Davos: Another Shot to Upkeep the Fading Popularity of Modi Gone Wasted
by Ishaal Zehra
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his Davos debut at this year’s World Economic Forum’s (WEF) opening session. Speaking in Hindi, he touted the ease of doing business in India to world leaders and global CEOs, also calling for countries to unite to tackle what he called the three big challenges that the world faces – “climate change, terrorism and a rising threat to globalization with powers of protectionism”.
“Come to India,” said Modi, “If you want wellness along with wealth, wholeness along with health and peace with prosperity.” In India, he said, “democracy, demography and dynamism” are shaping development and growth that is
But all the ostentatious speech impelled by huge words and even bigger promises went vane. To his dismay, hours before Modi’s Davos spiel, WEF published its Inclusive Development Index-2018 findings which actually rated India far below her neighbours Pakistan and China.
The Inclusive Development Index (IDI) is an annual assessment of 103 countries’ economic performance that measured how countries performed on eleven dimensions of economic progress in addition to the GDP. India was accordingly ranked at the 62nd place among emerging economies, much below China’s 26th position and Pakistan’s 47th.
The IDI is a project of the World Economic Forum’s System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Economic Progress. It aims to inform and enable sustained and inclusive economic progress through deepened public-private cooperation, thought leadership and analysis, strategic dialogue and concrete cooperation. In simpler terms, it actually indicates whether growth is actually leading to broader equality and improved quality of life for households.
Indian media claims that Modi had quite a packed visit, presenting investment opportunities to every tom, dick and harry he happened to meet. Though Modi elaborated well his speech or what may be called a success story, typically one used by a salesperson, the data given by the WEF proves the economic conditions in India otherwise.
As if the IDI report wasn’t enough to hamper the investors ‘would be’ temptations after hearing what heaven India will prove to them, a periodic report by Yale and Columbia Universities in collaboration with the WEF ranked India among the bottom five countries on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2018, stooping down 36 places from 141 in 2016. While India is at the bottom of the list in the environmental health category, it ranks 178 out of 180 as far as air quality is concerned. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation says that India’s low scores are influenced by poor performance in her Environmental Health policy objectives. Deaths attributed to PM2.5, a dangerous particulate in air, have risen over the past decade and are estimated at 1.6 million annually. These PM2.5 particles are known to produce severe respiratory and cardiovascular illness.
Further, the annual Oxfam survey revealed that 67 crore Indians, comprising the population’s poorest half, saw their wealth rise by just 1% in 2017. As stated in a new survey report ‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’ by international rights group Oxfam, India’s richest 1% garnered as much as 73% of the total wealth generated in the country in 2017. CEO of Oxfam India, Nisha Agrawal believed that it is rather alarming that the benefits of economic growth in India continue to concentrate in fewer hands. “The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system… The growing divide undermines democracy and promotes corruption and cronyism”, she said.
The report’s findings are in line with those of similar studies including the one published by renowned economists Lucas Chancel and Thomas Piketty last July. These reports actually give credence to the theory that the rich have disproportionately benefited from liberalization while others have been left struggling, observes The Wire, an Indian web publication.
Some argue that this brandishing by Modi at the WEF was deemed necessary both, to portray India as a growing and promising economy to the world as well as to lift his own moral as the circumstances at home are definitely not backing him. Though, like all Indian leaders before him, he spoke of his country’s diversity – of how democracy was its strength, of how it sought consensus and unity in politics at home and abroad – in reality the Modi government has consistently fallen short of these goals which he bragged about at the Davos.
All the success stories and brags about being the business heaven is spurious and fabricated. Prime Minister Modi is faking it out and loud. Just like his popularity at the social media. Bloomberg, the US media company, did an investigative piece on how the Facebook’s political unit is enabling the dark art of digital propaganda. It claims that the company helped develop the online presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who now has more Facebook followers than any other world leader. India is arguably Facebook’s most important market, with the nation recently edging out the US as the company’s biggest. The number of users there is growing twice as fast as in the US, it further states.
The authors observed that India has become a hotbed for fake news, with one hoax story last year that circulated on WhatsApp lead to two separate mob beatings resulting in seven deaths. The nation has also become an increasingly dangerous place for opposition parties and reporters. In the past year alone, several journalists critical of the ruling party have been killed. Hindu extremists who back Modi’s party have used social media to issue death threats against Muslims or critics of the government, they wrote.
Interestingly, hoax news are used by the Prime Minister Modi and his board of advisories to come up with any plan they want to. It actually gives them room to generate a raw public appeal. This appeal really works at the times when his aura gets weak and he needs a good public support. Likewise some bad incident is always blamed at Pakistan to arouse public feelings at home and then some sort of drama is orchestrated to make them believe that PM Modi is the only “Macho Man” who can teach Pakistan a lesson and withstand China’s bullies effectively. May it be the spurious claims that India’s Special Forces had conducted some surgical strikes across the Line of Control, inside Pakistan to avenge the URI attacks (which again was fabricated a while ago) or the swaggering of Doklam standoff with China.
Modi’s popularity has declined and needs a boost before the next general elections in India. The damage done is far too serious that a plan was hatched to overdose the public with an orchestrated media campaign to arouse their patriotic spirits. The latest in the sequence was the book launch by Nitin Gokhale, who happened to be a confidant of Ajit Doval – Modi’s NSA. The book called, “Securing India- The Modi way” tried hard to sensationalize the supposed surgical strikes through fiction by code naming the activity as “Op X”. The writer claimed so many weird things about this hypothetical operation which actually never happened thus was not verified by any independent source. The book also touches Doklam episode, so-called revamping of New Delhi’s policy towards China and Pakistan, India’s renewed global policy focus on Middle East and Modi’s focus on Indian diaspora worldwide. In a nutshell, the book is an engineered attempt on the part of Ajit Doval through Nitin Gokhale’s flatterer pen to lionize Mr. Modi as a “brand India product” for upcoming elections.
The media campaign was further extended with the release of a documentary on these imaginary surgical strikes. Interestingly, Modi and his aides are thriving their success story on something so lame which even their own countrymen and colleagues never validated, leave Pakistan and international community aside. So much so that Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and other politicians and actors were dubbed “anti-national” for raising valid demands of incriminating evidence of such strikes.
Modi may have been so far able to goof up his own people with such gimmicks and foul plays but the international community is not gullible Indians, majority of whom are living below the poverty line and are probably not educated enough to distinguish dark from sunny. All the recent reports are vocal of Modi’s misleading promises and tall claims about how India has been converted into a heaven for foreign investors and businessmen. May it be the recent report by Human Rights Watch or the WEF findings, all are skeptical to Modi’s gigantic claims. So far, he has been successful with his media campaign at home, but it’s time to see if he can manage to fool the world with his fallacious aura.