The Indian Prime Minister's election victory threatens the country's secular identityby Ramachandra Guha / June 19, 2014 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2014 issue of Prospect Magazine
Narendra Modi’s victory parade in New Delhi in May. © Reuters/Adnan Abidi
At 6pm on 26th May, Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was sworn in as the 15th Prime Minister of India. Within an hour, the official website of the Prime Minister had been updated. After announcing that a new man had taken charge, the first paragraph of the amended site continued:
“In Narendra Modi, the people of India see a dynamic, decisive and development-oriented leader who has emerged as a ray of hope for the dreams and aspirations of a billion Indians. His focus on development, eye for detail and efforts to bring a qualitative difference in the lives of the poorest of the poor have made Narendra Modi a popular and respected leader across the length and breadth of India. Narendra Modi’s life has been a journey of courage, compassion and constant hard work.”
The language was characteristic. Narendra Modi is not a modest man. All through the election campaign, he focused on what he claimed to have done in Gujarat, the western Indian state where he had been Chief Minister since 2001. His speeches continually drew attention to himself, with liberal—not to say excessive—use of Hindi or Gujarati equivalents of “I,” “Me,” “Mine,” “Myself.” He would speak in one place of how he had brought uninterrupted electricity to his farmers; in another of how he had ended bureaucratic corruption; in a third of how he had overseen a revolution in the production and distribution of milk.