PM Modi says India isn’t ruled by one person

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rebutted on Monday assertions that his country was veering towards autocracy amid allegations of his government orchestrating criminal investigations to undermine opponents ahead of an ongoing general election.

Despite being 73 years old, Modi continues to enjoy widespread popularity after a decade in office, with strong expectations of clinching a third term as the six-week-long national polls draw to a close in June.

His electoral prospects have received a further boost from various criminal probes launched against adversaries, including a tax investigation in February that led to the freezing of bank accounts belonging to Congress, India’s principal opposition party.

Dismissing claims that India was transitioning into “an electoral autocracy” under his leadership as propaganda propagated by disgruntled rivals, Modi asserted in an interview with the Times of India published on Monday, “Because the opposition is not able to secure power, they resort to defaming India on the global stageā€¦ They spread falsehoods about our people, our democracy, and our institutions.”

Under Modi’s tenure since assuming office in 2014, India’s press freedom rankings have witnessed a noticeable decline, accompanied by heightened restrictions on civil society, resulting in rights organizations like Amnesty International significantly scaling back their operations within the country.

Challenged this year by a disparate coalition of over two dozen political parties, many of whom have leaders embroiled in criminal investigations or incarcerated facing charges, Modi’s chief adversary Rahul Gandhi, scion of a political lineage spanning generations, encountered a temporary disqualification from parliament last year due to a criminal defamation conviction.

Despite facing numerous active criminal cases, several initiated by members of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Gandhi and his Congress party have previously suffered defeat in two overwhelming electoral mandates to Modi. Dismissing any correlation between his opponent’s lack of popularity and the resilience of India’s democratic institutions, Modi derisively referred to Gandhi as “Yuvraj,” or “prince” in Hindi, alluding to his political lineage.

As India’s ongoing election witnesses turnout slightly lower than the previous poll in 2019, speculations in the media attribute the dip to unusually high temperatures, with certain regions experiencing heatwave alerts. Analysts also attribute diminished voter enthusiasm to the prevailing perception of Modi’s party securing an easy victory.

Remarking on his confidence in the BJP and its allies securing over 400 seats in India’s 543-seat parliament, Modi emphasized, “Everywhere I have gone, I have seen an unprecedented display of love, affection, and support.”

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