'Modimania' Hits U.K.
Thursday 12th November 2015 | Joe
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just landed in London to start what has been dubbed the most important visit by a foreign leader since Nelson Mandela or The Pope. The arrival has been hotly anticipated, not least because the U.K. boasts more than 1.5 million people of Indian descent, and because of Modi's huge popular appeal in India itself.
The Loved Leader
Modi was elected as Indian PM in 2014 with a promise of reform and modernisation. He took over the position from Manmohan Singh, whose ten year leadership of the nation had begun to stagnate, and put much of his energy into improving the lives of ordinary Indians. With plans to introduce universal healthcare, high speed internet, and greater efficiency in government departments, it is easy to see why he won so resoundingly in 2014.
Known widely as a workaholic, a reserved, modest and principled man, Modi has legions of following both at home and amongst Indian ex-pat communities. He is tech-savvy, with over 12 million followers on twitter (2nd only to Barack Obama in terms of world leaders), and as a vegetarian appeals strongly to naturalist sentiments.
Modi the Monster?
Yet Modi also carries the baggage of controversy around with him, and his arrival in the U.K. will be no different. For a long time, Modi's political campaigns were based upon Hindu nationalism - effectively hoping to creat a separate state purely for Hindus. This is understandably riling to Indian Muslims - who have suffered repeated attacks since the disputed break-away of Islamic Pakistan in 1948 - as well as a constellation of other faiths in the country. It is only India's dominant Hindu population that ensures Modi's political power.
As a regional leader in 2002, Modi came in for severe criticism for his failure to protect Muslims in a religious massacre in Gujarat province. Over 1000 Muslims died in the riots and Modi remains a hated figure in many circles as a result; they claim that he did little to plan for the protection of the minority religious groups.
Modi's controversial image will be represented in the course of his state visit. He will be wined an dined by David Cameron - even catching a wink at the latter's official residence - before addressing over 60,000 people at Wembley Stadium tomorrow prior to a huge fireworks display. Here we will see Modi the great leader, tactful and humble yet inspiring.
At the same time, there has been a protest planned outside Downing Street by anti-Modi campaigners. British-Indian Muslims, Sikhs and Christians are expected to turn up in force, criticising the popular PM and the policies that his government have implemented since his election last year.
Couple this with the unauthorised anti-Modi protest projected onto Big Ben on Remembrance Sunday, and the Indian premier's recent mysoginistic remarks, and it is easy to see that the pot will not need much stirring. Whether in celebratory fireworks, or in burning effigies, Modi's UK visit promises to go off with a bang.