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Elections to evaluation: how the West has made news of Modi

  • Tania Goklany, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 30, 2014 15:10 IST

Analysis, advice, and criticism: Western media has written about Narendra Modi from all story angles right from the time when the BJP declared him as its prime ministerial candidate for the Lok Sabha elections.


He was tagged as "the favourite" and "the frontrunner" in the elections by the top brands in western media, but couldn't shake off criticism over the 2002 riots in Gujarat during his tenure as the state's chief minister.

The Economist "admired" him but in an editorial two days before the elections said he didn't deserve to hold India's highest office. The Guardian published an open letter by Indian intellectuals accusing Modi of "failure of moral character" during the riots.

Nine-phased elections and a firm majority government later, the focus is again on Modi as he marks 100 days in power. That focus is on how he is going about to fulfil his election promises.

When Modi spoke about toilets, women and disciplining government officials in his Independence Day speech, The Economist praised him for his "direct style of public speaking". "In opposition Mr Modi was belligerent, but as prime minister he is changing tone to become far more conciliatory," the newspaper noted.

It raised some tough points too: like what happened to the major economic reforms he was expected to make on the back of his massive mandate. "Two months into government early grumbles suggest the new prime minister is preoccupied with matters of style and administration, while he makes too little use of his political mandate."

The Washington Post argued that Modi has gone "silent" after speaking "breathlessly" on national issues. The paper believes that Modi has "gagged" his ministerial colleagues. "Even as he encourages his colleagues in the government to open Twitter accounts to disseminate official news, he has put a gag on them. He has instructed them not to speak to reporters out of turn, to be wary of sting operations and not allow anyone into their offices with cellphones or cameras, or even pens," the paper says.

The New York Times stated that Modi "fumbled an early test of leadership" by cancelling a meeting between India and Pakistan's diplomats. "Canceling the meeting was an overreaction on India's part, especially when it could have served as an opportunity to discuss grievances and press for a solution," said its editorial.

Modi's style of functioning had a pitfall, noted Adam Roberts, South Asia correspondent for The Economist, in an editorial in the Indian Express. "Since Modi has centralised power, the buck rests with him. Unlike his predecessor, he cannot blame anyone else if his government does not deliver," he wrote.

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