We are living in an era of strongmen political leaders and a weak state. A strong state is one which gives weightage to citizens’ welfare. Instead, we are being told that a country, where the primary duty of citizens is to cheer nationalistic endeavors, is the sign of a strong country. Things have come to such a pass that in a matter of five years, we have gone from worrying about the creeping institutional decay to applauding executive excesses, where an all-powerful Prime Minister seemingly has a ‘free hand’.
The boisterous revelry of the kind showcased by ‘Howdy Modi’ that kicks in with predictable regularity serves primarily to bolster the personality cult. Unsurprisingly, these bizarre publicity stunts sometimes result in diplomatic howlers–just like it did when Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed the role of a celebrity endorser for American President Donald Trump’s re-election.
Maintaining the façade of ‘strength’ has some defining characteristics: Primary among them is incessant use of propaganda to hide failures. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have a simple strategy–showcase India’s success (real or imagined) in every field, and do not allow the people to dwell on bad news. And thus, India is on a roller coaster ride. A crippling economic downturn is being fought with government-sponsored shopping fests, foreign policy triumphs are measured by the number of hugs shared between fellow-demagogues, and the resolve to usher in development is represented by towering statues.