India: The World’s Savviest Politician Muscles Forward

India: The World’s Savviest Politician Muscles Forward

It was inevitable that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would make India's elections a referendum on Narendra Modi, and now that the vast majority of 600 million votes cast have been counted, it's clear he made the right call.

In 2014, his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won more seats in India's lower house of parliament than any party in 30 years. In this election, he appears to have exceeded that accomplishment, and he's now the first Indian leader in nearly half a century to win a single-party majority twice in a row.


Never mind that on his watch India's unemployment rate has reached its highest point since the 1970s or that farmers face a crisis as prices for their produce have plunged. Set aside the bungled policies on other pocketbook issues like taxes and the availability of cash. Or that promises on development goals have not been fully met.

Exit poll questionnaires reveal that hundreds of millions of Indians want a "strong" leader, one who makes them proud of their country, and Modi's five years in charge have persuaded them he's the man for the job. Many are inspired by his determination to bring religion and Hindu identity more directly into public life in a country where past governments have treated official secularism as a safeguard against communal violence.

His supporters want a leader who speaks to them directly and forcefully. He's done this with fiery speeches at raucous rallies to cheering crowds decked out in orange baseball caps adorned with the phrase "NaMo Again," amplifying his message for tens of millions of followers on social media. He's now the world's third most-followed world leader on Twitter and number one on both Facebook and Instagram.

The challenge: But now it's time for NaMo to pivot from the poetry of politics to the prose of policy. He'll set forth an ambitious agenda in coming days, something in keeping with the grandiose 100-plus-page policy document he issued following his victory five years ago.

His toughest challenges will come on land reform, which allows government to buy private land to build urgently needed infrastructure, and on policies that help business create the one million jobs per month that India needs for its growing population of young people.

The bottom line: Love Modi or hate him, don't underestimate his ability to sell his vision across the world's most diverse nation. He has proven once again he's among the savviest politicians alive today.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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