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Modi features in Time Magazine's list of 100 most influential people, but there is a catch

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been featured in Time Magazine’s “Most Influential People of 2020” list, but there is a catch - as his influence as the leader of the world’s largest democracy, often projected glowingly as a vibrant, secular society, is described without its glossy veneer.
25 Sep 2020

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been featured in Time Magazine’s “Most Influential People of 2020” list, but there is a catch - as his influence as the leader of the world’s largest democracy, often projected glowingly as a vibrant, secular society, is described without its glossy veneer.

Penned by Karl Vick, Editor-at-Large at Time Magazine, he provides the context of Indian society prior to the socio-political dominance of the Bharatiya Janata Party, as a multicultural populace comprising of Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and other religious sects, with prominent individuals such as the Dalai Lama (who spent most of his life in refuge in India) describing it as “an example of harmony and stability”.

Unfortunately, in a country established on the norms of pluralism and democratic stability, India under the tutelage of Narendra Modi has descended into a rule of the majority, with the 80% of the populace comprising Hindus serving as the main demographic of focus for the Bharatiya Janata Party. Vick adds that “though almost all of India’s Prime Ministers have come from the nearly 80% of the population that is Hindu, only Modi has governed as if no one else matters”.

Elected on a promise of empowerment, economic stability, and poverty alleviation, Vick mentions that “the crucible of the [COVID-19] pandemic became a pretence for stifling dissent”, as the Indian economy has contracted by 24% (the worst in South Asia), with millions at the risk of slipping back into the poverty trap, and an estimated 140 million job losses. Unfortunately, the Modi government’s strategy of rhetoric over substance, not to mention the tight grip over the country’s leading media outlets, has allowed any constructive debate over the government’s performance to be “crowded out”.