The narrative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has drastically changed in the international media. From TIME Magazine’s 2015 article where the then US President Barack Obama praised Modi to the article ‘Divider in Chief’ authored by Aatish Taseer, it has come a long way. Aatish Taseer is the son of Indian journalist Tavleen Singh and late Pakistani politician and businessman Salmaan Taseer. The article ‘Modi the Reformer’ is written by Ian Bremmer, President, and Founder of Eurasia Group.
The magazine’s May 20, 2019, international editions – Europe, Middles East, and Africa, Asia, and South Pacific – features PM Modi on the cover with a headline ‘India’s Divider in Chief’ and a sub-headline which reads ‘Modi the Reformer’. The cover story has come at a time when India enters the final phase of the general elections in 2019. It seems that the article might not have a huge impact on the Lok Sabha polls but might affect his relationship with his global peers as well as the sentiments of global investors.
What does the TIME article say?
Aatish Taseer’s article has the ‘Can the World’s Largest Democracy Endure Another Five Years of a Modi Government?’ The article notes that “To understand the deeper promptings of this enormous expression of franchise–not just the politics, but the underlying cultural fissures–we need to go back to the first season of the Modi story. It is only then that we can see why the advent of Modi is at once an inevitability and a calamity for India. The country offers a unique glimpse into both the validity and the fantasy of populism. It forces us to reckon with how in India, as well as in societies as far apart as Turkey and Brazil, Britain and the U.S., populism has given voice to a sense of grievance among majorities that is too widespread to be ignored, while at the same time bringing into being a world that is neither more just, nor more appealing.”
The writer calls Modi ‘a friend of the mob, “Modi, by his deafening silences after more recent atrocities, such as the killing of more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, proved himself a friend of the mob.”
He further writes, “In 2014, Modi converted cultural anger into economic promise. He spoke of jobs and development. Taking a swipe at the socialist state, he famously said, “Government has no business being in business.” That election, though it is hard to believe now, was an election of hope. When the Delhi press tried to bait the Modi voter with questions about building a temple in Ayodhya, a place where Hindu nationalist mobs in 1992 had destroyed a 16th century mosque, said to stand at the birthplace of the Hindu epic hero Ram, they stoutly responded with: “Why are you talking to us of temples, when we are telling you that we’re voting for him because we want development.” Sabka saath, sabka vikas–“Together with all, development for all”–was Modi’s slogan in 2014.” The article also reads “Not only has Modi’s economic miracle failed to materialize, he has also helped create an atmosphere of poisonous religious nationalism in India.”
The writer feels that whatever Modi has said about the election, hope is off the menu. He writes, “The incumbent may win again–the opposition, led by Rahul Gandhi, an unteachable mediocrity and a descendant of Nehru, is in disarray–but Modi will never again represent the myriad dreams and aspirations of 2014. Then he was a messiah, ushering in a future too bright to behold, one part Hindu renaissance, one part South Korea’s economic program. Now he is merely a politician who has failed to deliver, seeking re-election. Whatever else might be said about the election, hope is off the menu.”
On Congress, the writer says, “India’s oldest party has no more political imagination than to send Priyanka Gandhi–Rahul’s sister–to join her brother’s side. It would be the equivalent of the Democrat’s fielding Hillary Clinton again in 2020, with the added enticement of Chelsea as VP. Modi is lucky to be blessed with so weak an opposition–a ragtag coalition of parties, led by the Congress, with no agenda other than to defeat him. Even so, doubts assail him, for he must know he has not delivered on the promise of 2014.”
What international media has to say?
The International Business Times’ headline reads, “Why is PM Modi described as ‘Divider-in-Chief’ on the latest TIME magazine cover?” It also mentions, “PM Modi was named in the list of Time’s most influential people in 2014, 2015 and 2017 but failed this year.”
Dawn’s headline reads, “Time magazine cover story says Narendra Modi is India’s divider-in-chief”
Ashwin Johar, a doctor-turned-politician and central committee member of Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janta Party (OFBJP), the party’s foreign cell, started the online petition on online platform ‘change.org’ to protest an ‘attempt to malign Modi’s image’. The petition is signed by 30,286 people and the number increases every few minutes.
Here’s what the petition says:
“Aatish Taseer in Time magazine against Prime minister Narendra Modi is not only factually incorrect but it also questions the wisdom of Indian electorate who have overwhelmingly supported him in 2014 and also likely to reaffirm their faith in the leadership of Mr Modi again in the ongoing election – Mr Taseer is wrong on most of his arguments, may it be economy, development, women empowerment or Hindu- Muslim divide. His intellectual arguments that India’s past, her heritage is an impediment for India’s future progress is equally baseless. There is every evidence to show otherwise. From the great freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel to social reformers like Ambedkar, everyone had deep roots in Indian heritage, though they have condemned social ills in the strongest terms, and rightly so.
It appears that the only objective of this Pakistani- origin columnist is to defame Modi, defame Indian electorate and defame India. We are equally appalled by the choice of Timeeditors to make it highly derogatory column as its cover story, rather than another balanced story in the same issue of Time by Ian Bremmer which says that only- Modi is best suitable for economic reforms in India.”