Home Opinion At the peak of his popularity, why Modi is going after dissenters

At the peak of his popularity, why Modi is going after dissenters

It is strange that the more Modi becomes popular, the more his government is going after dissenters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launches the auction process of coal blocks for commercial mining in New Delhi Thursday. | PTI
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi | PTI

Absolutely nobody will disagree that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is at the peak of his popularity. He is arguably more popular today than he was at the eve of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, which he won handsomely. He is widely believed to have all the trump cards in the important Bihar assembly election. There is no doubt he will win Uttar Pradesh in 2022 and his Bharatiya Janata Party is said to have an upper hand in Assam and West Bengal in 2021.

And yet, Modi is so insecure at the top. What explains this ‘witch-hunt’ against activists, journalists and opposition leaders when Modi is doing so well politically?

It would make sense if Narendra Modi was silencing dissenters because he was facing grave political risks. But when you are not facing any risks whatsoever, why, as a popular Tamil song goes, this kolaveri di?

We are used to seeing governments in trouble go after dissenters. Here is a government that can get away with absolutely anything and is still going after them.

Also read: Indians will regret their silence over Modi’s ever-growing list of political prisoners

Who’s afraid of Devangana Kalita?

Two years after the Bhima Koregaon violence in Maharashtra, the Modi establishment is not done yet with falsely blaming Leftist activists for it.

It is not enough that a diverse set of far-Left activists have been blamed for it, from Gautam Navlakha to Anand Teltumbde. Suddenly, an 83-year-old Adivasi rights activist, Stan Swamy, has been arrested from Jharkhand. A BBC News headline sums up the ludicrousness of the situation: “The oldest person to be accused of terrorism in India.”

We are all terrorists now. And sedition is now a daily occurrence. Activists who have stood up against the Modi government, or many who haven’t even done that (such as lawyer-activist Sudha Bhardwaj), are being charged with terrorism to ensure they languish in jail for years without bail or conviction.

The government was unaffected by the protests against the chronology laws that would — still could — put Muslim Indians through hard citizenship tests. If the government had been affected by those protests, it would have at least reached out to them for talks. In any case, the story got over with a good old riot (in Delhi) and the Covid pandemic. Why, then, is the Indian State spending so much time, energy and taxpayer’s money writing 10,000 pages of fiction to put students in jail? Or, how does Umar Khalid threaten this government? How many votes can he cost them?

How is Devangana Kalita a threat to the most powerful government since Indira Gandhi’s? Why is a Vinod Dua having to fight a sedition case in the Supreme Court for some critical comments blaming the government for its poor handling of the Covid pandemic and being critical of the Prime Minister? Sedition? Really?

Within weeks of the revoking of Article 370, it was clear the government had come out with flying colours. There was no large-scale violence in Kashmir and the political opposition took it lying down. The global cost was also minimal (Chinese incursions happened much later). Why then are dozens of Kashmiri politicians still in jail? What was the point of keeping the Abdullahs in house arrest for so long, and why did Mehbooba Mufti’s release take 14 months?

One possible explanation is that this government is using its unchallenged power to express the long pent-up Hindutva rage. Maybe there is no political calculation. Like those once-a-year violent assaults on the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the idea is simply to ‘teach Leftists a lesson’. To silence them, to muzzle their voices, to establish the domination of authoritarian Hindutva over the Indian society.

Also read: Narendra Modi govt has failed India in its hour of need — both economy and people

Uneasy lies the head

Yet the methodical precision with which ‘agencies’ have been going after dissenters suggests that there is more to it. The Modi government does see every small-time activist as a threat to its popularity. There’s a chink in its armour, one that it is more aware of than anyone else.

With a monopoly over the means of propaganda, and clever use of political narrative, the government may be popular. But it knows how uneasy this popularity is. Public mood is a fickle thing, and can change with the seasons. The Covid pandemic, a ravaged economy, millions of jobs lost, tensions with China — there’s too much going on for this government to be complacent about the power of even the most irrelevant critic.

This government clearly feels insecure about its position. It knows it is not sustainable to be this popular when the Indian economy is going through its worst contraction ever. It must silence even the potential challengers to its domination. It must rule with an iron fist because all is clearly not well.

The author is contributing editor to ThePrint. Views are personal.


  1. When I read comments all i see is hatred. Those who consistently hate have to pay for their stance by making their days unhappy ones and by harming their own health in the long run.

  2. No doubt Modi is the Great Hindu Hope like Hitler was the Great German Hope. At the moment the economy and governance are not issues for Hindus, they are taken in by delusions of grandeur – they they think they have arrived on the world stage and everybody is admiring them due to Modi; or they think they will arrive in due course, shortly.

    Hitler led to the destruction of Germany, Modi in due course will create the same for India. In Hitler’s case, all the cities were bombed to rubble; here, the erosion of the economic base with a growing population, Hindu-Muslim civil war and separatist struggles makes India an unsustainable country.

    Hitler’s popularity rose as Czechoslovakia fell, then Austria fell, Poland fell, France and the low countries fell in just 3 weeks, and the initial drive into the Soviet Union was also dizzying. Even Hitler’s detractors thought there must be something special about him. Then, at the peak of Hitler’s popularitiy, reverses started occurring one by one – his 6th army surrendered in Stalingrad, then the Nazis lost the battle of Kursk, then the Soviet Unions’s operation Bagration destroyed Germany’s famed Army Group Centre in just 2 weeks, and that opened the storm gates for hot pursuit to Hitler’s bunker in Berlin, and the British and Americans were closing in from the west. As reverses started to mount, anyone making fun of the Fuhrer or predicting defeat, was caught and executed. Modi is at the peak of his popularity, but he is also clocking up failures one by one, so anyone making fun of him and predicting a dire end for India will be attacked with violence.

    But eventually Germans had to face reality. Germany was not going to be an Aryan superpower. Like that, Hindus will also realise Hindu superpower stardom is just not achievable with a failed economy and internal strife. There will be three super powers in the foreseeable future : US, China and Russia. The EU and UK will be economically prosperous but will not be a military power. India has no hope now of being a military or economic power. Even if it does not break up immediately, it will remain the largest unimportant country (Kissinger).

  3. Government has to go after dissidents. it is they who are maligning the image of India worldwide. It appears that Pakistan & Afghanistan has better method of managing their shivam Vij, Harsh Mander, ram Puniyani etc.

      • FYI Pakistan scored better than India in terms of hunger index and acute hunger until 2015 for sure. I am not sure of latest figure. Realize that India was for long time a guy on opium and saw distorted reality. Pakistan was not on that opium.

    • When Hitler started losing battles in the Soviet Union, he also thought that the problem was dissidents were maligning Germany’s image. Anyone making fun of the Fuhrer and saying Germany was going to lose was executed. Your approach is the same.

  4. these lutyen leftist media never get it. more they write this, more Modi becomes popular. Economy would be back next year, not only in India, around the globe.

    • Indian economy back to what it was in 2019? Yeah, that’s likely to happen and not very useful. India was growing, but losing in the region.

    • ‘Economy would be back next year…’

      In 2014, Modi said in TV adverts that he was going to give more development in 60 months than 60 years of Congress. 72 months have passed and economy has sunk and is irretrievable. So why do you want to wait till next year ? Consider what he promised against the result.

  5. Shivam Vij is the example of how a brainlet can make it big in the world. Modi was literally selected to do things that you are bitchin’ about. I wonder how your brains work.

    • Demonetization, a thoughtless GST, NRC, foreign policy based on personal grandeur, opacity in political fundings, drive the economy through the tubes, jobs getting scarce by the minute, divide the society on any basis? Only a brainlet like you would have elected Modi for all this. And we are not bitchin’ . We are just waiting to see how long you imbeciles can take it.

    • He has not made it ‘big’. These people are poorly paid. An average joe IT coolie makes more money than these jokers. In fact he would hardly be able to run a household on the pittance bein paid by shekhar gupta. These are ideologically enslaved leftist zombies writing dime a dozen such articles to survive. They think that that they are serving some agenda, but in reality they are just hired trash to fill the web pages. And mind you, poorly paid, with no scope of growth ever. Media is like that. Only a handful make money. Do you really tjink shivam vij? is or can be in that?

  6. Modi does not live from day to day to write an article. He has sound logic for doing things, be it DeMo, GST, 370&35A,or encouraging RaGa and has the capacity to sustain it all.
    The problem with intellectuals is that they do not want to accept his strengths. The strengths of this man far out way his weaknesses. To remain relevant the jurnos have to write about his weaknesses because that is what sells “the negativity”.
    Try objectively comparing his qualities with the past PMs and it will make a fantastic reading, do it quality for quality.

    • “The problem with intellectuals is that they do not want to accept his strengths. ”

      To call these people intellectuals is to bringing down the standard for intelligence. These guys are mentally challenged and talk like broken record.


  8. “Shoe I am “you STUPIDO.

    1) We have always supported LUMPEN elements. You are doing great by questioning the need to arrest them.

    2) We have a plan to establish
    “ROME RAJYA ” with the help of priest supporting Maoist insurgency as a cover for proselytizing TRIBAL. Good your are opposing MODIJI on that.

    3 ) We have paid agents running NGO’S by receiving money both from pakistan and china through hawala. They indulge in anti HINDU activities all over. You have shown you will always be our POODLE by barking opposition to protest arrest of such FAKE activist by MODIJI.

    4 ) We have to ensure that
    ” secular votes ” even if they rape girls all over INDIA or kill a boy for falling in love with a girl from the SECULAR SOCIETY, WHATEVER THEY DO we will not protest. Which means support for such activities as they are ready to riot on our behalf. Good you are not condemning it either or else you will not get our left over pizza..

    5) If we win BIHAR elections we will make you CM.


  9. The first sentence of your essay contains the answer to your confusion.
    ‘The more government goes after dissenters, Mr Modi becomes more popular’
    This reveals the contept, general public has for so called dissenters because they know that these wolves in sheep’s clothing are mostly ‘Smart Alec’
    Brown Sahibs, Macouly’s progeny, looking down on vernacular schools educated patriotic persons. Labels like ‘Lutyan gang’ and ‘Khan Market gang’ have also been used for these dissenters. Their loyalty to Congress springs from the nostalgia for their ‘ good old times’ gone with the wind. There is strong suspicion that some of their funding for their tirades may be coming from foreign intelligece agencies including those from Pakistan and China.

    Criticism is a legitimate right of every citizen in a democracy as long as it is directed at a policy or a political person. Exceptional care must be taken to ensure that these criticisms are not against the nation and cannot be transformed into anti India tirades by hostile nations e.g.Pakistan or China.

    Good Luck and Good sense !

  10. LOL… It might be too novel a concept for traitors like you, but it is called maintaining the law and order and taking justice to where the evidence leads. Those of your ilk deranged on nehruvian communism and hell bent on breaking India, they deserve their fate ten times over.

  11. Writer is assuming that 83 years old is innocent. If there is proof or suspicion that a person had done something 10 or 20 years back… why would age matters ? BBC is no more bible of news reporting that need to followed…

  12. Well…he grudgingly admits Modi’s popular……his fire n brimstone narrative wasn’t working….so he’s adopting a different tactic….

    Carry on shivam!.

  13. So criminals need to be let go, because they are your liberal friends, If you let law take it own course against urban nxals it is called witchhunt?
    Last paragraph doesn’t make any sesnse, why that insecurty will be mitigated by taking action in Bhima Koregaon case. Can the author care to explain?

  14. R u joking by saying that modi is more popular than ever before?… Ppl startes hating him n u r saying he is at peak of popularity. I completely disagree with ur this opinion. He was seating n seeing poor ppl dieing helplessly during rheir migration from cities to their home….do u think it has increased his popularity..ur gravily wrong when u say he is at peak of popularity, rather, he is been hated by most of d ppl of india.

  15. Sedition cases against journos is definitely ludicrous.

    However, difficult to have any sympathy for Navlakha and his ilk of self styled “activists”. I’ve heard some of their speeches and they deserve to be locked up for good. Their statements do not classify as dissent in my opinion.

  16. The PM was elected on a “strongman’ image, and in keeping with that image, he is delivered on issues, rammandir, cow slaughter, triple talaq,, Kashmir and of course ‘surgical strike’. Going after ‘libtards’leftists is in consonance with that image. This has worked so well electorally we have yogi following. If it ain”t broke don’t fix it.

  17. Print is no exception to the general tendency of Indian press, of less nationalist but more personal orient !? Imagine the result of such phenomena in China, and weigh the value of the Union Govt before you sing the songs praising the Left in the Country!

  18. Based on obselete data. Anti Nationals are to be crushed whether ruling political party becomes more popular or not. That is what PM Modi is doing at present.

  19. what rubbish.He is contributing editor and his views are personal.Then what is “OFFICIAL VIEW OF THIS NEWS PORTAL”?

  20. Can’t feel sympathy for Umar khalid.So much of sickularism and leftist liberanduness that an attempt to show urself as unbiased fails

  21. It seems being left activist is an automatic ticket for being honest. What a laughable logic? For anything mentioned in BBC or for that matter Times or NYT is like Das Capital for them. But, which logic defies the logic that age will only decide to commit something which goes against the country as the so called report by the ‘ hallowed’ BBC. The NIA now shows that one called Nawlakha has a link with the Pakistani agent of ISI, which recruited him and invited him on occasions to US to speak against Kashimr issue. These writers do not have faith in the agencies of the country safeguarding the interest of the nation. Please refrain from such destabilising write ups in the greater interest of the country. If anything that goes against the lefts then it is considered ‘chasing the dissenters’. Don’t be dissenters for being dissenter.

  22. It is good he is bringing out these handlers to the forefront so they can undergo jail term & punishment for their acts instigating the innocent people & brainwashing them with propaganda against the Governments in connivance with the Naxals & Marxist. No point in killing & attacking the innocent followers who are foot soldiers & battlefront rung fighters.

    All these guys thought they are untouchables so no law can punish them or even point a finger towards them as they are the handlers from the background. Even in their dreams, they did not expect such an action for their criminal activity proved & arrested. But yes for everything there is a limit. This Bhima incident has opened the eyes of the Public, Judiciary, that these people have provoked & instigated the mob to carry out killings, violent agitation by totally ignoring the law & order situation.

    So let them languish in the jail irrespective of the health condition & age so that they can taste the same medicine what they thought of giving government with the anarchy. So brave they are, why they do run court to court to get bail & get released themselves. Not us our relatives & family they can say. Let them tell the court they are not interested & request for earlier trial and come clean.

    They can not go scot-free without facing the consequences of their actions. If they weep these Naxals & Leftists use them it is a lame excuse, why did they allow them to do that at the cost of students & innocent lives. Modi knows it is the right time to fix these guys. Regarding the Economy now it is global phenomena because of Carona Pandemic. Every country is suffering, so also we.

    By the time you have get printed this article What Abdulla said you might have noticed. He wants the Chinese help to remove the article 370 in Kashmir is it not a fit case of sedition. Please be Frank.

    It is a valid point you have mentioned that the Hindutva or a section of the people wanted this kind of action over a long o time to handout punishment for these guys. Let the law take its own course.

  23. Dissenters what a casualty of interpretation. Anti -nationals are anti-nationals ….. Do not cajole by branding them as dissenters.

  24. In fact, after reading political articles by left wing people, I became a supporter of Hindutva. I think this is the case with a lot of people. These ultra left maoists should languish in jails and in court rooms. They should be taught a lesson. I am with Modi and Govt on this. Left liberals are a greater security risk to Indian state than Islamists.

  25. Where do you get this ideas man what do yoou eat and what routine do you follow please write an article about it

  26. I seriously hope the writer Shivam Vij gets the feedback and views on his article. The blatant assumption that he makes when he says “10,000 pages of FICTION” is itself part of the problem created by LEFT leaning people that everything created against Leftist is imaginary and some sort of Vendetta. Last time i checked he is a ” Political Analyst ” & not a crime investigator or may be before ranting about his theories he can do a thorough research on the case & evidences. We shouldn’t be suprised if there are links between Maoists & other terror organization. Naxalism is not just limited in Forests like we think of it in popular imagination. It was a thing of 70′ & 80’s. Of course their strong hold remains the forests but every terror organization tries to expand and tie up with other forces against a common enemy. There are plenty of examples of it like LTTE in Sri Lanka , Maoist party in Nepal etc. So to reduce the enormity of this case just to propagate your own narrative of ” See how this govt is curbing dissent and we all need to be scared of it ” is a very cheap shot to be honest.

  27. The gangs of Shah-Modipur are pretty much determined to take this country in to gutters, in democracy terms. The family enterprise led by Pappu & Mumma Sonia is in irreversible decline, and the regional parties can go only thus far. So, the TINA (there is no alternative) effect is sinking in; Shivam Vij is no exception!

  28. Measuring popularity ratings in such a vast, diverse country is difficult. The media narrative is not always truthful. One would not take at face value a studio edition of Mood of the Nation, any more than the public statements made by India Inc on the state of the economy. Ordinary Indians are hurting like hell. Even those better off cannot recall such tough times. Perhaps turning things around would be a more constructive use of state power than crushing what little remains of dissent. There must be a benevolent, magnanimous vision for the future, of an India at peace with itself and its neighbourhood, respected globally, which was the case till quite recently. There could be a reality check as soon as on 3rd November.

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