First a caveat; a reminder, really.
The Economist is just another magazine or, as they call themselves, “newspaper” even if is The Economist. Its praise and criticism, its endorsement and rejection, its love and derision must all be treated as expressions of a limited bunch of journalists and editorialists. They are excellent at what they do but they are still journalists and editorialists with debatable consequence.
Feeling particularly incensed or elated at what they write simply because The Economist has written it are both reactions symptomatic of a colonized mindset. I say all this in light of the strong reactions to its piece on India’s election; in particular its equivocal rejection of Narendra Modi as the country’s next prime minister.
The magazine’s editorial concludes this after what appears to be a fairly balanced pointing out of the pros and cons of a prospective Modi administration and Rahul Gandhi administration:
“And if they still choose Mr Modi? We would wish him well, and we would be delighted for him to prove us wrong by governing India in a modern, honest and fair way. But for now he should be judged on his record—which is that of a man who is still associated with sectarian hatred. There is nothing modern, honest or fair about that. India deserves better.”
The editorial has exercised the BJP if the reactions of its two spokespersons are any measure. Party spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "Let them write what they want to. They don’t know the ground realities. The country is fed up of Congress rule and people want a Congress-free India and good governance under Modi." Spokeswoman Nirmala Sitharaman was quoted as having tweeted, "What a let-down, The Economist lacks objectivity and is patronizing."
That The Economist is “patronizing” is hardly news. It is the newspaper’s core philosophy since its founding, especially towards former colonial subjects. As for objectivity, it is a bogus yardstick.
The whole editorial is an exercise in not really taking a stand even while appearing to take it. I have no quarrel with equivocation because it is in equivocation that life mostly unfolds.
Sample this, for instance: “If Mr Modi were to explain his role in the violence and show genuine remorse, we would consider backing him, but he never has; it would be wrong for a man who has thrived on division to become prime minister of a country as fissile as India. We do not find the prospect of a government led by Congress under Mr Gandhi an inspiring one. But we have to recommend it to Indians as the less disturbing option.”
For those claiming to be the custodians of essential Hinduism, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in general and Modi and his antsy supporters in particular should know that Hinduism is nothing if not wary of absolutism of any situations in life. Situational logic is at the core of this civilization and if those pretending to be living every aspect of it do not know that essential reality, then they should do something else.
Having long been a strong but rational critic and observer of Modi’s barrel-chested braggadocian politics, I find The Economist rather indulgent towards him. It is almost desperate to love him with ardor if only he would address that one matter of the 2002 riots to its satisfaction. The newspaper does find “much to admire” in Modi, among which is its determination that he is relatively “clean” on the question of corruption and that is he is “set on economic development and can make it happen”.
All that said, in the end it is still a perspective of a few individuals most of whom presumably do not get to vote in the Indian election. Responding to it in the manner that Modi’s frenzied supporters are known to do will only cause a massive collective hard-on at The Economist’s office in London.
The Economist is a great newspaper as long as you are conscious that it comes with its own delusions of grandeur and biases.