Modi is India’s Reagan. Apparently.

…and for some reason, people think this is a compliment.


I haven’t written about the elections. They’re happening, and we’re polarised enough as a polity that nothing I have to say will change anybody’s mind about anything. But yesterday’s The Hindu op-ed page contains an article that I thought I’d say something about. I don’t think the article itself is insightful or original, but what it represents perhaps is.

First, about the article’s thesis that Modi is India’s Reagan, and (implicitly) that this is somehow reason for people to vote for Modi (or Modi’s model of development).

Reagan was a B-film actor who became governor of California and then the US president. Modi was an organiser for the RSS before he became the chief minister of Gujarat. Reagan was considered sunny and optimistic, even by his opponents (it’s morning in America, and all that). Modi is sullen and diffident at times, and a rabble-rousing demagogue at others. Very little similarity there, I think.

Where there does seem to be similarity is in the size of the respective personas in relation to what these men actually achieved. And, more importantly, in their policies. Reagan enjoys de facto sainthood, despite being the president whose tenure saw the enactment of game-changing financial legislation that led to the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008. Reagan was also the president who cut taxes on the rich while the middle class barely made any gains and poverty rose.  He started the restriction of the social welfare programmes that is now entrenched in US politics (think ‘no tax increase, ever’, or ‘Obamacare means death panels’).

And yet the hagiography surrounding Reagan–e.g. David Cohen’s article which prompted this whole blogpost–would suggest a very different picture.

Modi’s rise to stardom, if not sainthood, has been similar. Modi’s Gujarat has made great concessions to large businesses, and fared poorly in social indicators. And, just like Reagan, the hype about Gujarat is larger than life.

Reagan was opposed to the civil rights and voting rights laws protecting black Americans from discrimination. He was anti-abortion, and insisted on prayer in schools. Modi’s BJP wants to permanently criminalise homosexuality, and return India to its Hindu roots (we’ll say nothing right now about whether those things are in fact the same thing).

Like I said above, the David Cohen’s article isn’t very interesting; it’s the same ‘Reagan was called racist by elitists’ tripe. What is interesting is that such and article is now possible in mainstream news. Marx and Engels called for a global order of the proletariat; what we seem to have here is a global order of the rich and their minions.