New Delhi: Narendra Modi has pushed India away from secularism and towards Hindu nationalism, Indian-American journalist Fareed Zakaria has said in his profile on the Prime Minister for Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list for 2021.
Modi’s government, Zakaria adds, has eroded Muslims’ rights, “imprisoned and intimidated journalists who shine a light on its abuses and has passed laws crippling India’s thousands of NGOs and advocacy groups”.
Modi, who has also made it to earlier editions of the annual Time exercise, is one of three Indians on the list, which seeks to identify personalities that have had the deepest influence in different spheres.
The only other Indian politician on the list is West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who secured a third consecutive stint as leader of the state earlier this year despite an aggressive campaign led by Modi’s BJP. The accompanying profile, penned by journalist Barkha Dutt, describes her as the pivot of any Opposition coalition that takes shape to counter Modi.
Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the Pune-based vaccine-maker Serum Institute of India (SII) whose firm has been among the torchbearers of India’s Covid vaccination drive, is the third Indian on the list. His profile has been written by Time journalist Abhishyant Kidangoor.
The list has been published in the US-based magazine’s latest edition (27 September-4 October).
In his profile, Zakaria says Modi is India’s third most pivotal leader after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.
“Jawaharlal Nehru, its (India’s) founding Prime Minister, set the template for the country as secular and democratic. Indira Gandhi presided over its most tumultuous times, spanning war, civil strife and emergency rule. Narendra Modi is the third, dominating the country’s politics like no one since them,” Zakaria says.
Modi was expected to move India to a capitalistic future and “he’s done some of that but more determinedly, he has pushed the country away from secularism and toward Hindu nationalism”, he writes.
Zakaria says Modi remains popular despite “mishandling COVID-19”, adding that the “death toll has been estimated to be much higher than the official count”.
‘Self-made street-fighter’ Mamata Banerjee
In the accompanying profile, Mamata is described as one with a “street-fighter spirit” and “self-made life”.
“The street-fighter spirit and self-made life in a patriarchal culture set her apart. If any coalition of forces were to come together to counter Modi nationally, Mamata is almost certain to be the pivot,” Dutt writes.
Poonawalla, whose firm manufactures the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine under the brand name Covishield, is described as someone who could help the world end the Covid-19 pandemic. Kidangoor praises his promise to deliver 1.1 billion Covid vaccine doses and efforts to double the manufacturing for the same.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
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