Modi's 'car crash', Sunak's Hindi and 'propah spirited' games of cricket

Also in this week's London Diary: questions on the British PM's patriotic cred

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his media entourage at the swearing-in
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his media entourage at the swearing-in

Hasan Suroor

BJP ‘car crash’ blamed on Modi

The British media’s reaction to the electoral humiliation suffered by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha polls can be summed up in one phrase: the BJP had it coming, but was blinded by hubris.

For once, both left- and right-wing media were on the same page in singling out Narendra Modi for criticism.

He is widely seen to have ‘misjudged’ what voters wanted from the government by placing Hindu nationalism at the centre of his politics. He has also been been criticised for his government’s crackdown on the media and harassment of Muslims.

‘There’s a lesson for him in the election result. Bullying Muslims and making the rich richer is not good enough. India’s poor want to see a material improvement to their lives. Mr Modi now needs to deliver that,’ wrote one commentator.

The headline of an editorial in the Times — ‘Modi’s Mistake’ — left nothing to the imagination as to what it thought of the reasons behind the BJP’s car crash in the 2024 general elections. Never before, it said, ‘has a victory felt like a defeat’, taking a swipe at the party’s claim to have won the election.

‘The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the party’s leader and the incumbent prime minister, Narendra Modi, who has dominated India’s political scene for a decade’, it wrote. And turning the knife, it added: ‘Instead, the opposition Indian National Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, son and grandson of prime ministers, has been revitalised and Mr Modi’s hubris has made his performance look even worse than it is.’

The Guardian also noted that the ‘results did not have the flavour of victory for the strongman prime minister’. It called the verdict ‘one of the most humbling moments for Modi and his Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) in over a decade’.

The BBC called the results ‘a personal blow’ to Mr Modi, with the verdict being hailed as marking a ‘surprising revival for the Congress Party-led INDIA opposition alliance, defying earlier predictions of its decline’.

Well put, BBC.

Sunak's Hindi tweet

In keeping with the ‘Hindi-ised’ spirit of ‘Naya Bharat’, Modiji’s British counterpart Rishi Sunak chose to congratulate him in Hindi.

‘Britain aur Bharat ke beech kareebi mitrata hai aur (hum) sabi milkar yeh mitrata ko aage badathe rahenge (There is a close friendship between Britain and Bharat and we will jointly develop this friendship further),’ he wrote on X.

But, ironically, even as he talked of strengthening ties with India, he announced plans that amount to picking a fight with New Delhi.

In a desperate dog-whistle to right-wing anti-immigration Tory voters, he plans to impose further curbs on international students — ostensibly to ensure that only the ‘best and the brightest’ are allowed to come to the UK.

This will be in addition to the existing ban on foreign students from bringing family members to cut down immigration.

Now, Sunak is facing criticism for ignoring warnings from senior ministers that further curbs on international students could stifle Britain’s economic growth.

And India and Britain have long been at loggerheads over restrictions on student visas, with Delhi alleging discrimination and London accusing Indians of abusing student visas and overstaying their welcome.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with a WWII veteran on a D-Day commemoration event
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with a WWII veteran on a D-Day commemoration event

Questions on the PM's patriotism

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak was forced to make a grovelling apology after he returned home early from the D-Day commemorations in France.

It is one of the most important events in the European calendar, held to pay respect to hundreds of soldiers who laid down their lives in the Allied countries’ bid to defend Europe against the Nazi. Sunak’s decision to leave early was seen as disrespectful to the martyrs.

Many even questioned his patriotism. One senior party official called it an ‘absolute catastrophe’.

Sunak admitted that 'on reflection, that was a mistake and I apologise'. He said that his itinerary for the D-Day events was 'set weeks ago, before the general election campaign'.

But the damage had already been done, with politicians across the spectrum questioning his judgement.

This at a time he needs all his wits about him ahead of the 4 July elections, which he is struggling not to lose.

English cricketer Azeem Rafiq says he 'defected' to Dubai due to racism and alcohol
English cricketer Azeem Rafiq says he 'defected' to Dubai due to racism and alcohol

Cricket, booze and Muslims

Cricket and alcohol don’t mix. Or that’s what Britain’s Muslim cricketers hold.

One of the the game’s most high-profile Asian-origin figures, Azeem Rafiq, has said that an ‘alcohol culture’ has alienated Muslim fans. He claimed that club cricket “revolved around alcohol”, which “excludes Muslims specifically, but (also) everyone who doesn’t drink”.

“Every part of it — the minute you turn up at a club to the minute you leave — is around alcohol," Rafiq said. "The game needs to evolve its economy so it doesn’t revolve around alcohol at a recreational level.”

Rafiq also said he had been forced to leave Britain for Dubai after he spoke out against racism in English cricket. “The reason Asian people have gone and set up on their own is because they felt excluded from the system,” he said.

And, finally, accident hot spots across Britain now display emoji-style smiley faces that flash up to praise responsible drivers and grimace at those who exceed the limit—often displaying their speed to shame them into better behaviour.

This has had an opposite effect on some, who (instead of slowing down) try to win ‘bragging rights’ by racking up the highest speed, forcing some local authorities to switch off the emojis altogether.

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