Home Editorial Editorial: The Secret to Modi’s Success

Editorial: The Secret to Modi’s Success

A thriving economy ensures little risk to the continuation of the Indian prime minister’s rule as the country gears up for elections this year

by Editorial

File photo. Prakash Singh—AFP

Concerns about growing intolerance in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi have failed to dent his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has won most state elections, primarily due to its economic success. Aspiring to supplant China as Asia’s pre-eminent superpower, India’s aim to become the world’s factory is also being realized. The message is clear: no matter how wrong you are politically, you can rule happily if your country does well economically.

In 2022, India refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, securing discounted oil from Moscow. In May 2023, India hosted China and Russia at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Goa, following it a month later with a landmark defense cooperation agreement with a “China-bothered” United States, leading to Washington hosting Modi at a state dinner. Also in May, India scheduled a G20 working session on tourism in held-Kashmir, a disputed region with an active insurgency and whose special autonomy the Modi government has controversially revoked. Significantly, official invitations to the summit used “Bharat”—the Sanskrit-derived name for India preferred by Hindu nationalists.

In August, Modi attended the landmark BRICS summit in South Africa signaling anti-Americanism through its attendees. Yet, the U.S. continues to cater to India, with little backlash to alleged attempts to assassinate separatist Sikhs in Western nations, as revealed by Canada in September 2023.

There was little concern within India over the assassinations, allegedly perpetrated by its secretive RAW, as the country’s economic success has largely dimmed the Khalistan movement. Modi also remains among the most acclaimed global leaders within his own country, securing an approval rating of 76 percent in December 2023 against disapproval of 18 percent. This was reflected in the BJP’s victories in assembly elections of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, again primarily due to economic success.

This is not to say Modi’s rule hasn’t been disastrous for Indian society. The country has grown increasingly intolerant under his leadership, with Reporters Without Borders ranking India a dismal 150 out of 180 in press freedom, with an Indian editor recently admitting journalists now “work under a cloud of fear.” One lesson for the world is that economies can thrive under authoritarianism—as also seen in South Korea, Taiwan and China—but the societal damages caused by religious extremism can prove insidious, gaining momentum, creating fissures and—eventually—even hampering education and economic management.

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