I knew little of Modi before I read this book, which I picked up on a whim. What I learnt was that, he is a highly arrogant, egomaniac with delusions of grandeur. He refers to himself in the third person (which is a red flag right there) and takes advice from his astrologer. What kind of person has a suit tailored that has your name stitched into it over a thousand times? Worryingly, you can draw many parallels with Trump’s campaign for America: divisiveness, attacking the media/using social media, thin skinned and a populism strategy. Though at least Modi’s modus operandi is a little more subtle and less extreme.
On Godra, Price gives both sides to what happened, the reader will likely draw the conclusion that Modi did not do enough as Chief Minister to stop the violence quickly enough. It is difficult to say whether Modi really holds nationalistic views himself. It appears he does condone divisive rhetoric by his subordinates but is this to pacify the Sangh and win elections or is it because of his ideology?
Whatever your opinion of Modi or his politics, the man knows how to run a highly successful national campaign. Borrowing tropes from the Clinton, Obama and Blair campaigns and building on these with his own ideas. In sum, he made the whole election about himself, that rather than electing an amorphous party, the BJP, you were electing him. He embraced technology, beaming holograms into distant villages, where they didn’t even own a TV, he held umpteen rallies throughout the country and unleashed blistering attacks on Congress. Don’t forget to add in a couple of catchphrases into the mix as well. And it seems to have worked for him again in 2019 too.
It was quite impressive to see a man of humble beginnings (low caste, Dalit) and chai wala be elected Prime Minister with a majority in a country with over 1 billion in population. Let’s not forget that after Godra he was very much a pariah and there was resistance in the BJP against his selection. All this notwithstanding, the final chapter sees Price unleash his most blistering critique yet in The Modi Defect. As with any populist, it is likely that Modi has over promised and will under deliver as Price says. Not to say the PM hasn’t made some modest progress but his first budget wasn’t very radical and more in line with something Congress would do. Modi is essentially a crony capitalist, giving government jobs to friends and businessmen who helped him on his campaign trail, a different form of corruption than the usual cash for state jobs. The defect is the qualities that helped him get elected will stop him being successful in office.
Whether in his heart Modi has moved on from his more hardline interpretations of Hindutva ideology is impossible to judge.
Sometime after 1500 BCE, in the early Vedic period, republics governed by assemblies became common. So much for the idea that the benevolent British who first bequeathed India democracy as a last act of generosity before leaving the country to fend for itself.
“I believe your life is pre-decided so why worry?”
– N. Modi
He has an ambivalent relationship with the journalists’ profession. He is desperate to know what they are saying about him and puts in enormous effort to ensure they write about him in the way he wants.
The Supreme Court expressed dismay that thirteen thirteen of the 45 ministers in Modi’s first government were facing pre-existing criminal charges, including rape, attempted murder and intimidation. […] The number of ministers implicated grew to 20 out of 66, almost a third.