Friday, November 13, 2015

UK papers target Modi

 Pheroze L. Vincent

New Delhi, Nov. 11: Leading British and American newspapers have questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's stature and politics days before his three-day UK visit, their analyses of the Bihar polls reviving memories of the years when he was unwelcome in the West.
Columnist Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian has dubbed Modi "one of the most dangerous politicians on the planet".
"Well, imagine any national leader - Cameron, Merkel, Obama - spending a large chunk of his or her life working for a gang of religious fascists - one that renowned academics compare to Islamic State," Chakrabortty wrote.
"Chuck in a long personal history of inciting religious hostility, a track record of cosying up to big business, and a reputation for ruthlessness towards enemies. Now put this extremist in charge of a nuclear state. Worried yet?"
Another article in the newspaper by Pankaj Mishra, which has gone viral on social media, says: "It is true that Modi and his toadies embody without shame, ambivalence or euphemism the brutality of power; they don't give a rat's ass about pleasing illusions. Yet their assaults on the authorised idea of India are creating a fissure in the unfeeling monolith through which a humane politics and culture might flow."
Modi plans to address 60,000 people - mostly of Indian origin - in Wembley stadium on Friday in what Indian TV channels are saying would be the biggest gathering for an Indian leader on foreign soil.
Business deals of an estimated £10 billion may be signed during the visit. This includes a purchase agreement for 20 Hawk trainer aircraft. However, the British media believe the Bihar drubbing has diminished Modi's standing.
"The defeat in Bihar was the BJP's biggest electoral setback since coming to power, after losing in the capital Delhi earlier this year," The Independent reported. "The election was played out against the backdrop of a fierce debate about rising intolerance in India, a country that prides itself on unifying diverse religious and linguistic groups under a secular democratic umbrella."
The Telegraph of London said: "He (Modi) will also arrive with his domestic standing weakened after his party was comfortably defeated in Bihar state elections following a campaign that Mr Modi effectively turned into a referendum on his popularity# by making nearly 30 trips there for rally appearances and speeches."
The Financial Times said: "Mr Modi's image as a moderniser focused on national development issues such as sanitation and job skills rather than on narrow Hindu interests has been badly tarnished by BJP ministers and rightwing groups. Among liberals and intellectuals and even moderates in the ranks of the BJP, there has been a marked deterioration of Mr Modi's reputation in recent weeks."
Foreign media outlets believe that economic reforms in India have become more distant after the Bihar debacle, which impedes the BJP's attempts to achieve a majority in the Rajya Sabha.
"The stock market, a good barometer of hope, is down 4 per cent so far this year," Reuters pointed out.#Modi is expected to face protests against growing communalism in India. Thirteen British MPs have supported a motion calling upon the government to question Modi on alleged atrocities by Indian troops in Kashmir.
Reports said that activists had projected, on the walls of Britain's Parliament building on Sunday night, an image of Modi wielding a sword beside an "Om" sign fashioned as a swastika.
Further west, The New York Times has called the Bihar result a message from voters to Modi saying: "Put an end to the hatemongering."
"Poisoning politics with religious hatred is bound to squander the country's economic potential at a time when India should be playing a bigger and more constructive role in South Asia and the world," the newspaper said.
Across India's western border, BJP president Amit Shah's remark that Pakistan would burst crackers if the BJP lost in Bihar is now fodder for jokes.
Tweeters have posted images of quiet nights over Pakistan's cities with captions such as "Exclusive pictures coming from Pakistan, as Nitish Kumar is leading in Bihar poll."
Modi had faced nearly a decade of visa restrictions from some western countries, which ended in the run-up to last year's general election. The November 12-14 trip to Britain could witness his highest exposure to protest and ridicule abroad, spurred by his fall on the plains of Bihar.

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