Modi’s diaspora outreach in times of fluid politics, global ties


Photo credit Twitter @narendramodi

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, May 23: Somewhere in Bulandshahr in the western Uttar Pradesh, dust swept through the highway in the middle of the summer. An ironsmith was unfazed with the sweltering heat. He wore only loincloth. His attention remained on his unfinished work of making an iron spade.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was seeking another mandate in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The Narendra Modi-led party had high hopes from UP. But the saffron outfit was pitted against a combined Opposition.

The ironsmith was working outside his mud dwelling unit on the side of the highway. He would be least interested in any sort of political discussion. After it began dawning that it was a waste of time, one final question was tossed to him. “Why should one vote for Narendra Modi; what has he done for people like you.”

At last, he spoke. “Modi ji ki videsh niti achchi hai (foreign policy of Modi is good,” answered the ironsmith, and he was again busy with his work.

The BJP swept the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in UP, and the western parts of the country, including Bulandshahr with a sizable Muslim population elected an MP of the party. Certainly, the ironsmith had no interest in keeping track of the foreign policy, for a vast chunk of the middle class in the country would not be aware about the Nordic countries and why they have special relations with India. Also, why Modi was spending time in a small island nation such as Papua New Guinea.

Modi and his foreign visits, which are aplenty, have a diaspora dialogue as a constant. There will be no visit of Modi to any foreign country where he would not meet the Indian diaspora. He will shake hands. He will oblige the selfie seekers. He will accept flowers, and even have a small chat with a few of the diaspora members.  

On Tuesday, Modi was in Sydney with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Indian diaspora flocked to the stadium. The skyline sported “Welcome Modi” in Sydney. A cross-section of the people met Modi, and the constant companions – ANI and Doordarshan – relayed their tales after meeting the prime minister, which were amplified by all the resources at the disposal of the IT team of the BJP. Youtubers would make contents, and the people in Metro would be hooked to them.

“There’s (rightly) a lot of talk about the way Modi is mobilising BJP supporters in the diaspora as a source of funding and (in some cases) expertise. But many of those I spoke to weren’t necessarily big BJP supporters. They saw themselves as patriots, not partisans. But I also don’t think we can view the Olympic Park event – or similar displays – as little more than campaign rallies,” tweeted Stephen Dziedzic, an Australian journalist, who covered the diaspora event in Sydney.

He further stated that “the people I spoke to came back, time and time again, to a sense of pride. They were proud of the respect India (and Modi) commands”.

The Indian diaspora was estimated to be 18 million in 2021, and 2.5 million addition is said to be taking place annually. The diaspora is now influential in several countries, including the US and the UK to even influence the local elections.

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