Modi’s town hall in London was a hit. He should do it in India, next
This is not Narendra Modi’s first visit to London as Prime Minister. Indeed, his first visit to the Capital of India’s former coloniser was a far more successful one because at that time, his popularity was unchallenged in the country. The current visit comes during more fraught times as the Prime Minister, while his personal popularity remains high, albeit off its peaks — the popularity of his party has taken a beating and the Congress, whether helped by insidious elements in Cambridge Analytica or not, is on the upswing. However, Narendra Modi’s ‘Bharat ki Baat’ session with censor board chief Prasoon Joshi was not only announcing the last phase of campaigning for the Karnataka election next month, but the Prime Minister also sounded the bugle for the 2019 General Election campaign with a withering attack on negativity that the Opposition and the Congress have unleashed on India using malcontent forces.
However, if there is a complaint against Modi, it is that he should take part in more of these town-hall sessions in India as well. It is extremely odd that both Modi and his principal rival, Rahul Gandhi, have had such ‘open’ sessions in foreign soil but not in the country. Part of that could be to control the dissent that they would inevitably face in India, but it also could be that hosting such a show is easier abroad than it is in India. It would do the Prime Minister no harm at all to have such a show in India as well. And while the Prime Minister has been right that his Government has taken some important structural reforms, he has to understand that ‘aspirational’ Indian, that he spoke about wants, rather demands, more from him and he is running out of time to deliver those changes. India needs to supercharge its growth story now, otherwise we will be perpetually doomed to be a ceaselessly unchanging nation caught in the past. While our past history and culture are undoubtedly part of India’s charm, we do need to shed some of that baggage and Narendra Modi is the only person who can deliver that change.
However, a word of caution. When it comes to shedding baggage, the Prime Minister might have to start inside his own own house. A dramatic increase in anti-science statements by a lot of BJP Ministers is alarming. We did say India has a lot to be proud of culturally, but some recent statements are mind-boggling. If India has to change and grow, one of the ways is to shed these notions of our glorious past. Because while while ancient India did make some tremendous advancements, it was also a place which cemented the caste system in stone and allowed the rise of a small brahmanical elite. If Narendra Modi wants the Doosri Baar, Modi Sarkaar he has to either shed some of the baggage he has been burdened with or get them to shut up and work.