From initial wonder at the sheer size of India’s ongoing Lok Sabha elections, the dominant theme in the British news media is that Narendra Modi as Prime Minister will not be good at home and abroad, and that ‘India’s great democracy deserves much better’.
BJP's prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in Sundargarh district for an election campaign meet. (Arabinda Mahapatra/HT photo)
Until a week ago, the elections did not figure prominently in the British media, but with polling underway in various phases, coverage has picked up with correspondents of British newspapers reporting regularly from various parts of India.
Influential editors and columnists based here have written extensively about the elections, while BBC has increased its election coverage in prime time bulletins. Critical mention of Modi invariably prompts strong opposition online on newspaper websites.
Peter Popham, who was in Gujarat during the 2002 riots, wrote on a column in The Independent: “I can't suppress a shiver at the thought of Narendra Modi taking office”.
The Guardian, known for its left-of-centre leanings, commented editorially: “The best hope of resisting the nationalist BJP, now or in 2019, lies with Congress, the party that has dominated Indian politics for best part of 70 years. To be able to win over the country, however, Congress must first find the strength to modernise itself”.
Today, The Guardian published a letter from leading Indian-origin writers, academics and others from India, US and the UK, stating that "If Modi is elected, it will bode ill for India’s future". Signatories included Salman Rushdie, Homi K Bhabha, Deepa Mehta, Anish Kapoor, MK Raina and Saeed Mirza.
Amol Rajan, the Indian-origin editor of The Independent, wrote: “The charge sheet against Narendra Damodardas Modi is familiar and well founded: the stench of Hindu nationalism covers him”.
He wrote in a column: “History has yet to service its debt to the founding fathers of modern India, the most radical, brave and ambitious men democracy ever conceived. These heroes are worth resurrecting today because they belonged to a tradition to which Narendra Damodardas Modi, prime ministerial candidate of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in this week’s Indian general election, does not”.
Roger Boyes wrote in The Times in a column titled ‘Modi will bring trouble at home and abroad’: “Don’t expect Mr Modi, if he does indeed become India’s next leader, to be a great conciliator. Don’t expect a smooth diplomat. It looks as if India is embarking on a sea change. We can and must respect their democratic choice. We can also warn our Indian friends, in case they haven’t worked it out for themselves: Mr Modi is potentially big trouble”.