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#HowdyModi, sure, but how's the Indian PM really doing?

#HowdyModi, sure, but hows the Indian PM really doing?
US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend "Howdy, Modi!" at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.- AFP

Even his biggest critics can't fault him for Modi's diaspora diplomacy. What about the issues at home, though?

By Vicky Kapur (From the Executive Editor's desk)

Published: Sun 22 Sep 2019, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 23 Sep 2019, 10:13 PM

You've seen the pictures of the massive crowd in attendance and you've heard him speak. As expected of him, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi put on a show, wowed a packed NRG Stadium and trumpeted the achievements of his government at the 'Howdy, Modi!' event in Houston. The audience, the largest gathering for an invited foreign leader visiting the US (other than the Pope), gave him a rousing rock star welcome. With US President Donald Trump listening intently to Modi-speak and chipping in with his own guest appearance speech, the Modi-Trump blockbuster did not disappoint the Indian PM's fans.
In fact, the one thing that even his biggest critics can't fault him for is Modi's diaspora diplomacy. Earlier this year, he did it in France, here in the UAE and in Bahrain - and that too right after making an unprecedented and controversial move in Indian Kashmir. To boot, he did it with the sort of élan and audacity that would put millennial social media influencers to shame. To be fair, unlike any of his predecessors, Modi has made friends with countries and powerful individuals all across the world. From the leaders of Afghanistan and Canada to Japan and Russia, and from Turkey and Facebook (yes, I know it isn't a country) to the US and the UAE, not many leaders have escaped the embrace of the serial hugger.
But while all seems well on the foreign policy front, is it really as well back home, too? Issues in Kashmir and Assam are far from settled and need the PM's direct intervention, attention and compassion. There are rising murmurs from minorities and media, with both claiming they're feeling marginalised on an unprecedented scale. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's latest tax bonanza is a major shot in the arm for the corporates, but the ongoing slump in the economy will clearly need more than just a Band-Aid approach. The poorer-by-the-season Indian farmer and the country's growing ranks of jobless need as much (if not more) of Modi's mind-space as his dream of putting India back in the saddle as far as its global role is concerned. No, he didn't come dressed like a Texan cowboy yesterday, but Modi will have to take the bull by the horns at home to prevent India from becoming the Wild West.

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