19 April, 2021

One-Man Tea Party

The Modi campaign is a copycatting of US right-wing tactics

Illustration by Sorit
One-Man Tea Party

The April 8, 2014, Delhi edition of Indian Express pretty much said it all. Below the newspaper’s masthead ran a BJP ad strip across eight columns, black on saffron, with Narendra Modi’s mugshot and the catchline: Time for Change, Time for Modi. Below the ad was an eight-column headline: ‘BJP’s Manifesto is for, by and of Modi’.

This juxtaposition, entirely inadvertent, deliciously captu­res the drift, spirit and thrust of the BJP’s 2014 Lok Sabha campaign, a most personalised sales pitch, a brilliantly aud­acious strategy to presidentialise a parliamentary national election. Perhaps only once before, in 1971, was the country subjected to such a spect­acle of one political leader and her persona­lity overshadowing conventional calculati­ons and considerations, reducing the whole exercise to a referendum on Indira Gandhi and her presumed (un)suitability to continue as the prime minister of India. The consequences of that vote turned out to be injurious to the health of democratic...

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