Opinion Op Ed 07 May 2019 The Economist & the ...
The writer is in charge of the BJP’s foreign affairs department

The Economist & the art of eternal daydreaming

Published May 7, 2019, 3:03 am IST
Updated May 7, 2019, 3:12 am IST
Its claim of a raging Hindu-Muslim divide by the current government is also equally baseless.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi (Photo: File)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi (Photo: File)

There are some striking similarities between what Winston Churchill had said about Indian independence in the British Parliament on March 6, 1947 and what The Economist wrote about India in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular in its latest issue, that hit newsstands over the weekend. In his speech, Churchill had argued that India should be given “dominion” status, still partially governed by the British King, versus full independence. Second, he argued: “Let the House remember this. The Indian political parties and political classes do not represent the Indian masses. It is a delusion to believe that they do.”

A lot of water has flowed down the Thames and the Ganga-Yamuna since then but in the minds of the editors of The Economist, time has not changed. In such a time-wrapped mindset, it’s not surprising that they think they have better judgment than ordinary Indians about India’s own affairs. These apostles of British supremacy, who themselves cannot decide for the past two years about a pivotal issue in their country like Brexit, are questioning the wisdom of the Indian electorate.

 

It is not the first time that The Economist has shown such a supremacist mindset. This magazine had even expressed disapproval of India’s space programme, and had argued: “What if the 16,000 scientists and engineers now working on space development were deployed instead to fix the rotten sanitation?” Of course, The Economist won’t suggest scrapping the £400 million UK Space Agency’s budget to partially fill the mega deficit of £4.3 billon in Britain’s public health system. It’s indeed more than spare change.

Coming to the specifics, The Economist has detailed a long list of so-called “failures” such as demonetisation. Even if we ignore that many items in this list are copy-pasted from the speeches of their favourite leader, Rahul Gandhi, the magazine has conveniently forgotten that the ruling BJP has won several elections after demonetisation. It also thinks that the rise of GDP growth from five per cent in 2014 to above seven per cent under the Narendra Modi government is only a marginal increase. So cluttered is the vision of this magazine’s editors that when the entire Opposition in India criticises Mr Modi for over occupying media space, The Economist claims that he appears only at major events.

Its claim of a raging Hindu-Muslim divide by the current government is also equally baseless. This government hasn’t discriminated against anyone on the basis of his/her caste, region, faith or gender while implementing any of its welfare and development schemes, be it be Ujjwala, microfinance, housing or critical healthcare. They all were implemented in a highly efficient and transparent manner and on the basis of uniform criteria. Of course, The Economist won’t talk about it.

On the contrary, despite accepting that the Congress is corrupt, inefficient and weak, there is wishful thinking in the minds of the editors of The Economist that Rahul Gandhi should lead the next government. Even in 2014, it endorsed Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister. They have given a long laundry list of the so-called misdeeds of this government, but didn’t bother to mention even one for the Congress, conveniently forgetting the 1984 pogrom against Sikhs by Congress workers for which no one is convicted so far. They are full of praise for the unrealistic promises in the Congress manifesto. As a magazine which is focused on the economy, The Economist at least should have asked some tough questions on how a scheme like “Nyay” would be funded without increasing taxes and/or widening the fiscal deficit.

One finds a few other striking similarities between the attitude of Churchill and that of The Economist and its editors as far as India is concerned. Churchill’s role in the deaths of millions in the 1943 Bengal Famine is well documented. But there are some historians like Allan Packwood, who have justified even this dreaded action of Churchill. “It was a horrendous event but it needs to be seen within the context of the global war… Churchill was running a global war at this point, and there are always going to be conflicting priorities and demands… It’s an incredibly complex and evolving situation — and he’s not always going to get everything right,” wrote Packwood. Similarly, The Economist too argues that the Congress is “corrupt, inefficient”, but is still better suited to govern India (because the Congress has different priorities). Similarly, this is what Churchill said about Mahatma Gandhi: “It is alarming and nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir… striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal Palace.” He even argued in favour of “getting rid of the Mahatma”. It seems The Economist’s editors feel equally nauseated seeing the “backward” Narendra Modi occupying the hearts and minds of over a billion Indians, rather than princely dynast Rahul Gandhi.

While the arguments in The Economist editorial are full of arrogance, a “we know better than you” attitude and elitist, at the same time it’s a reflection of its defeatist mindset. Churchill was very saddened by the “disappearance of Britain from the East”, and he further said: “It is with deep grief I watch the clattering down of the British Empire, with all its glories and all the services it has rendered to mankind… But, at least, let us not add — by shameful flight, by a premature, hurried scuttle — at least, let us not add, to the pangs of sorrow so many of us feel, the taint and smear of shame.” One finds a similar tone of accepting the eventual defeat of the Congress in the editorial of The Economist.

Fortunately, not everyone in the United Kingdom is of the same mindset as The Economist. After Narendra Modi’s thumping victory in 2014, London’s Guardian newspaper wrote: “Today, 18 May 2014, may well go down in history as the day when Britain finally left India. Narendra Modi’s victory in the election marks the end of a long era in which the structures of power did not differ greatly from those through which Britain ruled the sub-continent. India under the Congress was in many ways a continuation of the British Raj by other means.”

Therefore, it’s not the popularity and certain victory of Narendra Modi that is despicable and dangerous, but the elitist mindset of The Economist. The sooner it comes out this echo chamber, the more acceptability it is likely to gain. Otherwise, it can continue with its eternal daydream of making Rahul Gandhi India’s next Prime Minister. That daydream will not become reality on May 23, 2019, and not even in 2024!

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