India News

Sadly for Modi, His God Does Not Vote

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi lost seats in last month’s election because Indian voters and members of the Hindu nationalist paramilitary RSS called out his narcissism. Modi’s misogyny and megalomania should worry other stakeholders.
PM Modi

INDIA-MAY,25 2019: Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked and promised a better India at Parliament in New Delhi on Saturday © Madhuram Paliwal /

July 04, 2024 07:16 EDT

The dust is now settling on one of the dirtiest central election campaigns in recent memory. Indian Prime Minister Modi made liberal use of some of the vilest language ever employed by an Indian prime minster. Still, perhaps the most dangerous claims by Narendra Modi were about not being biologically born to his mother and being sent by his god to serve India.

Even in a mature democracy like the United Sates, this level of narcissism, misogyny, and megalomania are not uncommon. Donald Trump, with a similar set of traits, will seek the highest office in the United States for the third time this November. However, unlike Trump, Modi’s vice-like grip on most democratic institutions make his messianic assertions a monumental challenge for India.


Three of India’s most populous states voted decisively against Modi this year in a stunning rebuke to his narcissistic leadership.

In Uttar Pradesh, by far India’s most populous state — with a whopping 80 seats out of the Lok Sabha’s 543 — Modi thought that he could launch ambitious reform schemes without paying attention to their effects on real people. His Agnipath scheme eliminated opportunities for young citizens to spend their career in the armed forces, replacing them instead with a four-year tour of duty after which a soldier would retire without a pension. Certainly, reform is much needed, given the rapidly changing nature of warfare. But Modi rammed the scheme through while ignoring the dismal job prospects young graduates would face due to his whimsical economic policies.

In Maharashtra, Modi assumed that he could redirect investments to Gujarat instead of letting the state administration attract investors, boost economic activity and create well-paying jobs. Marathas demanded reservations for their community and farmers suffered under adverse climactic conditions. These events should have served as warning signs to Modi about his failing policies. Yet in his make-believe world, there is no acknowledgment of failure, let alone ownership.

Modi’s treatment of West Bengal was perhaps the most egregious example of his narcissism. By meddling in the state’s affairs through the centrally appointed governor and selectively unleashing investigative agencies on opposition politicians, he thought he could subvert the mandate Bengalis gave to their immensely popular Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. When that yielded limited success, he thought he could get away with blocking funds due to the Bengalis from the central government.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fared dismally in all three states this year. Modi might have thought that he could rule the entire country like the state of Gujarat (his backyard) with no accountability, but voters in these states sent him a timely reminder about owning up to his failures.

As if the setback at the ballot box were not enough, even Mohan Bhagwat, the head of BJP’s ideological fountainhead Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), subtly asked Modi to tone down his arrogance.


Despite these setbacks, Modi survives as prime minister. While the BJP lost its majority in parliament, the National Democratic Alliance coalition of which it is a part still controls the Lok Sabha. Perhaps they were able to survive this well because of the lack of an aspirational vision from the opposition.

On the other hand, Modi’s claims of building some mythical new India notwithstanding, the mixed message from this election indicates that his tenure, with some successes and some failures, is similar to almost all the previous administrations, especially in one important way: misogyny. Modi’s enablers, funders and blind followers, especially in the developed world, must now reckon with Modi’s attitude toward women.

India can take pride in having had women elected as Prime Minister and Presidents, but we remain a heavily patriarchal society. 

Since Modi was a foot soldier of the RSS — an organization that considered the patriarchal law code Manusmruti one of the guiding documents for Indian society — before entering politics, his treatment of women should not surprise anyone. He lied about abandoning his ex-wife for decades, acknowledging her existence only at the time of filing an election-related affidavit. He failed to address his own home ministry playing an active role in releasing the Hindu convicts sentenced for murdering the family of and then raping a pregnant Muslim woman. He used foul, tasteless language against Mamata Banerjee. He shielded BJP leaders accused of sexual assaults against women.

Sadly one can find these traits in politicians around the world, including opposition parties within India. It does not make Modi exceptional. However, his recent assertion, conveniently made after his mother’s passing, that he believes he is not biologically born to her, was truly exceptional and should worry even his most ardent supporters. The standard-bearer of a country making such bizarre and anti-women statements should concern those who live in more equal societies, root for women’s empowerment in India, and still unabashedly support Modi, especially when he is not the only person in the BJP to lead the country.


Lastly, it is high time the Indian mainstream media reflect on the way they have been feeding Modi’s megalomania.

Megalomania is more than just narcissism. As a narcissist, Modi thought that he was bigger than his own supporters. As a megalomaniac, he seems to think that he is bigger than India’s democratic institutions themselves.

Barring Indira Gandhi, who employed slogans like “Indira is India” and went on to declare a state of emergency, Indian Prime Ministers before Modi had the gravitas and humility to appreciate their role as democratically elected leaders. However, after ten years in power, Modi started believing that he was sent, to use his own words, by the Parmaatma — the divine, universal Self of Hindu philosophy — to serve those who have faith in him. With Pakistan next door, we don’t have to go too far to witness how invocation of god in discharging your duties towards a republic can destroy a system of representative democracy.

Modi sidelined the other institutions of the state and focused all attention on himself. One would think the Indian press, being the fourth pillar of democracy, would have demanded press conferences and posed tough questions to a democratically elected leader. Instead, most of the mainstream TV media caved and made a beeline for the scripted crumbs thrown at them by the self-appointed vishwaguru, or the master of the universe.

Since the central government’s advertising is the main source of revenue for most of the Indian media outlets, they have done the government’s bidding for decades. However, after the 1991 reforms and the subsequent entry of the private sector in broadcast media, India did see a steady growth in news channels holding their leaders accountable. Even a cursory look at the TV news coverage in the decade preceding Modi’s first national victory in 2014 would drive that point home. Yet it seems that most of these outlets abdicated their primary duty after 2014.

This was left to a handful of online outlets and civic-minded YouTube influencers — battling frivolous lawsuits, BJP’s online troll armies, attacks from friends and family and, in some cases, even jail time and death threats — to show the mirror to Modi. People in India and abroad who cared about Indian democracy kept hammering home the real issues facing India. As this author had pointed out as early as mid-2020, it was obvious to anyone following Modi’s use of public morality and religious tropes to defend inane economic policies that India was well on its way to losing its demographic dividend.

Luckily, Indian voters realized sooner than the media honchos sitting in comfortable offices on the government’s dime that one cannot eat religion for dinner. Modi’s megalomania might make him believe that he is serving God, but the voters need jobs for two square meals. They need due process and constitutionally mandated fundamental rights for a dignified life. And they need leaders accountable to them — not metaphysical entities — to achieve those goals.

Visionaries like Babasaheb Ambedkar, who led the drafting of India’s constitution, enshrined universal adult franchise to guard against the narcissism, misogyny and megalomania of leaders like Modi. Still, the 2024 elections are only a minor course correction. India remains more likely to squander the potential demographic dividend by getting older before it gets richer. And it is anybody’s guess whether Indian media will learn their lessons. Nonetheless, thankfully for India and sadly for Modi, his god does not vote.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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