Sutanu Guru

It is both extraordinary and excruciating watching opposition parties going out of their way to alienate the ordinary Indian voter. I and many others have often pointed out that personal animosity and hatred for Prime Minister Narendra Modi is making a lot of otherwise sensible and pragmatic people behave like petulant school brats. In the process, they are saying and doing things that is guaranteed to alienate vast swathes of Indian voters.

Why they are behaving in such a manner is something that political scientists and sociologists will need to research at a later date. Perhaps even psychiatrists need to examine this phenomenon. In any democracy, no election is over till the last vote is counted. So no one can say that a Narendra Modi victory is guaranteed in the forthcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections. But I have no doubt that opposition leaders and parties are trying very hard to make it easier for him.

Two examples illustrate this astonishingly suicidal mindset.

The Prime Minister went to Lakshadweep to inaugurate some development and infrastructure projects, something he does routinely and frequently all over India. From there, he used social media platforms to post pictures of himself enjoying the picturesque beauty of the island, the pristine beaches and the emerald, Green Ocean. Like with numerous other destinations in India, he exhorted fellow Indians to “go local”. At first, active social media uses who support the Congress mocked Modi ruthlessly for his attempts at snorkeling.

That was OK. But then, some “right wing” social media user posted on X that Lakshadweep could become an alternative to Maldives which is the peered holiday destination for the rich and famous in India. Recently, an anti India and pro China regime has taken over power in Maldives. No sooner had the “right wing” post come up that some folks in Maldives went ballistic with their own posts disparaging India. Soon, active users from both places started abusing each other.

It is a regular affair in social media. But all hell broke loose when some ministers in the new Maldives government jumped into the fray. One Minister Mariyam Shiuna called Modi a “clown” and a “puppet of Israel” apart from heaping other abuses on India and Indians. Two other ministers made similarly derogatory posts. The party in power in Maldives is openly anti-Indian and makes no bones about it.

These derogatory remarks triggered a firestorm in Indian social media where denizens metaphorically go at each others throats while arguing who among Tamannaah Bhatia and Tripti Dimri is more beautiful. There was a call to boycott Maldives as a tourist destination. A large number of celebrities from all fields posted their support for Indian tourists’ destinations, particularly Maldives. Many posted they have “cancelled” their plans to visit Maldives. Travel and booking websites reported an actual wave of cancellations.

Many politicians in Maldives condemned the ministers for their racist and intemperate behaviour on social media against a country that has always helped Maldives. The anti India Maldives government was embarrassed enough to “suspend” the three ministers who had abused and mocked Modi and India. For the many who may not know, India has been a lifeline for Maldives on numerous occasions. In 1988, a bunch of terrorists from Sri Lanka had actually captured Male, the capital of Maldives. Responding to an SOS, special forces of the Indian Army had gone in,, killed all the terrorists and restored the government.

In 2014, when Maldives ran out of drinking water, India airlifted tens of thousands of gallons. In 2021, India provided enough Covid vaccines for every Maldives citizen to be covered. There are many such instances. Besides, a significant chunk of the tourism revenue that Maldives earns comes from rich Indians.

Now, how did opposition parties, their leaders and followers behave and react? Any sensible person, even if she is vehemently opposed to Modi would do one of two things: either keep quiet and avoid joining the debate or at least condemn the racist and abusive remarks made by Maldives politicians against India. The opposition leaders and their social media supporters did neither. Instead, many posted that this has inspired them to visit Maldives in 2024. There was worse.

A whole host of people actually supported the likes of suspended minister Mariyam for “taking on a fascist like Modi”. In television debates and social media platforms, opposition leaders made even worse by refusing to even say that it is not OK for any foreign national, particularly those in government, to abuse Indians. Far from doing that, they have been blaming Modi and his supporters for creating this diplomatic crisis that would only harm India.

Ordinary Indians may not be aware of the intricacies of geopolitics and the India-China competition over Maldives. Nor would they earn enough money to go there as tourists. But they are fierce nationalists nonetheless. And not one of them has liked the way opposition leaders have behaved on this issue in public platforms. The core job of a politician is to try her best to win an election. How can opposition parties hope to win against Modi when they are seen to side with foreigners who are abusing him and Indians? I simply fail to understand.

(Author has been a media professional for over 3 decades. He is now Executive Director, C Voter Foundation. Views are Personal)