On 28 September 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took centre stage at Madison Square in New York to face an audience that publications across India decreed as worthy of a “rock star.” Indeed, Modi’s self-congratulatory speech appeared to be a painstakingly orchestrated performance that carefully fed off the euphoria of his, and not so much the Bhartiya Janata Party’s, decisive victory in the elections. “Winning an election is not just occupying an office but victory brings with it responsibility. Since I won the elections, I haven’t taken even a 15-minute vacation. The responsibility you have given me … I can assure you that you will never have reason to feel small because of my actions,” bellowed the triumphant leader.
Eight months after that speech, as he completes one year in office, the sense of elation around Modi’s conquest might have diminished, but his own affectations remain unaltered.
Speaking at an exhibition centre outside Shanghai on 16 May 2015, Modi told the Indian community in attendance, “Earlier, you felt ashamed of being born Indian. Now you feel proud to represent the country. Indians abroad had all hoped for a change in government last year.”
Such statements have served to highlight the discomfiting and persisting strain of vanity that Modi has exhibited in his recent speeches delivered abroad during his three-nation trip to China, Mongolia and Korea.
If he is to be believed, Indians had been denied “asmita” (pride) in their Indian origins till he rescued them from a shameful existence. Through these words, Modi happily represented himself as not just the nation but its saviour as well. In Seoul he went on to suggest that India was steeped in despondence and darkness before he appeared on the horizon as the beacon of hope and light: