India's PM Modi goes a little bit North Korean with pervasive cult of personality posters in cities
I am just back from a bucket list trip to India (with a stopover in Istanbul on the way home), and while I am far from an expert on this vast, complex, and highly diverse country, I want to offer a few observations in this and in some other forthcoming blog posts.
India is to host the G20 summit of the leaders of the 20 largest-GDP countries in New Delhi next September and is very proud of this honor. This fact was immediately and pervasively evident to a foreign visitor after disembarking an airplane.
The five cities that I visited (New Delhi, Agra, Goa, Mumbai, and Kochi) were all full of posters touting the meeting that is still half a year away, all of them featuring the P.M., Narendra Modi. This was not just one or two among other posters that might be plastered somewhere, but ubiquitous, not just along the streets, but pretty much everywhere a poster might be found, including on airport video screens. And the posters mostly touted Modi as the dear leader who had brought India to this elevated status of leadership.
Video posters of Modi at Goa Airport
Modi G20 poster in Mumbai, which is not hosting the G20 summit but is hosting other officials.
Modi's face above ticket vending machines in Mumbai's biggest railroad station.
Modi poster on the seat back of a domestic airline flight.
Modi on a traffic circle.
These are but a small sample. Many streets were lined with posters with Modi and the G20 featured.
From what I can tell, Modi is very popular, and his BJP party is polling to win a landslide in an upcoming state election. He seems pretty conservative, and I recall that President Trump hosted him at a "Howdy, Modi" rodeo celebration in Houston, attended by tens of thousands of Indian-Americans. Everyone I spoke to in India, admittedly a non-representative sample of English-speaking people in roles exposing them to foreigners, liked him to one degree or another. Right now, he is buying Russian oil and playing off Russia against the U.S., now that Biden has squandered the goodwill Trump built. India is a critical counterweight to China, and it is a representative democracy, so whatever the current political winds, our two nations ought to be friends.
His economic reforms appear to have taken effect and pushed India's expected economic growth into the 7-percent range for this year. So there is a lot to like.
Maybe he is just doing what is necessary, but I found it disconcerting to see this level of propaganda so pervasive. On the other hand, look at the COVID propaganda that we've endured in the United States. But at least we don't have to see Joe Biden's mug everywhere.