Rather than rebuild the social fabric of his country during the coronavirus-driven economic slump, Narendra Modi has chosen to play identity politics
Last month Narendra Modi, India’s strongman prime minister, performed the religious rites to consecrate the building of a Hindu temple on the site of a mosque whose destruction two decades ago sparked deadly nationwide riots. The ceremony saw Mr Modi appropriate the role traditionally performed by Hindu kings. “The entire nation is under Ram’s spell today,” the prime minister told his audience. “By God’s grace, a golden chapter is being written by India.” The message that a bright future is to be divinely blessed has not reached the heavens.
India used to boast of having the world’s fastest-growing major economy. It now has the fastest-growing coronavirus crisis, with almost 100,000 new infections reported each day. Its GDP has contracted by almost a quarter. The country makes up one third of the world’s new Covid cases and appears to have underestimated the disease’s prevalence. India’s youthful demographics help keep its Covid mortality rate low. However, in absolute numbers the country’s coronavirus death toll is only surpassed by Brazil and the United States.