Why Are Indians Unhappy With Modi's Reception in Washington?
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Washington on September 23rd for a bilateral meeting with President Joseph R. Biden followed by a 4-nation summit involving Australia, India, Japan and the United States. An unhappy meme of his visit went viral on social media as Mr. Modi wrapped up his visit to the United States.
|Modi Washington Visit Meme|
It highlights four key complaints about how the Indian prime minister was treated by the White House:
1. President Biden did not receive Prime Minister Modi at the White House porch. This is in sharp contrast to the reception President Donald J. Trump gave Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during the latter's visit in 2019. President Trump greeted Prime Minister Khan in the driveway as the latter emerged from his car.
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by Debashish Roy Chowdhury
In reality, the radicalization of the majority is a much bigger threat confronting India than minority extremism.
Lynching of Muslims by Hindu mobs have become so normalized that they rarely make news anymore. New laws against beef and interfaith love – termed "love jihad" by Modi’s party – now allow Hindu vigilante groups to attack Muslims with impunity. A pliant civil administration and police force mostly look away, if they’re not actively collaborating with the vigilantes.
Ever since Modi’s thumping re-election in 2019, he has doubled down on the Hindu majoritarian project of remaking India’s secular republic as a Hindu state, and arm’s-length vigilante groups allied with the ruling party’s Hindu-first world view play a significant role in asserting the new order.
by Debashish Roy Chowdhury
Atrocious hate crimes and speeches by these (Hindu) fundamentalist groups offer a daily reminder to the Muslims of the new social hierarchy in a changing India, where Muslims can at best hope to be second-class citizens.
It’s the new normal in the "New India," a term that Modi’s supporters use as shorthand for a golden era under an efficient and muscular Hindu leaderwho is ending corruption, bringing prosperity and showing Muslims their place in the Hindu-majority country.
When Modi bid for national power in 2014, he ran on a campaign of inclusive growth, with the slogan of "development for all." But overseeing an economy that has progressively worsened under him, Modi has returned to his core competence of divisive politics to maintain support in the face of the death and destruction as a result of his poor handling of COVID.
The core messaging that emanates these days from Hindu supremacists is that development is not possible for all because Muslims, who constitute 14 percent of the population, are eating up the fruits of progress that should accrue to the Hindus, who account for 80 percent. Quite literally. Recently, the chief minister of India’s biggest state, Uttar Pradesh, which has a population the size of Brazil, triggered a controversy when he blamed Muslims for cornering the government-subsidized food meant for all.
For Modi’s party, openly Islamophobic campaigns such as these help to avoid scrutiny and debate over governance and turn elections into a referendum for protecting the supposedly endangered majority. With the politically important Uttar Pradesh heading for elections in less than six months, the same strategy is at play again, only this time with an added twist and urgency.
Uttar Pradesh is a must-win state for Modi. It contributes the most seats to the Parliament and is the epicentre of the Hindu nationalist movement over a mosque that Hindu fanatics demolished in 1992, turning the BJP into a national political force from a fringe party. The BJP won the last election in the state in 2017 on the promise of building a Hindu temple at the site of the razed mosque. Modi inaugurated the temple in 2020, calling it a "symbol of [India’s] nationalism."
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi performs the groundbreaking ceremony of a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Ram, watched by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, right, in Ayodhya, last year
by Debashish Roy Chowdhury
Anything short of a convincing victory in Uttar Pradesh will jeopardize Modi’s dream march. Be it the COVID catastrophe, the farmers’ protests or the crashing economy, Modi has so far weathered it all.
But the slightest sign of cracks in Uttar Pradesh will undo the carefully crafted image of invincibility, built in large measure by a combination of docile media coverage, ruthless use of force, surveillance and intimidation against dissenters and a steady drip of ever more audacious levels of bigotry that act to both distract and divide voters.
With not much to show for its last five years in the state, the memories of COVID losses and hardships still raw, and an intensifying farmers’ protest that threatens splits in its captive Hindu voter base, the BJP is left with no choice but to escalate its campaign of hate. Accordingly, radical supremacists calling for genocide are becoming increasingly common. Videos of small groups of self-appointed saviors of Hinduism tormenting lone Muslims are showing up on social media more often than before.
Many of these attacks are now aimed at driving Muslims out of their livelihoods and businesses. While Modi waxes eloquent on global forums on the need for "rational thinking" to counter radicalization, Hindu fanatics linked to his party have been warning salons and shops against hiring Muslim men.
A group of Hindu men set upon a Muslim bangle seller in the northern city of Indore last month. They did not take kindly to him interacting with Hindu women.
The bangle seller was guilty of just the kind of "dangerous" encounter a prominent supremacist leader connected to the BJP (whose self-declared mission is to "remove Muslims from the face of Earth") has been warning of – Muslim vendors, plumbers and electricians visiting Hindu homes and gaining proximity to the women of the household while the men are away at work.
by Debashish Roy Chowdhury
Muslim hawkers have faced random attacks and been driven out of Hindu villages. In the capital Delhi itself, there have been concerted campaigns to boycott Muslim vendors and businesses.
In the northeastern state of Assam, where Modi’s party has dehumanized Muslims by calling them "termites" who eat away the country’s resources, the government is now evicting them from their homes to give the land away for farming to "indigenous" people. The ruthless eviction drivelast week led to shocking killings of poor Muslims.
‘Terror Force’ of fascist, communal & bigoted Govt. shooting at its own citizens. Also, who is the person with camera? Someone from our ‘Great Media’ orgs?
The appeal of these villagers, against eviction, is pending in the High Court. Couldn’t the Govt wait till court order? pic.twitter.com/XI5N0FSjJd
— Ashraful Hussain (@AshrafulMLA) September 23, 2021
Muslims, the most economically disadvantaged group and grossly underrepresented in the formal economy, are often found engaged in low-end casual work or self-employment in the informal economy. These growing attacks thus threaten to hit one of the most vulnerable sections of the Indian population.
Big businesses are feeling the heat, too. A Bangalore-based food start-up owned by a Muslim entrepreneur had to issue an official denial this month after a social media campaign to boycott its products for using cattle bones as ingredients and employing only Muslims, both outrageously unfounded allegations.
So now, the Islamic Economic system (Halalonomics) has crept into our Secular system. Now the Halal certification is no longer limited to meats, but touches every sphere of our daily lives – like meats, packaged foods, medicines, beauty products etc.#HalalEconomy_NationalThreatpic.twitter.com/1U7XD57tv2
— HinduJagrutiOrg (@HinduJagrutiOrg) September 18, 2021
Persistent attacks on the meat and leather trades, through lynching and cattle seizures, have been common since Modi took power. They have had a crippling effect on small-time traders and intermediaries in the meat business, who happen to be mostly Muslims. Of late, big companies involved in the meat business are also being targeted by online campaigns branding halal certification as a form of "economic jihad" that ought to be resisted by Hindus.
The economic attacks on Muslims may still appear too dispersed and episodic to raise fears of a concerted state campaign to formally exclude Muslims. Modi’s India hasn’t yet reached the stage of the Judenboykott, the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses that formally started in 1933 before slowly gathering pace, leading ultimately to the mass murder of Jews in the "final solution."
But even the Judenboykott did not come about overnight. In the 1920s, boycotting Jewish businesses began to be normalized by Germany’s right-wing parties at the regional level, long before it became declared state policy.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York this weekend. EDUARDO MUNOZ - AFP
Under a party born of a nearly 100-year-old Hindu nationalist movement inspiredby 20th century European ethnonationalism, is India heading the same way?
We don’t know yet. But it’s a question worth posing to Modi as he steps out into the world this week after a gap of more than a year. Just in case it is, the world needs to know – if it doesn’t want to be caught unawares, again.
A screenshot of what looks like the front page of the US daily The New York Times, featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been doing the rounds on social media and WhatsApp groups.
The screenshot features a large photograph of PM Modi along with the headline “Last, Best Hope of Earth” and the strap “World’s most loved and most powerful leader is here to bless us”, referring to Modi’s US visit on 24-25 September. The edition is dated 26 September 2021.
The image of the purported NYT front page was circulated en masse on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp group chats, with messages like “Proud of my PM” accompanying it.
National general secretary of the BJP Youth Wing, Rohit Chahal, who has over 76,000 followers, also retweeted the screenshot posted by another user.
One WhatsApp forward of the photograph states: “Modi ji on the frontpage of the United States’ biggest newspaper. What could be a greater matter of pride than this?”
The screenshot in circulation, however, is not the front page of The New York Times. In fact, the 26 September front page of the newspaper did not feature any story on PM Modi.
Furthermore, none of the social media posts provided an accompanying URL that linked to the newspaper page.
A closer look at the screenshot itself, as well as the pattern of social media posts, also reveals that the image is morphed.
The font style of the headline in the screenshot does not match the NYT stylesheet, which proves that the image has been altered. The date of the story also features a typo — 26 “Setpember” instead of 26 September.
The image of PM Modi used in the fake front page appears to have been taken from a Zee News story published last month, titled, “PM Modi to chair UNSC high-level open debate on enhancing maritime security.”
A major world event and a huge success — but only by the Indian media for their audience back home.
The media reactions to the visit and its aftermath followed the usual playbook. Republic TV made it sound like Modi was the only foreign dignitary to speak at the UNGA. Zee News ran with silly stories of “Josh high in Washington,” and breathless accounts of a grand welcome home. Aaj Tak was keen to emphasise how this trip had many firsts. Times Now presented it as a pivotal geopolitical moment.
Some things do not change. Even in 2019, PM Modi’s visit was presented as a major world event and a huge success but only by the Indian media for their audience back home, but it barely registered as a footnote in the US media. Then too, as Shoaib Danyal put it, “jingoism took precedence over factual reporting about the UN session”. There was barely a mention of the Modi visit in the US media save a brief mention in the context of the QUAD meeting, much to the surprise of Aaj Tak anchor Anjana Om Kashyap who tried flicking through a selection of US papers on air to spot coverage of the Modi visit.
Indeed very few Indian media outlets, if any at all, took the trouble to research what the 76th UNGA was about, and what the stand was of the other world leaders who also addressed the General Assembly. A cursory search on Google would have led even a rookie journalist to a wealth of information about the agenda, background papers, and issues before the UN.
Instead they focused exclusively and breathlessly on the 20-minute long address by PM Modi on September 25. The speech itself was as might have been expected. It sounded like a robust and combative defense of the Indian Government’s record in office in the last seven years; set against a backdrop of statements about India as an ancient democratic civilisation that inherently valued diversity, individual freedom, development, trade, openness and peace.
There was the obligatory reference to terrorism, of course, and how a certain neighbour sought to rely on terrorism rather than development to further its political aims.
Speaking in Hindi with instantaneous translation by the UN team into several languages, Modi’s speech at the UN was not the eagerly anticipated address that Indian media channels would have you believe. It was left to social media and Twitter handles to point out the preponderance of vacant seats in the assembly Hall
In the final analysis, it depends very much on the newspaper you read or the TV news you watch to get a feel for how important or influential the Indian PM’s visit to the US was. Perhaps, the truth is somewhere between the breathless fawning coverage of the TV channels that are beholden to the Government for its largesse and the somewhat cynical view expressed in this tweet thread.
Such visits by the head of the country’s government to gatherings of major world leaders are important and necessary, even if not essential — because not to make the effort to travel and be seen would be an own goal. But part of the magic is to manage expectations, say the right things at the right time, but to do so in an understated manner that does not make the audience cynical. But perhaps the most important thing is to be accessible to the world’s press.
This visit to the United States was the 6th by Mr Modi. And while there were many ‘firsts’ that his supporters claimed for it, regrettably it was not the first foreign trip in which the Indian Prime Minister gave a press conference.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday faced a number of questions on Biden's comments.
Psaki said: "I think what he (Biden) said is that they (American journalists) are not always “on point.”
India should maintain “strategic autonomy” instead of joining any exclusive alliances against its neighbour, Beijing’s top envoy in New Delhi said, days after leaders of the Quad gathered in Washington for their first in-person summit, with Beijing a veiled target.
Without naming the US-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or its members, Sun Weidong said any attempts to “gang up for containing and suppressing China” would “be doomed to fail”.
“It is worth noting that a few countries are going against the trend,” Sun told more than 100 representatives from business, culture and academic communities in India during a virtual meeting on Wednesday.
“Out of selfishness, they hold a zero-sum cold war mentality, vigorously seek closed and exclusive ideological ‘small cliques’ and military alliances targeting a third party, stoke arms races, tension, division and bloc confrontation, turn the Asia-Pacific into an arena of major powers’ game and destabilise the world,” he said, according to a transcript published on the embassy’s website.
“These activities will find no support and lead nowhere.”
India should “maintain its strategic autonomy and refrain from joining closed and exclusive ‘alliances’ or ‘quasi-alliances’ against each other”, Sun said.
During the summit in Washington last week, the four leaders of the United States, Australia, Japan and India repeated their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region “undaunted by coercion”, a thinly veiled criticism of China.
“We stand for the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values and territorial integrity of states,” the Quad leaders said in a joint statement after the summit.
Beijing is deeply concerned about “cliques” that it sees as part of Washington’s strategy to contain China’s growing influence in the region.
Relations between India and China have worsened since June last year when Chinese and Indian troops engaged in a deadly hand-to-hand skirmish on their disputed border in the western Himalayas. At least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers died in the clashes, the deadliest in decades. Little progress has been made since the two militaries started negotiations – with the latest round in August – and a stand-off continues.
There have been reports that the two sides have been stepping up military build-up along the disputed borders, fuelling fears they could clash again before winter.
On Wednesday, Sun said that although it was normal for the two countries to have differences, they should manage disputes and move towards stability together.
“We should place the border issues in the right place in bilateral relations and seek a fair and reasonable and mutually acceptable solution through equal consultation,” Sun said.
He called for further efforts to boost cooperation on the pandemic fight, energy security and climate change as well as bilateral trade, which reached US$78.5 billion in the first eight months of the year, up 52 per cent compared with the same period last year.
Indian leaders love to talk up Mahatma Gandhi when they travel abroad. It plays well to the popular notion of India as a land of peace and love, and boosts its moral authority as a responsible democracy on the world stage. So, Gandhi and his ideas came up a lot as Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped out of India recently for the first time in about one and a half years.
Meeting Modi at the White House on Sept. 24, President Joe Biden said Gandhi’s “message of non-violence, respect, and tolerance matters today maybe more than it ever has.” In his own speech to the United Nations, Modi rued that “the world faces the threat of regressive thinking and extremism,” and underlined his country’s democratic credentials. To reinforce his point, he even coined a new sobriquet for India: “the mother of all democracies.”
No one knows what that means, least of all one Indian mother still trying to make sense of the death of her 12-year-old boy. He was felled by a stray police bullet in the northeastern state of Assam at the same time as Modi was pontificating in America.
“They killed my son,” a dazed Hasina Bano kept repeating between sobs when journalists visited her at a remote village on the banks of the Brahmaputra river. The boy, Sheikh Farid, was hit when police opened fire at Bengali Muslim villagers protesting the forced eviction from their land that the government now wants to give to Assamese Hindus, whom it calls the “indigenous community.” Ironically, moments before Farid died, he had collected from the post office a national biometric identification card establishing his own indigeneity.
The death of a child in such a manner should be the stuff of national disgrace. But the same eviction drive resulted in even more horror when a neighbor of Farid charged at the police with a stick, in a blind rage after they dismantled his home along with those of 5,000 others. The heavily armed policemen, who far outnumbered Moinul Hoque and could have easily subdued him, instead shot him dead at point blank range.
It was all captured on a widely circulated video [Warning: Graphic and distressing scenes]. The images show police raining baton blows on him even as he collapsed, taking turns with Bijoy Baniya, a Hindu photographer accompanying the police team. As Hoque’s life ebbs away, Baniya fiendishly jumps and stomps on his motionless body in an “act of performative depravity.”
Baniya is merely the latest face of India’s state-driven Hindu radicalization. In a country where 84% of the population is Hindu, and just 14% Muslim, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has achieved the astonishing feat of creating a deep sense of Hindu victimhood, stoking the othering of Muslims via disinformation, hate speech, opening old religious wounds, manipulating a servile media, silencing progressive voices, and empowering Hindu supremacist vigilante groups. “Hindu khatre mein hain” (Hindus are in danger) is a right-wing refrain that resonates deeply today.
As a result, many Hindus have now been persuaded to believe that India’s biggest problem is its Muslims. Before Modi took over in 2014, most citizens thought their chief concerns were poverty, insufficient economic growth and corruption. He rode to power on the promise to fix all that. But as the economy has continued to worsen, and unemployment and poverty have risen under him, the BJP has increasingly fallen back on supremacist politics to deflect attention and evade responsibility. To keep winning elections, it needs to keep polarizing Hindu voters against Muslims, and spinning ever more outrageous campaigns to demonize Muslims.
Muslims apparently lust after Hindu women, procreating rapidly with the aim of overtaking the Hindu population and establishing an Islamic state, and necessitating new laws against “love jihad.” Similar regulations against religious conversions and the slaughter of cows, which are sacred to Hindus, have encouraged vigilantism. Muslim hawkers and workers have come under increasing attack from Hindu supremacist groups calling for a boycott of Muslim businesses.
Indian social media today is filled with videos of self-appointed protectors of Hinduism calling for the lynching of Muslims—an act so common that it hardly makes news anymore. High-profile Hindu supremacists are seldom booked for hate speech. Muslims routinely face random attacks for such “crimes” as transporting cattle or being in the company of Hindu women. Sometimes, the provocation is simply that somebody is visibly Muslim. As Modi himself has told election rallies, people “creating violence” can be “identified by their clothes.”
The persecution of Muslims in Assam is just the beginning
But Baniya’s malevolence has a history longer than India’s descent into the abyss of hate. Assam, the setting for his ghoulish death dance on the body of a Muslim, is where this construct of the Muslim as the unwanted, dangerous outsider has been honed and mainstreamed. The fear of being overrun by “outsiders” has almost been genetically encoded there over centuries, dating back to the time the British started clearing the state’s lush forests for tea and other plantations. The clearances triggered the inward migration of Bengali peasants from densely populated adjoining regions in search of easily obtainable fertile lands.
Much to the discontent of the ethnic Assamese, the migrations have continued in recent decades as a result of the violent partition of the subcontinent, economic hardship, political instability and wars in what is now known as Bangladesh. Climate-related factors have also driven a steady exodus out of flood-prone, deltaic Bangladesh into Assam.
With the rise of Modi, historical Assamese resentment towards non-Assamese speakers has mixed with the politics of Hindu nationalism in a dangerous brew of xenophobia and patriotism. Stomping on a Muslim corpse now has a gloss of patriotic righteousness to it, which is why it is flaunted on camera. Bigotry is now a badge of honor. In his head, Baniya was protecting India and policemen are seen hugging him in the video after Hoque’s death. His behavior says much about the way Modi has weaponized history and valorized and incentivized hate.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public rally for the West Bengal Assembly Election on April 12, 2021 in the North 24 Parganas district, India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public rally for the West Bengal Assembly Election on April 12, 2021 in the North 24 Parganas district, India. Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Assam is Modi’s grand laboratory, where he is putting Muslims to the litmus test of a citizen verification drive—separating the trueborn from the chaff—before taking it national. The BJP says it simply wants India to be rid of “Bangladeshi migrants”, but it uses it as a code for Indian Muslims. Nearly two million people have been disenfranchised in the state, with no clarity as to what is to happen to them. The closest regional parallel to such large-scale, government-dictated statelessness in recent times was the 1982 mass disenfranchisement of the Rohingya in Myanmar, before the massacres and exodus years later.
And it is only the beginning. In neighboring Bihar, the government is asking people to report “suspected illegal migrants” and officials have been ordered to create awareness of the issue on “an urgent basis.” The state’s high court has demanded a detention center to house migrants, reminding the government that “deportation of illegal migrants is of paramount importance and in the national interest.” Bihar’s 17 million Muslims are on edge about their future. In next-door Bengal, which borders Bangladesh and is home to nearly 25 million Muslims, the BJP has been promising an Assam-like citizenship verification drive if it comes to power in the state.
The chief minister of India’s biggest and most politically important state, Uttar Pradesh, recently blamed Muslims for cornering government-subsidized food. Uttar Pradesh, along with Assam, has introduced a two-child policy blaming Muslims for a supposedly runaway population growth that officials say accounts for the backwardness of these states. The claim is not rooted in reality. Fertility rates among Muslims have in fact been falling rapidly.
But reality is no longer important. It bends to the requirements of the ruling party’s dehumanizing narrative against Muslims. As Jews in Nazi Germany were called “rats” and Tutsis in Rwanda in the 1990s were called “cockroaches,” so BJP members now refer to Indian Muslims as “termites” eating away at India’s resources, denying Hindus what is due to them in their own land.
The destruction of Gandhi’s legacy
The foundations of the secular republic that Gandhi died defending are thus being hollowed out ever more frantically. While Modi pays ritualistic homage to Gandhi, BJP leaders openly glorify Gandhi’s killer, who was a Hindu fanatic. Modi’s ministers and legislators freely call on people to shoot “traitors” and start pogroms, and are promoted rather than penalized for their actions. Modi himself partly owes his fan following and ascent to his lack of remorse over the 2002 pogroms in Gujarat in 2002, when he was chief minister. Hundreds of Muslims were killed and thousands rendered homeless.
Noticeably, not only did the current chief minister of Assam not apologize for the police excesses, he in fact trivialized the deaths of Hoque and Farid, calling Hoque’s death “just 30 seconds” of a three minute video. He also carried on with the eviction drive and even proudly tweeted photos of the rubble of the four mosques destroyed in it.
While the Bidens of this world still talk about Gandhi, India’s role models have changed. So have the standards of acceptable discourse in public and social life. Genocide is now openly demanded at public rallies. The “need” for ethnic cleansing can pop up in casual conversations on politics among friends or family. Death threats are used like punctuation marks in debates on social media.
On Oct. 2, Gandhi’s birthday was celebrated with much fanfare as the International Day of Non-Violence. Two new books on his assassination in 1948 were launched. In Karnataka, meanwhile, a 25-year-old Muslim man was found beheaded for his affair with a Hindu girl, allegedly by a local Hindu vigilante group.
Gandhi continues to be killed in a million ways in today’s India. Bijoy Baniya just added a flourish to it.
It could put every fat cat in Power Delhi and Khan Market to shame even as taxpayers foot Narendra Modi’s astronomical, wasteful bill.
For starters, if the country’s humble prime minister really wants to lead by living a life of humility and austerity—in deference to the millions of poor and impoverished people he constantly refers to with such touching sympathy—he could perhaps exit from his grand, five-house official residence in the intoxicating world of Lutyens’ Delhi, that not only takes up the entire road, but is spread over 12 acres, in the leafy boulevards of the Capital state. While the layout of the five-mansion residence is secret for security reasons, there are private quarters, guest rooms for visitors, and accommodation for family members, apart from salons to entertain. It’s all run efficiently by a staff of over 50 gardeners, chauffeurs, housekeepers, cooks, and electricians. There are barbers, hairdressers and tailors on call, apart from doctors and nurses on duty round the clock with a state-of-the-art fitted ambulance on stand-by. It’s a household expense that runs into crores of rupees.
Imagine if humble Modi had downsized his personal quarters to a functional minimum, not necessarily outside Lutyens’ zone but in a more modest house—hasn’t he tired of telling the world how he works a punishing 20-hour work schedule, barely sleeping for three-four hours? It would have sent a slap to the slothful and entitled Lutyens’-Khan Market gang he so reviles, and would have also revealed the prime minister’s true beginnings of not just being a chaiwallah’s son (the fable flip-flops from Modi being a tea-seller to being the son of one) but as an ascetic RSS pracharak too, brought up on a rigid and rigorous discipline of life.
I suppose it takes a lot of money to keep Modi humble and poor.
If there are five bullet-proof BMW sedans to ferry him around in the city—though he’s reportedly switched to Range Rovers—there’s Air India One, the plush Boeing 747 jumbo jet, which Modi uses whenever he flies on official visits abroad. It made sense to have the jumbo when prime ministers ferried officials, business delegations, and a sizeable media contingent on tours. But a media-averse Modi travels without them, and with only a bare minimum of officials. As RTI queries have revealed, Air India has sent a whopping bill of ₹443.4 crore for the PM’s trips abroad so far, on aircraft maintenance and setting up a secure hotline, though the airline is yet to calculate the expenses for Modi’s trips to five more countries stretching from Argentina to Japan. The Prime Minister’s Office has declined to give any calculation on Modi’s domestic trips, saying it does not keep an account of it.
Now, couldn’t the humble PM opt for a business jet, with less opulence and luxury, and save taxpayer’s money? Instead, the poor and humble PM has splashed out on his trips abroad with an astronomical bill of ₹2,021 crore in the last five years, which amounts to ₹400 crore a year. His fans say that previous prime ministers too blew up similar amounts of money, but aren’t we dealing with a frugal and ascetic RSS pracharak today?
But Modi’s vanity doesn’t end here: it’s in the publicity sweepstakes that expenses have blown through the roof. As RTI queries reveal, Modi spent nearly ₹4,400 crore on publicity alone (footed by the government and taxpayer) in just four years, until 2018, to bolster his image along with the schemes launched by him. Unfortunately, reports on the performance of the schemes fade in the blaze of Modi’s publicity blitzkrieg. In election year now, the mind boggles with the campaign bill, as reports say Modi’s BJP got 94 per cent of election bonds issued (running into ₹210 crore). Its Facebook and other social media is a multi-million dollar industry.