Written by James Chiriyankandath.
As Narendra Modi completes an year and a half as India’s prime minister with more globetrotting (this time to the UK and then on to Turkey, Malaysia and France for the G20, ASEAN and Global Climate Change summits), one wonders if behind the bravado and public relations glitz, doubts are beginning to creep in. How far can aggressive salesmanship and slick image promotion go in providing effective national and international leadership and changing ground realities both abroad and at home?
It remains to be seen if the unexpectedly crushing defeat suffered by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the crucial state elections in Bihar serves as a chastening reality check for a leader unused to electoral defeat. The defeat in Bihar came at the hands of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) of the Janata Dal (United) of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (who only ended a decade and a half of alliance with the BJP in 2013 because of his opposition to the rise of Modi), the Rashtriya Janata Dal of ex-chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitish’s long-time rival, and the Indian National Congress (INC), that may have led India’s government for 54 of the 68 years since independence but had been relegated to the margins in Bihar for 20 years. By combining forces, the parties belonging to the notoriously fractious erstwhile Janata socialist tradition in Indian politics consolidated support among the historically underprivileged but numerically strong Backward Class and Dalit (or ‘untouchable’) castes and Muslims to successfully prevent the BJP, allied to three splinter Backward Class and Dalit parties, from winning power in Patna. Continue reading Selling India, Imagining Bharat