International media calls Modi’s win a threat to pluralism, democracy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses at BJP headquarters in New Delhi on May 23, 2019. Also seen BJP chief Amit Shah with party leaders Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Thawar Chand Gehlot, Rajnath Singh, Jap Nadda and Ram Lal. (IANS)

Narendra Modi’s landslide victory in the elections has been covered extensively both nationally and internationally. While some reports expressed concern about Modi’s divisive politics and India becoming a Hindu state, some reports lauded him for becoming the first non-Congress prime minister to return to power after a full five-year term.

According to results confirmed on May 24, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), defying predictions, won 303 seats, giving it an even bigger majority than five years.

The Washington Post, calling India’s election “a gargantuan test for democracy,” said “the result represents a stunning vote of confidence in Modi, a charismatic and polarizing politician who is part of a crop of right-leaning populist leaders around the globe.”

Calling him “India’s watchman,” the New York Times said Modi’s “mix of brawny Hindu nationalism, populist humility and grand gestures for the poor — like building tens of millions of new toilets — helped him become the first prime minister in nearly 50 years to win a majority in successive parliamentary elections.”

In his victory speech on May 23, Modi said his victory is for the youth who have dreams. “For the mother who wished for a toilet. For every sick person who couldn’t afford treatment. For farmers who toil hard for the nation for poor people moving into their first home. For every law-abiding, tax-paying citizen.”

Several reports highlighted Modi’s right-leaning policies and the effect his leadership will have on the minority communities is India, especially the Muslims. “His success mirrors the rise of right-leaning populist figures around the world,” the New York Times said. “But detractors say his commitment to giving more power to the country’s Hindu majority has struck fear in the Muslim minority and is pulling the country’s delicate social fabric apart.”

The Guardian, in an editorial said “Modi’s win will see India’s soul lost to a dark politics. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s victory in the national elections will see India’s soul ‘lost to a dark politics,’ and this is bad news for the country and the world,” it said, adding that Modi had threatened independent India’s multi-party democracy. “The world does not need another national populist leader who pursues a pro-business agenda while trading in fake news and treating minorities as second-class citizens,” the Guardian editorial said.

Indian journalist Barkha Dutt, in an article in the Washington Post, wrote that “Narendra Modi’s unprecedented victory in the 2019 elections is proof that India and her politics have been irrevocably altered.”

She continued: “By delivering Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party a clear majority of its own, Indians have shown a preference for strong, decisive, alpha-male leadership unencumbered by pressure from smaller political forces. And what may have begun as culture clashes between Indian conservatives and liberals has been decisively settled on the political battlefield with a clear win for the right wing.”

Calling Modi a “Teflon prime minister,” she said “it did not matter how many controversies swirled around him. The more liberals agitated against Modi, the stronger it made him. And the more the Western media slammed him, the more the country rallied around him.”

Similarly, journalist and author Pankaj Mishra, in the New York Times, said Modi’s “raw wisdom” for the past years has proved that he is “dangerously incompetent.” In an article titled “How Narendra Modi Seduced India With Envy and Hate,” Mishra said India witnessed “a savage assault on not just democratic institutions and rational discourse but also ordinary human decency,” he wrote. “Since 2014, Mr. Modi’s near-novelistic ability to create irresistible fictions has been steadily enhanced by India’s troll-dominated social media as well as cravenly sycophantic newspapers and television channels.”

Talking about Modi’s May 23 tweet about building a “a strong and inclusive India,” the Sidney Morning Herald noted that making good on his promise of unity will be difficult as the BJP campaign was often divisive, and members of the minority Muslim community expressed fears that they were being treated as second-class citizens.

The Daily Beat, in its report said that Modi’s “bellicosity may have been the key to victory.” In an article titled “Modi’s India Landslide Should Scare the Sh*t Out of the Rest of Us,” Matthew Clayfield wrote: “For those who believe that India should strive towards the ideals of secular pluralism — towards the ideals espoused by the country’s first post-independence prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who appears more and more irrelevant by the day — the fact that a majority of voters appear to agree with Modi will come as a serious blow.”

According to Clayfield, anyone who believes, as he does, “that the first five years of Modi’s government were merely a Hindutva test balloon, sent up into the smog above Delhi to see how far they could push things, today’s saffron wave is more than bad news. It should scare the shit out of you.”

Some news reports alluded to Congress’ debacle and what seems like the demise of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty politics. “The governing BJP of Narendra Modi has swept back to victory with a resounding majority of well over 300 seats, the BBC said. “The result is a major blow for Rahul Gandhi’s Congress, which once dominated Indian politics.”

Newsweek compared Modi with President Donald Trump, saying that although “the two men come from vastly different worlds, they do share similarities in style and substance.” Some of the common things between them, Newsweek said were making politics personal, nationalism and violation of democratic norms.

The Wall Street Journal said Modi, “India’s popular nationalist leader, won a sweeping mandate for a second five-year term, setting the stage for more economic reform of the fast-growing economy and more divisive social policies for his Hindu supporters.” It said “the huge win for Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was a devastating loss for the Indian National Congress party, which once dominated Indian politics and had hoped for a strong comeback after struggling in recent elections.” However, “victory wouldn’t solve all the economic problems India’s prime minister has thus far left unresolved,” it noted.

Bloomberg News, while praising Modi for his sweep, warned him of the challenges that lie ahead. “Modi will have to steer the country through an inevitable economic slowdown, address youth employment, and deal with national security issues such as terrorism,” it said.

Other news reports including the Qatar-based Al Jazeera, Pakistan-based Dawn and the South China Morning Post also covered the Indian elections and Modi’s resounding win.

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