“As an American and a self-confessed Indophile, I had a lot of insights I gleaned while traversing the length and breadth of the country. Incidentally, I take care of funded projects and this exposes me to an interaction with the poor and ultra poor of the country. Hopefully, I will debunk a few myths about India, which my North American colleagues should know, along with some Indians who will hopefully read this post:
1. Like it or leave it, the hinterland of India is firmly behind Modi. They don’t give a rat’s ass if you call them his followers, or “bhakts” as I have heard. For the first time, they have a leader and a party that has gone through almost 3 years without a single financial scam against their name. For a country used to spectacular monetary frauds and a silent PM who took plausible deniability to laughable proportions, this is a great and welcome change.
2. Muslim don’t hate Modi. Educated intelligent non-Muslims (read Hindus) hate him more! Simply because he has hijacked their agenda and has started influencing public opinion more than carefully crafted editorials or freebies doled out during elections. Armchair experts who discussed Indian politics over the ubiquitous cup of ‘chai’ are being given a nice proverbial kick on their rounded rumps. The man is shaping opinions and this isn’t being liked by sections of the media who were interestingly the same set of people who are still smarting from Brexit and our own Trump presidency.
3. The only issue that Indians seem to have against Modi is the specter of the riots that he had apparently engineered as the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat. Which in itself seems weird, since their own Supreme Court has absolved him of any wrongdoings! But a section of media and over jealous continue to fashionably pursue his censure. Incidentally, they went after him for a so-called fake encounter where a lady was killed, only to eat their words when the lady was lauded later as one of their own on the Al Qaeda website! Haven’t heard anything from his detractors on this point after that…
4. I get a sense that a lot of Indians consider it a status symbol to oppose Modi, as it makes them appear intellectual and secular. Case in point was the CM of Delhi (along with a lot of intellectuals) who questioned his educational qualifications. But again went completely silent when he was exonerated by the University that confirmed their authenticity. It’s the worst kind of ‘spit and run’ politics that you can imagine. People will keep spitting and hope that something sticks. Especially because no one can find one thing against this man which will get validated.
5. Public memory in India is notoriously short in India. The 1984 carnage in which the martial sect of Sikhs were mercilessly slaughtered has been forgotten by the state of Punjab, which has today booted out the Akali Dal and brought in the Congress. I see that not only as an example of short memory but also as a positive and mature sign, as a very corrupt incumbent party was thrown out. But then if this is being welcomed by a lot of intellectuals, why is a section of polity so perturbed by the BJP getting substantial Muslim votes in UP? Just like how the Sikhs have forgiven the Congress, maybe the Muslims have forgiven the BJP! Mind boggling double standards… Like the Sikhs, why can’t Muslims also want good governance and development?
6. As the third largest economy in PPP terms, India stunned the world by pulling out 86% of its currency that was in circulation. While it is still debatable whether it was a good move (as an Economics major, am not completely convinced), the country seems to lap it up. My sense is not whether it was a good or a bad move; it was a VISIBLE move, which when you analyze with the BJPs track record of no scams, seems to make Modi even more credible.
7. Where Modi lost the trick (in my opinion) is when he promised to put in a couple of million rupees in the accounts of the poor and underprivileged. And his promise of better days. That has backfired and seems to have given fodder to a lot of Indians who were expecting him to work miracles. And am not surprised. Since I do know that in the land of spiritual enlightenment, miracles are often expected and taken for granted.