By Sushil Kutty
President Joe Biden is a cognitive disaster, say some of his meanest detractors. Two recent polls—one by the Wall Street Journal and the other by Monmouth University—have given Biden no more chance to retain control of the House and Senate in 2022 than Prime Minister Narendra Modi had of winning West Bengal in mid-2021. And American media now say that Covid-19 transformed America into a ‘gig economy’, which is not too far from the glaring truth of India, where Narendra Modi’s ‘pakoranomics’ reduced India to an economy where people can only “pay bills.”
Leaders of most democracies are in no better situation than POTUS Biden—whether it is Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom or the ‘Pradhan Sevak’ of India—the “one and only Narendra Modi.” Johnson is gaining in unpopularity like once Modi used to gain in popularity. The halcyon days of Modi have faded into the mists above Wellington, which brought a helicopter down.
And Modi has changed, not the least of which is his beard, which is now the silver of the mist! Has Modi mellowed? Modi has surely bowed down to circumstances. Chances are he may even accept the gift of a skullcap! Narendra Modi wants to leave a legacy that will be acceptable to the liberal truth—which is that you are only as good as the liberal world would want you to be.
As if to convince everybody, Modi made an intervention in Joe Biden’s ‘Summit of Democracy’, in which the US President raised the “alarm” that democracies were “backsliding” on democratic institutions worldwide.
If he was referring to Narendra Modi’s democratic India, Biden did not raise his voice enough to be heard. And guess what Modi told Biden in his intervention? Modi insisted that countries should follow their “constitutional principles” and that tech companies like that of “Google Pichai” and “Twitter Aggarwal” should help preserve open societies. If Biden did not hear the sniggers and giggles, it was because the “interventions” were made in “closed door” and limited to 12 countries only.
What Joe Biden should do is call an urgent meeting of his White House. The United States intelligence is as fragile as Biden’s vice president’s standing in the US Senate where she’s the deciding vote. Veepee Kamala Harris hasn’t put the Potomac on fire, and the US intelligence community does not know Modi’s democratic credentials!
Biden, on his part, opened the first ‘Summit for Democracy’ and Modi made an intervention—one of a dozen leaders allowed to. Biden said democracies do not happen by “accident”, they have to be renewed “with each generation”, and because of that, it “is a defining challenge of our time.” Modi followed Biden and Modi spoke of “following the principles enshrined in the Constitution.” He also spoke of the four pillars of democracy—“sensitivity, accountability, participation and reform orientation.”
The Prime Minister of India called for reform of international institutions and said “principals of democracies should guide global governance.” One thing is clear. Modi considers his rule “democratic” and we have to understand that, even if we run out of salt! The repeal of Article 370 may not be “democratic” for millions of Kashmiris, but for Modi it is part of “good governance”. Ditto triple-talaq made “null and void”, and CAA and NRC and what else? Modi is doing everything per democratic principles and nobody should and can point fingers at him.
And now that, as a ‘sensitive” leader, Modi had accepted that he was wrong, there is a lesson in it for Biden and Johnson and whoever else. The people of India can be forgiven for thinking they live in another country—an India more repressed and little less democratic. But that is because there is an intractable Opposition which refuses to accept that Modi plays by the rules of democratic principles and wouldn’t be the autocrat they want him to be.
In defence of his model democracy, Modi spoke of India’s “civilisational” ethos which places India as the “original source of democracy.” If Biden took that and moved on, then it must be because of the democratic spirit, respect for rule of law and pluralistic ethos ingrained in the Americans. Ask Rana Ayyub and Barkha Dutt and they will not laugh. The Indian government hasn’t stopped “harassing journalists”, but it has stopped journalists from covering Parliament, the seat of India’s democracy. So much for Modi’s democratic and constitutional principles! (IPA Service)