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In celebrated bastions of democracy, an unlikely club of 'dissimilar' leaders

T N Ninan reads from another commentator's notes on one prime minister and observes how eerily similar they sound to the description of some others

democracy | Weekend Ruminations | Narendra Modi

T N Ninan 

T N Ninan

In this holiday season, let’s do the lazy thing and see what another commentator wrote about the prime minister last summer. “His mission he says is to restore (his country’s) faith in itself, to battle...‘effete and desiccated and hopeless’ defeatism.” And yet, “To many, (he) is … the embodiment of the demise of public standards and the face of ... post-truth politics ... To his most vehement critics, he is … a charlatan who lied his way to the top, who endangers … and who believes in nothing but his own advancement … He is leading his country through the most radical reshaping of its economy (and) electoral map …”

Our commentator noted: “His argument for patriotic optimism has obvious appeal”, but “wondered whether it masked more cynical impulses. Was he working in the country’s interest, or his own? ... In one of our conversations, (he) had said that people need to feel part of something bigger than themselves ... and they shouldn’t be patronised for worrying that their traditions and connections are being eroded.”

The prime minister has been severely criticised for his handling of the pandemic. But “people are more patient with him, they are more forgiving of him, because he’s not a typical politician”. That frustrates the opposition. “That nothing ever seems to stick (to him) drives his opponents mad … Time and again, when controversy has engulfed him, he has emerged unscathed. Part of his electoral genius lies in his ability to stop his opponents from thinking straight: In their hatred for him, they cannot see why he is popular, nor what to do about it.”

“…To him, the point of politics — and about life — is not to squabble over facts; it’s to offer people a story they can believe in … Human beings are creatures of the imagination.” So he has stoked a populist, nationalist “…rebellion against an ostensibly unfair system, fueled by... angers”.



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First Published: Fri, December 24 2021. 18:44 IST