For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser or Download our App.

How Modi Government's Response Validates Irish Times's 'Authoritarianism' Criticism

In its editorial, the daily said that an 'intolerant Hindu-first majoritarianism is the order of the day' in Modi's India, as it went on to credit a possible victory for Modi-led BJP in the upcoming elections to his 'personal popularity' and 'economic success'. 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking outside parliament on Monday. Photo: X/@narendramodi

New Delhi: The Irish Times editorial comparing Prime Minister Narendra Modi with authoritarian leaders like Viktor Orban and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, even as it predicted a third consecutive term for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has stoked a sharp response from the Union government.

The Irish Times said that an “intolerant Hindu-first majoritarianism is the order of the day”, as it went on to credit a possible victory for Modi in the upcoming elections to his “personal popularity” and “economic success”.

Responding to the editorial, Indian ambassador to Ireland Akhilesh Mishra said that the Modi enjoyed popular support due to his anti-corruption campaign, because of which huge recoveries have been made from the rich and powerful elites who enjoyed impunity under previous governments.

Hitting out at the edit, Mishra credited Modi’s popularity to his “impeccable personal character”, “thought-leadership on innovative, inclusive governance and sustainable development”.

Mishra may have missed the point that the international daily was making in its edit. The daily viewed Modi’s tenure as one that saw great economic upliftment but scored poorly on democratic freedoms.

It spoke about the “widespread crackdown on free speech and opposition parties” that has tarnished India’s democratic credentials. It cited a huge increase in “politically targeted corruption and tax cases” against opposition leaders, the arrest of sitting chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and the I-T department freezing the bank accounts of the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha elections as instances that have hurt India’s democratic standing in the world.

It also spoke about Modi’s advocacy of Hindu nationalism in an “80% Hindu nation as being responsible for communal tensions and erosion of ‘Nehru-inspired secularism'” – something that may have spawned an appeal for authoritarianism in India, as was indicated by a recent Pew poll in which 67% respondents supported “a strong leader” who could make decisions without constitutional checks like parliament and the courts.

Mishra defended the Modi government, saying that the prime minister has been responsible for bringing over 250 million people out of poverty as well as increasing the economic participation of women and the poor in governance.

He also said that central investigation agencies were functioning autonomously as “the government has given them ‘a free hand'” – the reason they have been so successful in restricting “the nefarious, multi-layered web of corruption and tax evasion by politicians, NGOs, and media”.

He said the relevant agencies have followed established procedure in all cases they pursued, adding that the accused, including opposition leaders, have recourse to judicial remedies.

“India also, like the US, Ireland, and other European Union countries, does not have a separate tax code or judicial process for journalists, human rights activists, and politically influential individuals, nor there is any special provision of special immunity to them during elections,” the ambassador said.

However, by singling out journalists, human rights activists, politically influential individuals and NGOs as the root of corruption in India, Mishra may have only proven the point the Irish Times made.

He went on to say that the Irish Times had stereotyped Hinduism, which is “inherently inclusive and fundamentally pluralistic, since centuries preceding the birth of Buddha or Christ” – again making an attempt to differentiate Hindu nationalism from religious majoritarianism of other kinds.

He added, however, that the Hindu vote bank has never been “monolithic” and has represented different political beliefs from the extreme left to the extreme right.

The Irish Times is not the first international media house to have pointed to the alleged anti-democratic impulses of the Modi government. However, the ambassador’s hurried response to the edit has evoked strong reactions from the Congress party.

Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh said: “Defending the Government of India is one thing and is to be expected. But to attack Opposition parties openly in thus manner like a party apparatchik is not expected from an Ambassador even if he be a political appointment. This is unprofessional and disgraceful behaviour on his part but is par for the Modi course I guess [sic].”

Ramesh also believed that Mishra breached service rules by showing Indian opposition leaders in a poor light.

Make a contribution to Independent Journalism
facebook twitter