You don’t get to lead a democracy, let alone get re-elected by a landslide, without a mandate to save your country. What distinguishes the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is that he is a cult salvationist—yet, after seven years leading the world’s biggest democracy, he has little to show beyond the accumulation of votes.
As an outsider distilling the avalanche of controversy, hagiography and verbiage, I am struck most by Modi’s congenital ambivalence. This is a thoroughly 21st-century party leader beamed as a 3D hologram into thousands of election meetings and rallies, fiercely partisan and constantly accusing his opponents of disloyalty to India. Yet he is also a man who decamps to a cave mid-campaign (cameras in tow) to contemplate the meaning of life and impart spiritual wisdom. While earning rapt adoration, of course.
This ethereal hologram—brutal modern politician as prophet and guru—has won two successive election…
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