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Friday, April 25, 2014

THE WEST STRIKES BACK - The international media’s approach to Modi is an eye-opener

By Swapan Dasgupta

Earlier this week, film-maker Mahesh Bhatt referred to an old advertisement which used to claim that four out of every five doctors recommended a particular brand of asprin. "I want to hear what the fifth doctor has to say" said Bhatt with passionate intensity. 

The Bollywood celebrity was, of course, alluding to the ongoing election campaign where opinion polls suggest that Indian voters are inclined to prefer Brand Narendra Modi over the competition. Bhatt, needless to say, is not a Modi supporter but was asserting his right to go his own way. Doubtless he had a point. It would be a sad day for democracy if the only voices heard in the public domain were one-sided and reflective of majority opinion. Mercifully, that is not the case in India. On the contrary, we are confronted with the bizarre situation of the intellectual establishment being dominated by the opinions of the dissidents. 

It is not that the voices of the so-called 'moral majority' have been driven underground, as happens in crude dictatorships. It is just that a small group has such a stranglehold over the levers of intellectual power that dominant sentiment is either deemed to be non-respectable or intimidated into occupying the fringe space reserved for contrarians. A thorough content analysis of the media (both print and electronic) for the past six months may be able to identify the quantum of bias. However, it is very hard to shake off the impression that the big guns have chosen to direct their fire at Modi. 

The international media's approach has been an eye-opener. Earthy wisdom would have us believe that what the Economist recommends to the Indian voter is going to have zero impact on the voting classes. At best, it could be a one-day talking point among bankers and diplomats and, at worst, was calculated to raise nationalist hackles. However, when adverse comments on a Modi-led India becomes the theme song of almost all the 'quality' publications of the West that can be bothered to devote editorial space to the world's largest festival of democracy, the groupthink is bound to have some effect. 

First, it is calculated to paint the picture of an electorate that is guided by raw emotion rather than enlightened self-interest, a proposition that is in direct conflict with the abiding global faith in the modernity of the Indian middle classes. Secondly, it has served to confuse foreigners who have an economic stake in India. Their personal experience, bolstered by inputs from their Indian partners, is that the advent of Modi is certain to give a boost to economic activity. But the unrelenting hostility of the editorial classes to any possible Modi dispensation has the potential of being translated into opposition from small shareholders who may have begun to believe that the gullible masses are on the cusp of electing a Hindu Hitler. What has added to this confusion is the numerous appeals penned by India-connected notables such as Salman Rushdie  and Anish Kapoor expressing grave fears at the likelihood of a Modi-led government. The quantum of alarmism can be assessed by a blog in the Guardian website where a Cambridge academic of Indian origin recommended that the British government scale down its diplomatic engagement in India if Modi comes to power. 

To detect a direct link between the alarm bells in the Anglophone world media over a possible Modi victory and the hysteria over impending fascism among India's intellectual elite wouldn't be far-fetched. India is too much of a rumbustious democracy for its historians and playwrights to be reduced to echo-chambers of Western liberal fashion. On the contrary, if the editorial classes in London and New York have developed a Modi allergy, it is because they have been guided by their counterparts in India. 

In the normal course, someone like Salman Rushdie would have found reason to celebrate the continuing vibrancy of Indian democracy rather than join a version of the International Brigade against Modi. I recall interviewing Rushdie, then in hiding, in London in the summer of 1997 on the occasion of 50 years of Indian Independence. At that time, he was a persona non-grata in India and had been deprived of his visa to travel to his beloved Mumbai. It was a terrible predicament for a writer who felt he was emotionally linked to India be in. 

In that interview, Rushdie spoke poetically of the "loss of India". However, when it came to politics, he stressed the need for an engagement with the Opposition BJP which was, in the aftermath of the Ayodhya demolition of 1992, regarded in the West as a wild bunch of Hindus. I don't believe that Rushdie desire to engage with the BJP stemmed out of some wishy-washy romanticism about India. It was grounded in a pragmatic calculation that the BJP was likely to be in power after the ramshackle United Front government collapsed and that it was only the BJP that had opposed the ban against Satanic Verses in India. The cynical would have interpreted his appreciation of the complexities of Indian politics as a visa application for the future. 

Whether it was or not, the fact is that among the first things that the NDA Government did in 1998 was to re-establish Rushdie's right to visit India. I would like to think that the interview he gave to me played a modest role in the government's change of heart. Indeed, the records show that the British writer was better able to speak, travel and live in India during the NDA rule than subsequently. Three years ago his invitation to the Jaipur Literature Festival resulted in threats by Islamic radicals and his non-appearance following broad hints by the Congress-run Rajasthan government. I doubt that unfortunate incident is likely to be repeated under a NDA dispensation. What is more I think Rushdie knows it. 

I don't expect Rushdie or for that matter other concerned Western liberals to desist from their condemnation of the Gujarat riots of 2002. Those riots were horrible and must not be repeated. But the general election of 2014 in India isn't being fought over the faultlines that reappeared in 2002. It is being contested on very different themes. And if, after a robust debate, where liberals had unrestrained rights to say their piece and broadcast their dire warnings of the future, Indian voters choose to elect Modi, should the proclaimed friends of India in the West turn their back on a whole people? 

There is a certain cussedness about the Western liberal over-reaction that many in India find deeply patronising and offensive. In the event Modi wins on May 16 we are likely to see two trends. First, the enthusiasm of business for a fresh start will rub off on the Western media. The Economist will be more circumspect than before. Secondly, the Modi government will be put on notice from day one and not be given the benefit of a honeymoon. Any trip-up will be mercilessly exploited. And finally, there is likely to be an unholy alliance between Indian liberals and the forces of anti-capitalism to thwart the revival of manufacturing. India will be painted as a crude practitioner of bandit capitalism. 

For Modi, the internal challenges may be formidable but far less daunting than the diplomatic roadblocks he will encounter. The enfeebled liberal establishment in India will organise its fightback from abroad. 

The Telegraph, April 25, 2014


shambhudeep hore said...

The last para stole the show!! If only I could get 1/4th of that skill of urs.

YogeshJain said...

I have a feeling that Atal Behari Govt. did not do enough to arrest such an international eco system getting developed. Instead it played to Congress's Sonia Gandhi sympathisers, stooges and darbaris which also had / have a strong anti India influence on world at large.

Narendra Modi has to dispel that by good work, near perfect working and generate feeling that India cannot be branded by Int'l Anti India & Anti Modi myopic vision.
Somewhere I get a creepy feeling that by the persona of Modi Internationally such people are frightened that India may even come up on at World Stage much faster and higher over China, UK, US which they cannot digest.

But as Modi always so, more muck you throw at me, more I will blossom.


Arpan said...

India is too big a market to be ignored. So this misguiding by Indian liberals to their western counterparts and thus investors having second thoughts about opportunity in India won't last for long even if it happens.

uniblogz said...

Nice post Sir, the way western media is taking stances it is clearly guided by the indian media. There are numerous issues from price rise to corruption for raising in this election season, and our media is wasting most of its time and energy (and reputation, of course) after terms like communal, polarising, secular, divisive. Each and every piece of information revealed by media houses play a role in voting process and on the mind of a voter. But, 
In this highly sensitive time of deciding the next govt of the nation, all that the most of the media houses are resorting to is not news, it is just a nonsensical rhetoric.

Kalyan Deb said...

Traditionally, an Indian intellectual boasts and blossoms on being a good Muslim and a bad Hindoo at the same time. Following the recent example of the N Korean uncle, Salman Rushdie should be fed to a pack of hungry Islamic dogs and Anish Kapoor to be slung by a meat hanger as was practiced immediately after the Wolf’s lair failed bombing.

Anonymous said...

As expected another unbiased well written analysis from Sri.Swapan Dasgupta.

"Any trip-up will be mercilessly exploited".

This is very very true. As it happened with Amit Shah's perfectly normal statement by EC.

Fortunately Narendra Modi has wise good intentioned team of friends to counsel him like Swapan Dasgupta , CHO Ramaswamy , Sandhya Jain , S.Gurumurthy and so forth.

Congress , communists , dmk , dk, tr.balus and their supporters among people have been adamantinely refusing to consider highly LEGITIMATE grievances and RIGHTS of Hindus .

I have never been against Sonia and her family for having Italian origins like many others.

In CORE issues like Sri.RAM SETHU, HINDUS' Temples autonomy including financial management, extricating them from the shackles of anti Vedic ill informed "social reformers" , ban on evangelical conversions , ban on COW slaughter and BEEF production , BAN on crappy movies congress and dmk have BRAZENLY spurned HINDUS.

Hence I do not want them ever to win. I do not want them to even "come back" as has been routinely happening in this GODFORSAKEN india. I know people's CHARACTER seldom changes.

If any ISRAELI /AMERICAN / CHINAMAN is capable enough and willing to ENFORCE legitimate HINDUS' demands I would wholeheartedly welcome such a LEADER to govern Bharath. As they have it in them to understand and have a total grasp over issues.

When I say issues it includes environmental issues also. In my strong personal opinion an ISRAELI would understand BEST. Hence I am not juvenile and mulish enough to insist only an indian citizen should rule over Indians.

I hope Modi does not turn our Holy Pilgrimage Sites and Temples into "tourist spots" as he has been repeatedly threatening. This is why I insist art of living "avatard" SSSRavishankar is a dubious mentor to be consulted by Modi.

In various such crucial matters well informed Hindu Vedic Aacharyas ( Sri.Omkarananda of Chidbavananda Ashramam for instance) ALONE are capable of giving the right guidance.


How much priority will be given to the diplomatic onslaught as mentioned. Isn't it a fact that India will have other vital issues to deal with. A bad monsoon for example will change all priorities. Dependence on local parties like Trinamool and AIADMK seems to be another big issue that will define the priorities.

s kalyanaraman said...

Those who repeatedly criticize against Mr Modi are perhaps fear of unknown. Do they want a UPA govt to continue and bungle the state of affairs of the country? Or do they want a so called 3rd Front with SP/Left/ADMK/DMK/TMC/JDU/BJD to govern which will be a nightmare. AAP is out of question since nobody knows what they stand for on different issues.
If a BJP/NDA govt without Modi as PM candidature is projected to fight the elections, the results will not be overwhelmingly in favour of the party/alliance. So the so called intellectuals want India to continue to be weak and not be strong, stable, prosperous and geopolitically exploited.
We will be happy if they shed their fear and spread clarity on whom India should elect and who should govern and how.

Anonymous said...

The reasons for stiff opposition to Modi is of abnormal intensity and the bogey about Modi has been sustained for more than a decade and there is more than what meets the eye for the west in past has hugged worse demagogues than Modi who cannot by any stretch of imagination be called fascist and what not for it would be insult of the mandate given by people of India who alone have the right to decide as to who should be at helms of affair of the country and not some nri so called intellectuals.
The actual reason for opposition to Modi by west is the perceived thwarting of evangelical activities by Modi and prevention of intervention in the Indian affairs.

Anonymous said...

Almost ALL of us have spared no words in pouring venom on Sri.Manmohan Singh the Prime Minister of Bharath and heaping ridicule after ridicule on him.

BUT , Manmohan Singh has been taking all in his stride. That is one IMPORTANT reason this Sardarji commands my respect. Whatever you say a Sardarji is a SARDARJI. No vindictive streak in him has ever been detected.

But I have serious reservations regarding Narendra Modi.

His "humble" tea seller background for instance.

All diatribe on hinduism , nationalism , this country's heritage coming from Modi and his supporters sound so HOLLOW and SHALLOW. His votes soliciting in Holy Varanasi is CERTAINLY not becoming of a humble person. With so many flower petals being showered on him and strewn all over. Art of living megalomaniac charlatan ssssravishankar's birthday bash in Karnataka was similarly MOST UNHOLY btw. RSS Gurumurthy adores this SSSSRaviravishankarshankar interestingly.

Modi's garlanding of Swami Vivekananda is lousy posturing.
Those who KNOW Swami Vivekananda and His GURU Sri.Ramakrishna Paramahamsar need no amplification.

He made a big show of garlanding Madan Mohan Malaviya. Who was arrogant enough to argue insolently with Kaanchi Paramacharya.

As Sri.Nochur Venkatraman boldly said:-

" It is always the so called social reformers who have wrought much of HAVOC to the society and people all over this world".

Ishwar Chandra Vidayasagar was one such garrulous social reformer who stood tongue tied before Sri.Ramakrishna Paramahamsar when Gurudev gave an EXTREMELY SIMPLE and TRENCHANT reply to his bluster.

I am afraid I cannot translate it in English.Even if told in Tamil most would not understand save very few like that AMERICAN Jody Radzik who unmasked this charlatan sssravishankar.

Rajiv Gandhi started with Mr.Clean image and fizzled out.

I see Modi going the same way.Much sooner.

Modi made me recoil with HORROR when he bragged about turning Varanasi into "spiritual capital" blah blah.

Kaasi and Gaya -ALL predate this narendra modi. This modi does not even KNOW the meaning of words like "spiritual and spirituality" as he fielded hemamalini plus had meetings with kollywood and bollywood poltroons.

Those in Mathura are so STUPID to imagine this SLUT hemamalini is some hoohaaa and were asking her about dharmendra "missing".

Modi who is touted to be next prime minister of india OUGHT NOT to have forgotten it is the same dharmendra while LIVING with hemamalini the RICHEST SLUT and mithun chakraborty who proudly bragged he was "the highest tax payer" then REFUSED to hand over a few paise that an orphaned SIKH boy had asked them to give for buying a loaf of bread and a cup of tea as his parents and entire neighbourhood had been incinerated alive during the pogrom in Delhi in 1984.

This news was reported in a well known newspaper in the lifestyles of these bollywood RICH debauched SCOUNDRELS. It was dharmendra and mithun who proudly narrated such acts of their CRUELTY calling it (sic)"patriotism and dealing with traitors of india".

Is this modi Prime Minister material???

Does he seriously believe he has it in him to "uplift" all the people of india with his quarter baked ideas of prosperity , spirituality yada yada.

Modi like many jingoistic indians have been harbouring excessive animosity towards AMERICA in particular for toooooo long I know.

Just as mk.gandhi was one big racist with anti British agenda that he cleverly dovetailed in so called "freedom movement" ..this modi is also doing the same.

Anonymous said...

I think that Swapanda is too much of an Anglophile and cares too much about Anglo opinion. I will post more about this later but all I want to say is that nothing demonstrates Western hypocrisy better than China and Russia (China has the world's second biggest market and Russia the largest horde of Fossil Fuels).

What has Modi done which compares with Putin's conduct of Russian policy in Chechnya? What about China's behavior in Xinjiang province? How about the deaths of 600,000 Iraqis in the pursuit of phantom weapons of mass destruction by George Bush?

India needs to break free of its colonial shackles. This means distancing itself from the toxic British and Americans. We can learn a lot from the Russians and Chinese.

Modi's biggest challenges won't come from the Anglo press. They will be internal. He must not let the Anglo press and its cigar smoking Lutyens handlers in India dictate Indian policy. He must do what is in the interests of the country. This is absolutely vital.

Anonymous said...

This hemamalini bjp candidate fielded from Mathura has nothing but DUBIOUS credentials. When she allegedly made a movie she presumed every Indian to be a gullible IDIOT. She STOLE the story of a Keralite Writer and made the movie with one of her relatives as the heroine (madhu of manirathnam's roja ). The already uber rich hemamalini made lot more money. Whereas that Kerala Malayalam Author not rich at all , had to spend a lot of money hiring a lawyer to file a case. hemamalini with her bollywood clout managed to suppress all relevant facts from reaching the people of India , narendra modi allegedly Mr.Incorruptible included. She paid a pittance to that author calling it "out of the court settlement".

I wonder if such FRAUDULENT thieves clad in silks and chiffons alleged vegetarians brand ambassadors of baba ramdev are going to win this elections for bjp.

Anonymous said...

Keep a watch on the stock market if you want to know how the west feels of a shift in the govt. Arrival of Modi govt will crash the stock market with the exit of foreign funds, hence the run up in recent months. Otherwise, there is no reason for the Sensex to be where it is today. West considers equity markets as direct wealth controllers of the middle class. However, most of the country is not tied to Dalal Street hence the impact will be only on those trading speculators.

On geopolitical fronts, India is uniquely positioned to be still non-aligned and still be good partners with Russia and China and US and Euro. It has a much bigger role to play in a polarized world than not. Religious controversies will always be there. Finding strategies to contain them is the key. Babus, for whom I have tons of respect, should take this opportunity to redeem their conscience of doing right to the land they were born into and help leaders do the right thing.

We want young future leaders. Let Rahul develop to be a good leader being in the opposition (nothing wrong with that). Or let him find a good leader to rep the party and be like mama Sonia and manage from behind the scenes.

No party should gain absolute power. As we all know, absolute power corrupts absolutely.


Anonymous said...

The problem with so-called Indian intellectuals is that most are not really one. They have been misguiding the people for many decades. Just that now, people don't care and follow their instincts.

The credibility of these intellectuals who take their cue from west is the lowest point ever.

Anonymous said...

Modi will have to do a lot of cleansing oops I meant cleaning.

Krish said...

Swapan, The Economist and the so-called spoonfed western media has long since lost its relevance in world politics. The Economist, admittedly is a newspaper and no longer the authoritative commentator of elite political and economic outcomes. In fact its desperate attempts to crawl back to a fraction of its original glory can be seen from its impulsive haste to run a story without checking ground reality by its own staff than just relying on stringer feeds.

Anonymous said...

Further to my previous comment about Anglo opinion, India needs to break itself free from the shackles of the these Anglo hypocrites (in India and in the West). The West's institutions have had a long march of the Left through them (this requires a much longer explanation). I have friends who have faced all kinds of problems getting their doctorates in the humanities in the very top Western universities because they are not willing to go along with the Campus left dominating them. Liberal media domination is also a fact in America (though less so in Britain) and on top of all this, journalism is now dominated by the left-wing activist brigade.

The latest example of Western hypocrisy is Ukraine. Don't believe what you read in the Western press about Russian "bullying". Ukraine had a pro-Russian government that was toppled by the CIA by funding and provision of weapons to (get this) Ukrainian Neo-Nazis and fascist groups that wanted Yanukovich out. What Putin says (and clearly we can now understand him better given the West's treatment of Modi) is that the West makes one set of rules for everyone and one set of rules for itself. In Syria, that obnoxious witch Hillary wants to arm Sunni extremists that would exterminate the Shiite and Christian minority in Syria.

Putin has already embarrassed Obama and utterly humiliated him on the world stage. India can learn something from this. India needs to become bigger and stronger and the "right" will need to take back the institutions from the Congress stooges that have come to dominate opinion formation. This is going to be much more difficult than winning this election (that is much easier). But for the sake of India's future, this has to happen. And we must break free of the shackles of Anglo opinion. The more irrelevant the British become, the more they have a need to pose as the world's "moral guardians". America is also a nation in decline though this is less obvious to people today.

Jitendra Desai said...

It is unwise to give too much importance to these opinions.Left liberals have tried their best to get rid of Modi even from Gujarat since 2002.We also don't know what the elites in Germany,France,Scandinavia,Spain think about Modi.What about Russia? China? Japan? Australia? Canada? Latin America? Africa? World is certainly not a British island.Let those intellectuals keep exercising their rights,NDA/BJP/Modi will find ways of dealing with them when time comes.In the mean time Rushdie has betrayed his hypocrisy by opposing a party that did not oppose him.Modi/BJP/RSS will be happy if he becomes a darling of Mullahs in the subcontinent because of this.What if he does not?!

Sayan Sen said...

I think that the best way for India to avoid getting ostracised diplomatically and financially by the West is not to elect Mr. Modi and bring a secular,liberal and progressive government (UPA 3/3rd front/4th front/federal front etc.)at the Centre.We should never forget that it was the West in general and Britain (which used to be "Great" then :)) in particular that brought into India the alien concepts of representative government, civil rights, democracy---concepts totally alien to the Indian and more particularly Hindu minds which were steeped then in superstition and feudalism.Today also we should take a cue from the left-lib editors of Economist (or Ecommunist) and elect UPA 3.Or else be prepared for cultural sanctions from the West. :)

Water Engineer said...

Modi govt is the best bet for Rushdie. Not only can he come to India, but can attend whatever function he wants to. Yet, very foolishly he chose to attack Modi. It only shows that western people hardly exercise their brains.

Virat said...

Independent nationalism is unacceptable to the West, no matter where it is, and it has to be driven back into subordination
- This Quote from Chomsky explains why the west is against Modi and this is also driving the Indian media establishments bias towards modi as well as that of English authors of Indian origin.

Anonymous said...

My theory is that in foreign affairs the western media mirrors the foreign policy of its countrys government. Look at the anti Russia tirade in the press

vasanth patel said...

But that was then. The BJP was relatively new to govt. It was so grateful just to be in govt. But this time I guess they have learnt their lessons well. A modi led govt would come hard on these anti nationals. He has already given those hints. What differentiates modi from a Vajpayee is that the former remains unmoved by criticism.

Harsh said...

Muslim/Intelligentsia/media never talk about Bangladeshi illegal immigrants problem, just because they are the vote banks of SICKulars congress Mulayam, Communists