« Back to articlePrint this article

'Mr Modi Is Rattled'

Last updated on: May 27, 2024 11:53 IST

'The speech he gave in which he accused the Congress of getting black money in tempos from Ambani and Adani is remarkable.'

'It is a self-goal for sure, but indicates someone who has lost control, someone who is rattled.'

IMAGE: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party Narendra D Modi shows the BJP symbol during a roadshow in Varanasi, May 13, 2024. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Will Narendra D Modi return to power with an unprecedented majority?

How free and fair is the 2024 election?

"If there is a free and fair election, Modi will not come back. But we all know that this is not a free and fair election," Jayati Ghosh, the well known economist and professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, tells's Shobha Warrier in the first of a two-part interview.

IMAGE: A woman stands on the shoulders of a man as Modi supporters cheer ahead of his arrival during a roadshow in Mumbai, May 15, 2024. Photograph: Hemanshi Kamani/Reuters

In 2014 Narendra Modi came to power promising one crore jobs and 'achche din'. Both did not happen, but he came back to power in 2019. What do you see happening in 2024?

If there is a free and fair election, Modi will not come back.

But we all know that this is not a free and fair election.

The ruling party has been doing everything possible to rig the process in its favour: From controlling mainstream media and suppressing accurate reportage, to using the Enforcement Directorate, IB, CBI and other agencies against Opposition leaders, sending Opposition chief ministers to jail, filing court cases against Opposition parties and making huge retrospective tax demands on them, freezing their bank accounts, intimidating and coercing Opposition leaders to join the BJP.

And then there is the supposedly independent agency that conducts the election: The Election Commission of India.

The Modi government changed the law to enable it to appoint commissioners of its own choosing; as a result, the current Election Commission of India has already shown itself to be completely partisan and following the wishes of the ruling party, in all sorts of ways.

So, this is not a free and fair election.

In their desire to control the narrative, the BJP uses communications of every kind -- from the mainstream media to the social media -- and they suppress and manipulate official data. This has been an important part of how the BJP has functioned as the ruling party.

So, they create a narrative that India has been doing very well, India's economy has been performing very well, poverty has come down, etc. This suppresses the reality of growing inequality, stagnating incomes for the majority of the population, growing joblessness and worsening human development conditions.

IMAGE: A glimpse of Modi's roadshow for the Lok Sabha elections in Mumbai, May 15, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

When the global hunger index or India's position in the global press freedom index is revealed, it is perceived as a conspiracy against India. When someone praises Modi, it is repeated ad nauseum how the world respects Modi....

This is part of the same narrative. The whole idea is to project Modi as the Vishwaguru, which in fact, nobody else in the world thinks at all.

Yes, it is true that India is important geopolitically -- but that is not because of Mr Modi; that is because India is geopolitically important. Whoever is in power, this is true. But they are presenting this as the victory of Mr Modi, which is completely false.

Somehow, they have been able to fool the Indian people for quite a long time.

This is hard to understand. For example, in 2019, they got away with presenting the Balakot attack as a major victory against terrorism, after the attack on jawans in Pulwama. We now know from Mr Satpal Malik who was the governor of Jammu and Kashmir at the time, that the attack was something that they allowed to happen, and the Balakot strike was a purely token measure that affected no one.

They create situations so that they can control the narrative no matter what the reality is, and use every possible situation to their advantage.

IMAGE: Congress workers in Mumbai, March 7, 2024, protest against the SBI for not disclosing the names of the electoral bond programme. Photograph: ANI Photo

After the electoral bond scam, do you feel the BJP and Modi are rattled? Then came Arvind Kejriwal speaking about Modi retiring as he turns 75 next year...

I think they are rattled not only because of the Opposition, although it is clear that the Opposition has been somewhat rejuvenated in the last few weeks.

The real sign of being rattled is Mr Modi himself.

The speech he gave in which he accused the Congress party of getting black money in tempos from Ambani and Adani is remarkable.

It indicates a person who doesn't know how to respond to the criticisms, who is lashing out without thinking of what he is saying.

This government has been a major proponent of crony capitalism, and has been particularly close to Ambani and Adani. Then the PM declares that they have black money and are distributing it in tempos.

A self-goal?

It is a self-goal for sure, but indicates someone who has lost control, someone who is rattled.

IMAGE: Children hold the BJP symbol outside a polling station in Ahmedabad, May 7, 2024, before Modi's arrival to cast his vote. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Do you feel it all started with the electoral bond scam?

I am not sure about this. The electoral bonds data are deeply damaging for the BJP, but hardly any mainstream media covered it systematically and thoroughly. Some of us follow alternative media, but most of the country does not.

And this is not the only scam. There are so many scams; there is the PM-CARES scam, the Rafale scam, the scam around the handover of public airports to the Adani Group, the coal allocation scam and many others in addition to the electoral bond scam.

Any of these scams would have brought down any other government. But the mainstream media hardly mentions any of these scams, and the BJP controls social media too. So, most people are not even aware of these scams and the extent of corruption.

I think we underestimate their power to control the media and people's perceptions -- it is unlike any other government we have seen before.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/