PM in Europe: What Indian TV glossed over

PM was roasted on social media which pointed out Modi’s preference for events, expensive sartorial taste, his penchant for beating his own drum and attacking opposition even while travelling abroad

PM in Europe: What Indian TV glossed over
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AJ Prabal

Even as an uncritical Indian media gushed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-day visit through Europe and showed him addressing an auditorium full of NRIs in Berlin shouting, “2024/ Modi once more”, official social media handles took down another video in which people could be heard shouting ‘Modi-Modi/DownDown’ as the PM gets ready to inspect a guard of honour.

While a group of NRIs (?) were seen dancing with a saffron flag in Berlin, outraged Indians asked why the Indian tricolour was missing. “Imagine a green or a Khalsa flag being brandished abroad by a group of Indians during the PM’s visit,” was the refrain.

While Modi supporters gushed at his connect with Indians and waxed at the excited faces of Indians greeting him, critics were not surprisingly scathing. “Captive audience in a foreign country, handpicked to give him maximum taalis and ceetees. A megalomaniac’s dream,” quipped a post while commentator Aakar Patel wondered what the Indians were excited about. “They can’t be excited over the economy, unemployment, inflation or the Chinese occupation of Indian land…so they must be excited at the GST collection”. Another trenchant critic Apoorvanand tweeted, “How petty and servile most of the Indian Hindu diaspora can be! They enjoy full rights abroad but want to restrict the rights of non-Hindus in India.”

While Narendra Modi exhorted Indians in Germany to persuade five non-Indians every year to visit India, critics at home asked why the PM did not ask them to return. “They should return and experience the paradise in India so that they do not miss Modi,” was another acerbic post.

The PM was roasted on social media which pointed out Modi’s preference for events, expensive sartorial taste and his penchant for beating his own drum and attacking the opposition even while travelling abroad. The PM forgets that on official tours he represents every Indian and not just the BJP voters. But as is his wont, he used his address to the Indian diaspora to attack the opposition. “The election is in Gujarat but he is campaigning in Germany,” quipped Urvish Kothari.

While the PM recalled former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s rhetorical reference to only 15 paise of every Rupee reaching the beneficiary in his address to the AICC in Bombay in 1985, without naming him, Modi rhetorically wondered which ‘hand’ was siphoning off the remaining 85 paise. This provoked a Congressman to quip, “They were Indian hands, Prime Minister, many of them government employees even from Gujarat”.

PM in Europe: What Indian TV glossed over

The Indian External Affairs Ministry released videos of women from the Indian diaspora dancing at the Brandenburg Gate and men in ceremonial dress playing percussion instruments to welcome the PM, sceptics felt they suspiciously looked like professional dancers and musicians ferried from India.

Another embarrassing video showed the PM fumbling and exclaim, “Oh my God”, when some Indian media persons complained that they were kept out of an event.

The PM’s penchant to show off his collection of Pashmina shawls also did not escape attention. Thanks to the videos shared by the official handles and the non-stop live coverage on Indian TV, people could appreciate or deride his expensive taste. His habit of changing clothes for different events also came in for caustic comments. People were quick to share two photographs of Modi with the Danish PM that showed the Danish PM in the same dress but the Indian PM having changed his. “2 prime ministers. But only one got time to change clothes” was the punchline.

Even more embarrassing for Indians was a social media share by the German media as they waited for Modi and the German Chancellor address them. “They are going to announce 14 agreements but they will take ‘zero questions’ at the insistence of the Indian side’, declared the post.

Prof Ashok Swain did not mince his words either. The Uppasala University Professor tweeted, “While the Dear Leader is speaking to his right-wing Hindu diaspora fanclub in Germany, someone should ask why four Indians in the last six years have been sentenced by German court for spying against other Indians in Germany?”

He tweeted a photograph of Indira Gandhi in London (November, 1971) with the message, “When India’s Prime Ministers visited foreign countries, locals used to come in large numbers to cheer for them; the Indian embassy did not have to get right-wing diaspora to put on a vulgar show!"

PM in Europe: What Indian TV glossed over

European media not all praises

Coverage of PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Germany in influential sections of German media was far from the rosy picture Modi media painted back home.

Der Spiegel wrote, ‘The Indian prime minister is by some critics dubbed the “Trump of Asia” because of his Hindu nationalist course, which is dividing his country.’ It added: ‘The human rights situation changed under Modi, has deteriorated and civil liberties have been restricted; the Muslim minority in the country feels threatened by Hindu nationalism.’

It called the trip by Modi and his ministers to Germany as ‘restful’ (meaning respite), because ‘millions of Indians are currently suffering from a heat wave in north-west and central India’.

‘The Federation of German Industries (BDI) did not mince words: it criticized India’s neutral stance (on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which) makes political and economic cooperation more difficult.’

In France, where Modi was about to arrive, Le Monde, the country’s prestigious daily, concentrated on the power supply crisis in India. It reported: ‘India’s extreme heat wave sparks blackout, coal supplies shortage’. It quoted Sunil Dahiya, an analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, as saying: ‘There is enough coal, but a lack of anticipation and planning caused the problems. This could have been avoided.’

DW news channel on Modi’s visit to Germany said, ‘The biggest concern of the German government is the rising hate crimes against Muslims in India, the demolition of Muslim houses in what is called a democratic country. That is really the elephant in the room.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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