An artist adds details to a portrait of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of his swearing-in ceremony for the second term as Prime Minister of India, in Amritsar, Wednesday. (PTI)
An artist adds details to a portrait of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of his swearing-in ceremony for the second term as Prime Minister of India, in Amritsar, Wednesday. (PTI)

‘Time’ shifts from ‘Divider in Chief’ to ‘Uniter in Chief’

  • The new Time magazine editorial credited Modi's emergence as a unifier to his background
  • The writer of the editorial is Manoj Ladwa, the founder and CEO of UK-based media company India Inc

NEW DELHI: Time magazine, which had published a cover story during India’s just concluded national elections calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi the "Divider in Chief," seems to have done a rethink and carried an online editorial with the title “Modi Has United India Like No Prime Minister in Decades".

The editorial in the well-known US magazine published on its website on Tuesday asked, "How has this supposedly divisive figure not only managed to keep power, but increase his levels of support?" according to a report by IANS from New York that was widely picked up by news outlets in India. In answer to the question it posed, the editorial said, “A key factor is that Modi has managed to transcend India's greatest fault line: the class divide."

The writer of the editorial is Manoj Ladwa, the founder and CEO of UK-based media company India Inc., which publishes India Global Business. In the editorial, he credited Modi's emergence as a unifier to his background.

“Narendra Modi was born into one of India's most disadvantaged social groups," he explained. “In reaching the very top, he personifies the aspirational working classes and can self-identify with his country's poorest citizens in a way that the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, who have led India for most of the 72 years since independence, simply cannot," said the IANS article, quoting Ladwa’s editorial.

“Yet despite the strong and often unfair criticisms levelled at Modi's policies both throughout his first term and this marathon election, no Prime Minister has united the Indian electorate as much in close to five decades," the editorial said, referring to former Congress prime minister Indira Gandhi's massive 1971 victory.

The earlier Time magazine story that had described Modi as “Divider in Chief" was by Aatish Taseer, the Britain-born son of Indian journalist Tavleen Singh and Salmaan Taseer, the former governor of Pakistan's Punjab province. Time's flagship US edition had not featured the Modi story on its cover but focused on Elizabeth Warren, a candidate for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination for president.

In the latest story, Ladwa says: “Through socially progressive policies, he has brought many Indians, both Hindus and religious minorities, out of poverty at a faster rate than in any previous generation."

In Time magazine’s post-election analysis, Alyssa Ayres, former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration, seemed to hedge her bets on the economic course of his second term, according to the IANS report.

“A bold economic reform agenda may be what comes next. But equally possible, based on the recent track record, might be stepped-up development projects in lieu of tough reforms, and a more nationalist approach to economic matters," Ayres said in her piece. “A mandate for improved quality of life might not imply a mandate for further opening markets. It's a distinction that matters, not least because expectations internationally might assume the latter," she added.

Ayres, currently a senior fellow at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, also foresaw a bumpy road ahead for India-US economic relations with President Donald Trump's focus on trade deficits.

“The US-India economic dialogue, for decades fraught at the best of times, is in a tough place," she said, adding, “The longstanding list of trade complaints—many of them US complaints about India's market—contains a mind-numbing array of issues."

Time magazine has changed hands twice in a year—bought in March last year by Meredith, the publisher of magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, and All Recipes, it was sold in again in September to tech entrepreneur Marc Benioff, the founder of customer service and cloud computing company Salesforce, and his wife.

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