'Unlike Trump and Putin, Modi thriving in crisis': NYT praises PM's coronavirus response

On Saturday, The New York Times published a thinly-veiled back-handed jibe which appeared to praise PM Modi – an Indian leader they’ve barely had any love for – but in truth has the air of a best man delivering the toast for his friend who has married his childhood crush.

There’s bittersweet admission about Modi’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and then wondering when the public sentiment will turn against the PM.

The piece notes, even though one must point out that opinion polls in India are notoriously inaccurate: “Recent opinion polls show that in the past few months Mr. Modi’s already high approval ratings have soared even higher, touching 80, even 90 percent. Unlike two of the populist leaders to whom he is often compared, President Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Mr. Modi seems to be thriving in this crisis.”

The piece add that if India ‘rides out the coronavirus in decent form’, PM Modi ‘might emerge even stronger’. It also makes the usual foreign publication mistake of attributing the 2019 re-election to Balakot and the entire piece doesn’t have a single word on the economic and social policies of NDA (2014-19) which played a major role including Swacch Bharat, rural electrification, Jan Dhan Yojana et al.

It goes on to note, with the usual shock that ‘despite lingering concerns about his agenda’, Modi’s popularity had soared amid the pandemic.

The piece further notes: “Mr. Modi’s success, analysts say, may be more durable. He’s widely seen as a mobilizer, not a despot, which may explain why his nationwide stay-at-home lockdown, which he dropped on the country with four hours’ notice, has been largely obeyed. Even the softer, feel-good exercises he has insisted on, like asking Indians to stand in their doorways and clap at a certain time, or to light candles at another, have been followed by millions.”

And ends with the eternal hope of Modi’s political demise as it quotes political science Sumantra Bose of London School of Economics – reminding one of Sir Humphrey’s jibes at the particular school because hacker studied there – that if the economy can’t ‘pull itself out of a nose dive, the messiah maybe hoist with his own petard’.

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