The Modi Effect by Lance Price is a well-written, imminently readable book. Price is not an expert on Indian affairs or South Asia. Yet he has an impressive background in British politics (from years spent working for Tony Blair) and notable journalism experience. He was also granted tremendous access to be able to complete this book. As Price notes:
Modi had agreed to give me unprecedented access to help me analyse the campaign that had brought him to power. No other writer, Indian or foreign, was to be allowed that same privilege.
Published this year, The Modi Effect focuses upon the 2014 election that resulted in a major victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and allowed Modi to become Prime Minister.
Modi is a controversial figure with modest roots. His rise to the premiership was preceded by time spent as the chief minister of Gujarat (2001-2014). He has a complicated relationship with the international community and, when George W. Bush was president, was even denied a visa to enter the United States. This was due to his alleged role in the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 which killed over 1,000 people, most of whom were Muslims. Modi has been cleared of any official wrongdoing, but many remain skeptical about his role.
Regarding the election last year, the BJP ran an energetic campaign that revolved around Modi's image, something a bit unusual since India has a parliamentary system, as opposed to a presidential one. It was also interesting to read how Modi's team adroitly used technology and social media throughout the campaign. He ran on an agenda that focused largely on economic growth, governance and development. After a decade of stagnation and scandal under the rival Congress party, Modi's message resonated strongly. Price captures the essence of the Modi campaign and provides crucial, colorful details without getting bogged down in minutiae.
The book's final paragraph is worth reflecting upon:
Without Modi, India would not now be at such a decisive turning point in its history. The 360-degree campaign was 360 degrees of Modi. Never before has so much trust, whether from the lowly party worker, the successful business executive, or the idealistic young first-time voter, been placed in one man. If expectations have been raised too high, if the image of a leader capable of almost superhuman endeavours has been burnished a little too much, then he has nobody to blame but himself. If he succeeds, or comes even within shouting distance of achieving all that he has promised, then the man who got more votes than any other politician in the universe will have shown that winning was just the beginning.
After a year in power, Modi's performance has been met with praise in some corners while others have been disappointed. In the years ahead, we'll have a better idea of how momentous his rise to power actually was. Irrespective of how things play out, we can be sure of at least one thing: the world will be watching closely.
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