‘Amid India’s global rise, shrinking freedom and intensifying hate at home’: Defining Narendra Modi’s 10-year legacy

Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India since 2014, will be seeking a record third straight term in power as the Lok Sabha elections have got underway. The last 10 years will go down as one of the most momentous periods for the country, in both positive and negative terms, irrespective of which side of the political spectrum you stand. In this Blog, I will elaborate on the 10 years of legacy of Mr Modi in power and where he, his government and the country seem to be headed after the polls.

Destruction of institutions

The democratic institutions are considered the foundation of a democracy. But, they have seen an unprecedented level of erosion in the last decade. The Modi government has been hell-bent on compromising the power of all the institutions, whether it is the Election Commission, Income Tax department, CBI, ED or even our courts for that matter. The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) has been amended (Section 45) after which getting bail is almost impossible unless the court is convinced that the accused is 100% innocent. This has been weaponised by the ruling BJP to target Opposition leaders across the country.

However, it is not as if action should not be taken against the corrupt, but the trend should be consistent. But, here we see a ‘Washing Machine’ — as the Opposition famously calls it — at the display, in which as soon as a stained leader joins the BJP, he sees all cases against him closed. If the earlier examples of Suvendu Adhikari, and Himanta Biswa Sarma were not enough, we have quite recently seen the cases of Ajit Pawar, Chagan Bujhbal and Ashok Chavan (the last name was accused in the famous Adarsh scam, so BJP should also stop boasting about patriotism).

The Opposition has been alleging that their leaders are either being lured with huge sums of money or being coerced with the threats of ED/CBI to leave their party and join the BJP. This procedure has led to the fall of many Opposition governments, especially Congress in the country, in what is famously termed ‘Operation Lotus’. Major examples were Goa, Manipur, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka and now the next one under scanner is Himachal Pradesh. This has brought a problematic trend where democratically elected governments are falling as a pack of cards.

Now, coming to the court. The judiciary in the country is called the ‘Third Pillar of Democracy’. It is expected to play the role of saviour at times whenever democratic values in the country come under attack. But, at the same time, we have to understand the Court has its limitations. It can’t be playing the role of Opposition or running a parallel power structure. So, it’s not easy to give rulings against the Central government repeatedly.

Lately, the court has sided with the government on almost all major issues — barring the Chandigarh mayoral polls row and electoral bond issue. Also, a problematic trend that has been seen is that almost all cases regarding bail of opposition leaders go to the bench of some ‘specific judges’ who have been close to Mr Modi since his time as Gujarat Chief Minister. This, of course, makes getting bail even more difficult for opposition leaders.

The last nail in the coffin came when the jolt was made upon the Election Commission of India, the very institution that at least ensures we are living in a ‘democracy’. The Supreme Court ruled that appointment for the positions of the Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners, be made by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Chief Justice so that the appointments are ‘neutral’ in nature.

But it risked making the elections in India free and fair, so to rescue the country from such a ‘dangerous’ situation, the BJP government passed a bill in Parliament, which ruled that the appointment would be made by a 3-member committee consisting of PM, Leade of Opposition and….another Union Minister. So, the CJI was replaced by the government minister.

The two recent appointments — Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu — both have worked closely under Amit Shah, already raising a strong sense of doubt. The names were decided by Mr Modi, his deputy Shah and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (LoP). But, Chowdhury alleged that he was only given six shortlisted names and was not even given time to look through their profiles. So, here we have free and fair elections taking place in the ‘Mother of Democracy’.

Now, the BJP might argue that earlier appointments were being made directly by the President and many biased people headed the commission in the past. Well, that’s true. But, the thing is the SC ruling itself was to make the system ‘neutral’. So, if BJP had no ill intentions, there wasn’t any need for this ‘mischief’ to make the panel 2:1 in its favour always.

Conspiracy to kill Arvind Kejriwal in jail, insulin denied: AAP's big charge - India Today

Arvind Kejriwal, a maverick leader and a big name in the Opposition is jailed on an alleged liquor scam weeks before elections (Photo: India Today)

Crackdown on Opposition

One can only imagine that the accounts of the main Opposition party are frozen months before elections, over a 20-year-old case, making it difficult for the party to campaign in the polls. It’s not usual to see two sitting Chief Ministers being put in jail, even when the investigation in the case is ongoing, that too weeks before elections. It is also pertinent to note that Rahul Gandhi, (leader of the main opposition party) too was on the verge of being jailed after an outrageous judgement by a local Gujarat court on the ‘Modi surname’ remark.

With all institutions acting like a “caged parrot” to the government, serious questions are raised about how level playing field, actually is in the general elections being held in the ‘Mother of Democracy’.

Infrastructure and Development

The development in the field of infrastructure and digitalisation has remained very strong in the last 10 years. Even if one simply calculates, kilometres of road, highways and flyovers, one would find that BJP maintains a healthy lead over the Congress. There is a reason Nitin Gadkari is such a popular minister, even among those who are not ardent BJP supporters.

The other major development area is that of digital infrastructure. One can’t forget the UPI revolution that took the world by storm. India’s UPI transactions are already much higher than all developed nations combined. So, there is a ‘revolution’ in the true sense. Also, internet connectivity has reached much more. Everyone remembers paying Rs 300 for 1 GB and now enjoys 1.5-2 GB every day at the same cost. All this has also made India more equipped in this digital age. Of course, this has also helped ‘some sections’ in reaping profits and has brought a new set of challenges on the web, but the positives on society can’t be ignored.

Delivery of Schemes

People often say that the BJP is winning only on its ‘Hindutva’ plank. But, it’s only half the truth. Many often ignore the power of welfare schemes (the same schemes that Mr Modi calls ‘Revdi’ when given by other parties). Whether it is building toilets in houses, or providing houses (pakka makaan under Awas Yojana), Ujjwala scheme, Kisan Samman Nidhi or the most appreciated free ration scheme. All these have created a strong perception for the BJP, especially among the poor sections.

But, the bigger point is the BJP has been a better performer than the Congress in the delivery of schemes. If you compare the public response to the welfare schemes of the two governments, you will find this apparent fact. Now, a big reason for this is the digital payment system too. This factor makes many people, especially poor and those who have nothing to do with electoral politics of the day, to trust the BJP more, as they believe they will receive better delivery of services under them.

Fractured Federalism

“India, that is Bharat, shall be a union of states.” This is what is enshrined in our Constitution, but not what is being followed in the current regime. Firstly, as I said above, all attempts are made to topple elected governments with both money and might. But, in such cases where an Opposition party comes into power with a landslide victory (AAP in Delhi, Punjab; Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu), the BJP uses the position of Governor for its own mischief.

Can one even imagine a Governor “refusing” to read the address prepared by cabinet (he is bound to do so as per the rules, and so is the President)? A Governor sitting over a bill for over two years? Or a Governor openly campaigning against the ruling party in the state? All this has transpired in the last 10 years. Now, it would be false to say that tussles between the governor and state government never happened in the past; it always happens when rival parties are in power in the centre and state. But, the extent to which the situation has reached is just unprecedented.

The situation in Delhi was perhaps the most perplexing. As soon as the Supreme Court gave a judgement that Delhi government has the power to make laws on all matters except law and order, police and land; the BJP-led Centre rushed with an ordinance to circumvent the order and significantly reduce the position of a Chief Minister, empowering the ‘half-witted’ LG and even some top government secretaries (appointed by Centre).

What is the BBC Modi documentary and why is it so controversial? | Narendra Modi | The Guardian

The BBC documentary on PM Modi created a huge stir in India, with the government resorting to ban and crackdown (Photo: The Guardian)

Suppression of Voice

I don’t think I really need to elaborate on how millions of voices, critical of this government, have been suppressed and all dissent has been crushed. The dark episode that transpired in the national capital during the anti-CAA protests, is well known. How, in a very planned manner, the BJP cracked down on protestors, and after the situation turned sensitive with riots breaking out in parts of Delhi, the whole blame was put on one community. There are proven instances, when the police deliberately framed Muslims in the case, only to be called out in the court later.

Whether it is the protests by farmers, wrestlers or students; all have received the same fate: brutal crackdown. One can’t even imagine a Prime Minister refusing to even utter a word on the situation in Manipur, a state that has been burning for almost a year. Even the state government hasn’t been dismissed despite it clearly failing to uphold its duties. Just imagine, the situation had it been an Opposition-ruled state. Similarly, PM’s silence hasn’t even broken for the massive protests happening in Ladakh over some really crucial issues.

Another big example was the BBC fiasco. The BBC presented a well-made documentary about the 2002 Gujarat riots that killed over 2000 people, mostly Muslims. Everything in the documentary was pure fact with hard evidence, and except for some points, there was nothing which wasn’t known or documented before. But, the government went to the extent of banning it and even cracking down on those watching it in their personal capacity. Following this, the Income Tax department got a fresh inspiration to raid BBC’s India office and frame some alleged tax evasion case against them.

And the less I talk about the destruction of press freedom, the better. There has been a systematic takeover of all major media houses (NDTV is the biggest example). With almost the whole mainstream media in the pocket, aims are being made to curb the voices of independent journalists too who are only working on YouTube. We have seen multiple cases, where journalists or media houses were raided and arrests were made, as soon as someone published a critical story against the government. Whether it is the recent example of NewsClick, the arrest of a UP reporter after he published the story of ‘salt-chapatti’ being given in a government school, or the crackdown on Dainik Bhaskar after publishing a story on people’s suffering during the Covid pandemic.

Foreign journalists have repeatedly complained that their working in the country has been made more difficult and stringent. They are not given access, their critical stories are scrutinised and even visa permissions are revoked at times. The foreign funding for the Centre for Policy Research was stopped after it published some brilliant reports highlighting the country’s condition in the areas of education, health and other areas.

If all this is not enough, the Prime Minister himself is not confident to face a press conference. All he can do is those scripted interviews (and round tables lately) with the interviewers showing their yellow teeth half the time. During his recent US visit, the Indian side was adamant about not taking any press conference, it was only after the US pressed that Mr Modi agreed to face 2 questions. Prior to this, there were multiple examples where Modi evaded the press even during foreign trips and instead preferred ‘mango’ interviews at home.

How Modi and Biden turbocharged India-US ties - BBC News

PM Modi has bolstered India’s ties with leading powers and made New Delhi upfront on global platforms (Photo: BBC)

Foreign Policy

India has projected itself very strongly on the global stage, especially in the last decade. Using its geostrategic position as well as the huge market that it offers, as leverage, New Delhi has used it very strategically to build its ties with major powers. While, the ties with the US — which have been uphill since the signing of the nuclear deal — have reached perhaps their highest level (barring the turbulence of the Pannun case). Ties with France, Japan and Australia have progressed too. French President Macron came to India as Chief Guest at RDay despite the short notice, which speaks volumes.

India continued with its robust stance of purchasing oil from Russia despite Western pressure was a big example of its diplomatic prowess. It showed that New Delhi won’t bow down to international pressure and will prioritise its national interest. The bigger thing is, that it even evaded any sanction or coercive action from the West. Similarly, the successful hosting of the G20 Summit and being able to adopt the Leaders Declaration with full consensus during such turbulent times is another achievement that will be discussed in the folklore.

But, the biggest development of Modi’s foreign policy has been the development of India’s relationship with the Middle East. It is pertinent to note while Mr Modi is criticised for his alleged “anti-Muslim” policies in India, he enjoys strong clout among the Muslim countries (barring a few), particularly the Gulf. In the past, the Middle East only served as a trade partner, but in the last decade, there have been more joint collaborations and strategic partnerships. India’s recent diplomatic triumph in securing the release of eight ex-naval officers is a big example.

Also, Modi bifurcated India’s ties with Israel and Palestine, while continuing the stand of the two-state solution. Though there has been a clear closeness to Israel because of other reasons too, New Delhi and Tel Aviv have increased their defence and strategic partnership. Some of which also took an ugly turn with the Pegasus deal, a software which was allegedly used to snoop on some big names in India.

India’s geostrategic location also puts added responsibility on it to have strong ties with its neighbours — Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan (especially). China already established deep ties and business relations with these countries. Some experts say India was late in understanding the rules of the game and only performed catch-up to China. On this front too, there has been appreciable progress by the Modi government.

It is said that the UPA government couldn’t effectively use India’s leverage to bolster its global ties. The fact that Modi’s visit to UAE in 2015 was the first by an Indian PM in 33 years is enough to describe the situation. Also, Modi was the first Indian PM to visit Israel even though India recognised the country in 1992. Another example is that India failed to make Shashi Tharoor win the UN Secretary-General elections. If New Delhi had been persistent on this and knocked on some diplomatic channels, maybe an Indian would have become the UN chief.

Finally, the use of ‘foreign policy’ in ‘domestic politics’. Whatever your personal opinion, you can’t deny that the Modi government’s work in this direction is commendable. I guess it is the first time, that common people talk about foreign issues concerning India. Jaishankar is perhaps the most popular Foreign Minister in India’s history. The Prime Minister has been successful in establishing a connection with the Indian diaspora abroad and making them “feel” that India is a rising power. More importantly, India being able to evacuate its citizens from conflict situations, further helped in this image-building.

Systematic Brainwash

Every party, when in power, wants to propagate the ideology it believes in. But, this BJP government is so hungry for brainwashing the whole generation that one can hardly find any previous example to match it. If you think I am exaggerating, just ask this question yourself; 15 years ago, did you check the religion of a movie star or a cricketer? If your answer is no, then what has made you do it today. There is a sheer brazenness to establish the so-called ‘Hindu Rashtra’ legacy. The BJP just doesn’t want to stop at being in power, it wants to dictate the way you think, what you eat and what you wear.

A big example was seen during the changes made in the NCERT textbooks. Now, I am not just talking about sections of Mughal history deleted. On the other hand, can you believe that the periodic table and the theory of evolution have been deleted from the class 9-10 science syllabus? Can one imagine class 11-12 students studying political science without the episodes of the 2002 riots, the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition and most importantly the ‘Emergency’. While one can easily understand the idea behind the deletion of the first two topics; the reason for the Emergency section being deleted is argued to make sure people don’t realise that several things that happened during that dark 2-year period (1975-77) are also happening today. I don’t think I need to say that all this has pushed the country and the future of its students only backwards.

Propagation of Hate

The unprecedented level of hate, which lays the foundation of the BJP ideology has come a long way over the last 2-3 decades. Things which people could only dare to say in their drawing rooms are being said openly. There are ample examples of BJP leaders and ministers giving “hate speech” against minorities, mainly Muslims, and having utmost impunity. If such remarks remained constrained to some fringe sections, it was still tolerable, but in this regime, the ‘fringe’ is the ‘mainstream’.

Just recently, Prime Minister Modi showed his “old and true colours” in one of his most brazen attacks against the Muslims referring to them as “those having more children” and “infiltrators”. During anti-CAA protests, he had referred to the protestors — mainly Muslims — as those who can be “identified from their clothes”. However, these statements are still short in standard compared to the ones he made as Gujarat Chief Minister (he even called riot relief camps “child-producing factories”). He has even compared Congress’ manifesto with ‘Muslim League’ even though, there is ‘Muslim’ not even mentioned once. So, the word has been reduced to dog whistle whenever in need of votes. The divide between communities is perhaps at its peak and the situation ahead only looks grim.

Why many young Muslims are leaving India

There has been an unprecedented rise in religious hate and anti-Muslim sentiment under Modi’s rule (Photo: Scroll)

Economy: Mixed Dose of Growth and Inequality

On the economic front, it has been a mixed dose of performance by the Modi government. While we have continued to maintain the tag of ‘fastest growing economy’, there are serious doubts among economists whether this growth is reaching everyone or is skewed towards some sections. Economists, while giving a detailed analysis of India’s growth story point out that the growth in some sectors, especially corporate and big businesses has been very strong, but the rural distress is real. Whether it is among the farmers or small-sector businesses, there is a need for more incentives. Also, the spending for healthcare and education has seen only meagre increases despite facing the wrath of horrific episode like the Covid pandemic.

Another point of great concern has been the rise in inequality. According to a recent research paper ‘Income and Wealth Inequality in India, 1922-2023: The Rise of the Billionaire Raj’, today the top 1% of Indians own 22% of the country’s income and 40% of the nation’s wealth. It is not as if before 2014, the country was very equitably distributed, this trend has actually been there since 19902 and 2000s. But, it is also an undeniable fact, and also pointed out in the report, that this inequality has been more pronounced in the last 10 years.

Defence and National Security

This is another area where high praises are heaped on the Modi government. Yes, it deserves some part of it. Whether it is the rise in defence spending or more importantly in defence production (so much that India is importing some stuff now). But, there is also another aspect, especially in reference to the situation with China. Beijing breached the LAC in Ladakh and entered into a brawl with our troops at the borders. Since then locals have alleged that they are no longer able to access the land where they easily used to graze their cattle. Reports have pointed out that India has lost access to at least 65 of its patrolling points since the 2020 standoff.

But, the problematic thing is the Modi government is adamant about not accepting the real situation. The government has been so overconfident, that it has refused to discuss the matter in Parliament and always denied any land being forgone. But, when it comes to any serious action, there is only some “strongly condemn” kinda statements and Foreign Minister Jaishankar himself acknowledged that India being a “smaller economy” can’t pick up a fight against a “larger economy” (China). All this while, trade (especially imports) with China has only increased. Even meetings between Modi and Xi haven’t resulted in anything substantive. So Modi’s foreign policy might be robust, but his China policy has failed and badly so.


I have time and again said that the Narendra Modi government is perhaps the MOST reform-oriented government India has had in a long long time. Now, this is both in good and bad light. Take the example of Goods and Services Tax (GST) which was a much-needed reform in the country’s tax system (Even Congress tried bringing it). The other example is the Agnipath Scheme, again a very important reform needed in the country’s defence arena. The farm laws, of course, would fall into the grey area, but at least the government tried to bring some reforms in the otherwise stagnant sector.

The downside, however, is that the government doesn’t believe in the word consensus and always wants to impose what it thinks is ‘right’ for the country. We have seen ample examples including the CAA and the recent farmer protests. The farm laws could have been much more effective, had they been made after taking the farmers into confidence.


While BJP always claims that there is “no” corruption charge levelled against it. I don’t find this idea easy to buy. The allegations over the purchase of the Rafale jet; investigation might have gone on the ultra-back burner, but the French courts are still probing it. Actually, a few months back, a Paris-based investigative website Mediapart stated in its report, “India is not cooperating in the investigation.”

Even serious allegations surfaced regarding Pegasus. The Modi government allegedly purchased Pegasus software from Israel and used it to snoop on several key personalities; Opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi, then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, then Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa. In any ‘normal’ country, this should have caused a bloody earthquake, but not in India, here have the Ram Mandir.

The government took donations from people under PM Cares, but when it was asked to reveal how the PM Cares money was spent, the government refused to give any data. I find it appalling how people are easily able to accept such an ‘insult’, that your government brushes off accountability on public money.

And the elephant in the room, the Electoral Bonds. The Modi government changed rules to allow unanimous donations to any party without the name of the donor being revealed. Any mind with common sense can see that it can pave the way for corruption, but this government hypocritically claimed that the scheme actually “brought transparency”. Even in the Supreme Court, the government argued that “people don’t have any right to know who is donating to which party”. It is also pertinent to note that the bill was brought through Money Bill (so it could evade Rajya Sabha where the BJP lacked a majority then). Fortunately, the scheme (“scam”) was struck down by the top court, and people got to know many of the friendly companies not just BJP, but other parties too.

The Adani case can be an article in itself, so I won’t go there now. But, hundreds of reports have already shown that something is badly fishy in this nexus. From changing rules by bringing bills to help Mr Adani get contracts to making government institutions like LIC purchase Adani shares, there are many problematic things already. So, BJP should be the last one to talk about ‘corruption’ now.

As Covid-19 Devastates India, Deaths Go Undercounted - The New York Times

A horrific photo showing the precarious situation in the country during the Covid pandemic (Photo: New York Times

Covid Pandemic

BJP thought they could make people forget this? While the Modi government still claims that it did an unimaginable task during the pandemic, it can’t hide from the fact that its blatant mismanagement cost so many innocent lives. At a time when hardly a crore people were vaccinated, the government had already exported over 6-7 crore vaccines, just to showcase its prowess to the world. Despite knowing Bharat Biotech’s (which made Covaxin) limited production capacity, it gave production rights to only one company Serum Institute of India (which made Covidshield). Although, Russia’s Sputnik was also allowed later, it was extremely minuscule in proportion.

Now, the government didn’t allow Pfizer or Moderna to enter here, calling them “lobbies”. But, the fact is Serum Institute itself donated Rs 52 crore to BJP through electoral bonds. So my simple question is, is this not lobbying? The government claims around 5 lakh Covid deaths, while WHO has said at least 48 lakh people died in India. Several other reports too have estimated similar numbers. While people died craving for oxygen, the Modi government — which put Narendra Modi’s photo on vaccination certificate — was shameless enough to say in the Parliament “No one died due to lack of oxygen”. In any other country, the public would have stormed the government out, but again not in India.

Vote Bank

Now, whether someone likes it or not, every party has its vote bank. As I explained above, the BJP has been able to garner the support of a lot of neutral and non-committed voters through the effective delivery of welfare schemes. But, it has also ensured that its ‘core vote ban’ which is the far-right Hindutva group, is satisfied. It was able to deliver on its two major and historic promises; the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya and the abrogation of Article 370. The former issue, especially is an extremely emotive issue in the country, which has and will further resonate across the country, especially the Hindi heartland.

Knowing its main poll planks are achieved, the BJP has been trying to flare up other polarising issues like CAA. Similarly, it has also tried its best to lay claims over the Gyanvapi Mosque (which Hindus claim to be a temple) and the Shahi Idgah Mosque (which Hindus consider the birthplace of Lord Krishan). Uniform Civil Code, another big BJP promise has already seen its implementation in Uttarakhand and is likely to be implemented in the whole country in the next term (if it returns to power). So, as far as the vote bank is concerned, I think they would be more than satisfied by their party as well as their supreme leader.

Modi 2.0 Report Card

So, here is how the Narendra Modi government fared in the two terms. While there has been a significant rise in India’s global stature because of multiple factors (including leadership) and it is also poised to become the world’s third-largest economy (which it anyways will), all of which helps the BJP in projecting India’s ‘rise’ under Prime Minister Modi.

But, there we also have an extreme rise in authoritarianism and hate, to the extent that many think tanks now don’t even consider India a Democracy but rather an ‘electoral autocracy’.

On the other hand, there is an Opposition which is already distraught in front of BJP’s slogan of ‘400 paar’ (which although I don’t think will happen). Their statements “One day this govt will go” already show what are their expectations from this election.

Rahul Gandhi, though has presented some good ideas and carried two big foot marches across the country. But all of this just doesn’t seem to be enough for his case. And, while he claims he is ‘fighting’ BJP-RSS ideology, the fact he is not confident of winning back Amethi, his family stronghold, and announced candidature from Rae Bareli only after being sure of victory in Wayanad, only weakens his tall claims. There is no ‘shortcut’ in politics.

Arvind Kejriwal, another big name in Opposition is already in jail, which has significantly hurt his party’s campaign. Though AAP is using the ‘jail’ thing very strongly to make it backfire on the BJP, how successful they come out, only time will tell. The rest of the Opposition can only contribute in their respective states. Only if they are very successful in keeping the campaign localised, will they be able to inflict damage on BJP’s total tally.

2024 Lok Sabha Elections

So, as Mr Modi is aiming for a third term, many fear even darker days for India’s democracy. If the recent attacks on the Election Commission, misuse of ED and “hate speech” by the PM himself are anything to go by, one can just imagine, what the third term has in store for the ‘Mother of Democracy’.

Anyways, as voters, it is our duty to exercise our democratic right and go out to vote during our respective phases. As the strong monologue in SRK-starrer ‘Jawan’ goes, While we vote, we must question the party and the candidate, what will he do for us, for the constituency, and for the country in the next five years. I would only say keep in mind what happened against the country’s democratic values, during the Covid pandemic, and whichever party you support just vote against HATE.


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