New Delhi: On May 26, 2021, Narendra Modi completed his seven years in office.All international headlines have changed over the decades. Now, no western media can see any virtue in Prime Minister Modi.
But years back when the same Modi was Gujarat Chief Minister and was just one of the possible candidates as PM-candidate, the same western media and even Chinese authorities had a lot of laudatory words and phrases kept reserved for him.
Why both the western media and China developed an abhorrence of Modi? Is it linked to Modi’s assertive diplomacy when it comes to dealing with China and whether his explicit Hindutva stance has irked the Christian lobby in the west?
In the past, William Antholis, managing director of the Brookings Institution and a senior fellow in Governance Studies, had summed up his opinion on Modi stating – “….this was a man (Modi) America needed to know better…He has successfully tackled some of India’s toughest problems. One thing is certain – he will continue to be a force in Indian politics”.
‘The Economist’ in its July 7th, 2011 edition had remarked: “So many things work properly in Gujarat that it hardly feels like India”.
Sometime in 2007-08, Canadian heavy machinery company Bombardier had won a contract to supply compartments to Delhi Metro. It needed a factory site. In Savli the factory was set up in just 18 months.
It was stated that the speed at which things moved braving all bureaucratic bottlenecks, the Bombardier director was impressed and he hailed it as a “world record within Bombardier”. This episode too was widely reported in the western press.
BBC had covered Gujarat mayhem of 2002 extensively. But ten years later in its report on the eve of a decade of the mayhem, it admitted, “whilst the controversy is still being debated; it is not stopping business from flowing in Gujarat”. The website journalism was just trying to brave through the dot.com failure era. But rediff.com was a prestigious site then and in an article it had noted: “The success of Gujarat has today put it in a place where it can negotiate and navigate international relations of direct economic consequence to it without being held back by the timidity in New Delhi”.
The western media and others hailed Modi’s ‘super CEO’ style of functioning.
In March 2014, Christophe Jaffrelot wrote in an ‘Indian Express’ article: “….a section of the middle class perceives Narendra Modi as a super-CEO. One of his biographers, points out that he “functions like a modern day CEO laying emphasis on the outcome and often allegedly putting the rules and normal norms in the backburner” (Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth).
Michael Kadoorie, a Hong Kong billionaire and chairman of Asian Power, hugged Modi in public during Vibrant Gujarat Summit and had said: “I would encourage you all to invest here”. Ron Somers, head of an US trade group, called Modi a “progressive leader”.
In terms Modi’s equations with Chinese leaders, incumbent president Xi Jinping, has not been his first friend from China. In 2011, Chinese envoy to India, Zhang Yan had reached out to Modi and expressed his country’s interestto work together to sharpen Gujarat’s industrial and manufacturing edge.
He also invited Modi to visit China.
In fact, according to observers, the Chinese invitation was seen as ‘astute political move’. Some years ago, in 2005, the US had denied him visa. It was thus argued that the Chinese authorities were making calculated investment in the future. During Modi’s visit to China, senior Chinese dignitaries hosted him at banquets.
Even some sections of US officials were changing their stance gradually.
In 2012, the US Congressional Research Service said Gujarat under Modi had emerged as a good example of ‘effective governance’.
Therefore, now an imperative and puzzling question is why all these changed all of a sudden?