes depicting world maps. The cabinet room bears inscriptions of excerpts from the “Preamble”.

It is from this tranquil setting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi oversees India's increasing global influence. However, there is concern that Modi himself might pose a threat to the Constitution. Standing behind his spacious desk, Modi radiates assurance at the conclusion of another year in office.

With its population surpassing that of China, India is now seen as a promising alternative to China. People everywhere are gearing up for another five-year Modi term. The 73-year-old is the frontrunner in the race to victory in 2024. Modi cites his track record of bringing tangible improvements to the lives of ordinary citizens.

The desires of the Indian people have undergone a significant transformation over the past one decade of Modi rule. Wearing a cream kurta and a rust-colour sleeveless jacket, Modi is impeccably neat. He asserts that Indians are aware that India is on the verge of major breakthroughs and that they know the progress they see is because of the BJP.

After the BJP's recent assembly elections victories, the Financial Times interviewed Modi and found that  for Modi, the assembly elections in five states were a rehearsal for the general elections of 2024 when over 940 million voters will participate in the elections. If Modi secures a third consecutive term, it will be validation for his many loyal followers. Under his leadership, India's has flourished, its international reputation has soared, and the lives of millions have witnessed notable improvements.

They also credit Modi for placing the Hindu religion at the forefront of public discourse. That said, it is not all smooth. Modi's main opposition is the Indian Congress led by the Gandhi family and the opposition alliance called the INDIA bloc, which has promised to oust Modi and protect democracy and the Constitution.

The secular principles set by the founders are under threat. Modi's decade-old rule has been accused of suppressing political opponents, restricting civil society, and marginalizing Muslims. Critics fear a third Modi term, particularly with a significant majority, will irreversibly undermine India's secular construct. He might even amend the Constitution to establish India as a Hindu Rashtra. The allegations of democratic deterioration, which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) denies, have raised concerns in India and abroad and comes when leaders worldwide are relying on India to show the way ahead.

In his interview to Financial Times, Modi responded to various questions, including about the Muslim minority in India, tensions with the US and Canada, and changes to the Constitution. He dismissed criticisms regarding his government's economic and democratic performance.

Modi and his supporters believe that the concerns regarding India's democracy are unfounded and not in touch with the progress India is making. Modi agrees that critics have the right to voice their opinions and concerns, but the fundamental problem with the allegations is that they question the basic intelligence of the people of India, the voters.

Modi dismissed any talk of changing the Constitution. His government has made significant changes without amending the Constitution and that include initiatives such as the Clean India campaign and connecting almost 1 billion people to the Internet through digital infrastructure.

In August 2023, India successfully landed its Chandrayaan-3 unmanned probe on the Moon. Shortly thereafter, it held a G20 summit and enhanced India's reputation worldwide. India positioned itself as a “Vishwaguru” in various endeavors, such as bridging the digital divide and the growth of climate-resistant millets. India also organized a summit called “Voice of the Global South” and successfully inducted the African Union as a permanent member of the G20.

Prime Minister Modi strengthened his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Modi also cemented his bond with President Joe Biden. Modi spoke of the interconnectedness and interdependence of the world, highlighting India's flexible and adaptable foreign policy. India's current position in the world is seen as a “sweet spot.” Modi said India's top priority in foreign affairs is its national interest. This allows India to interact with other countries in a way that considers their shared interests and understands the complexities of the current geopolitical landscape.

When asked about the possibility of India forming an alliance with the US, Modi acknowledged that the relationship between the two countries was improving, despite recent disquiet in ties following allegations of a plot to assassinate a Sikh terrorist who is a US citizen.

Modi avoided discussing the Israel-Hamas conflict and refrained from criticizing the Benjamin Netanyahu government. He mentioned India's humanitarian aid to Gaza and reiterated India's support for a two-state solution. “I stay in contact with regional leaders, and if there's anything India can do to advance peace efforts, we'll gladly do it,” he stated.

The concept of India as an emerging economic powerhouse is not new, especially for the world's largest developing nation. However, one reason this idea has gained traction recently is due to Modi and his goal to build a $5 trillion Indian economy. Modi never tires of speaking about transforming India into a developed nation by 2047. However, this will need a faster rate of growth than the current 6-7% per year.

 

When asked about his government's crackdown on critics, Modi laughed. According to him, there exists a network of individuals and organizations that takes advantage of the freedom in India to constantly accuse his government. Modi highlighted the extensive past of people from outside underestimating India's capabilities and potential. Modi asserted that those who currently doubt his government would also be proven incorrect in their assessments.

 

(The author is a , Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru.)

Northlines
Northlines
The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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