New Delhi: The aura of success and positive changes around the Narendra Modi government has been shown the mirror by two leading intellectuals — Business Standard Chairman T.N. Ninan and prominent author Francis Fukuyama, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta said in episode 532 of ‘Cut The Clutter’.
In his column, Ninan wrote that “Narendra Modi was too smart for propaganda around him”.
Anything that Modi does, the entire cabinet endorses it in a style that is sycophantic, and the friendly media also endorses it.
However, according to Ninan, while Modi is too sharp for this and should know what the reality is — leaders begin to get delusional, particularly, when the media is extremely friendly and institutions are weakened.
Furthermore, he wrote, “Modi obviously can see that the positive change narrative around him is untenable” because it is evident, with everything that is happening, that India is not going through “a big positive change and resurgence”.
On the other hand, Fukuyama, in a conversation with Gupta on ‘Off the Cuff‘, noted that India gave China the space to move in and exploit it when India looked weak.
He highlighted three primary points: First, India’s economy and military are not as strong as they should have been and they cannot match China; second, India is not so cohesive and united internally; and third, India’s non-alignment policy is not going to work.
According to Fukuyama, Modi’s priority should be to restore India’s social cohesion and unity. Secondly, India needs to reposition itself strategically and third, it has to strengthen its economy and military power.
Modi government does not accept mistakes
Ninan focuses on what is good about the Modi government. He noted that it had ambition in 2014 and wanted to bring India to double digit growth and keep it there, but that has not happened in six years, Gupta said.
He wrote that while ambition is good, each of the agendas that the government put out for itself are running into trouble because they go contrary to BJP’s own political and ideological DNA.
The government’s DNA implies that it must never admits its failure — a global phenomenon among strongmen leaders like US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin among others.
If they admit something is wrong, it confuses their base and they would rather allow their base to defend them, Gupta said.
For instance, in the Covid situation in India, there is no introspection by the Modi government on where they went wrong.
Ninan added that even when the numbers look bad, these governments still play with them. Despite the GDP declining, the government found a new criteria to dismiss critics, to please its base.
Another instance is the situation with China. Several reports suggest that Chinese have caused a fair bit of mischief in Ladakh but the government has not admitted it. Instead, it is attacking people who are trying to reveal the reality in Ladakh.
Similarly, demonetisation was a disaster and GST is bringing even less tax compared to the past.
How Modi can reverse situation
Therefore, if Modi wishes to reverse the situation then he has to accept that China exposed India’s internal weakness. It is time for him to stop this tendency of fudging the truth on the border, accept reality and deal with it, said Gupta.
Secondly, he needs to understand the limitations of personalised diplomacy, particularly if our neighbourhood is so widely alienated with us. Third, don’t neglect the defence. Fourth, accept the fact that the economy is going into decline and it needs to be fixed, and fifth, restore national cohesion, Gupta added.
As Ninan wrote, PM Modi is too smart to buy into this propaganda but he should give himself a reality check, even if he and his system don’t like critics.
Watch the full CTC episode here: