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Modi’s fear of narrative is our insurance against his excesses

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When Narendra Modi became the prime minister in 2014, the first to get an absolute majority since 1984, he was powerful enough to see the land acquisition amendment bill through in the Lok Sabha. But when Rahul Gandhi said Modi’s government belonged to rich corporates — ‘suit boot ki sarkar’ — Modi went back on the amendment.

This was only the first of many instances when a powerful Modi government had to step back on an issue because of the fear of losing the political narrative. In 2016, the government withdrew an order to take NDTV India, the Hindi news channel, off air for a day. In 2017, it withdrew a ban on the sale of cattle for slaughter. In April 2018, the government brought out an order that threatened to cancel the accreditation of journalists who were accused of propagating fake news. After an uproar, this notification too was withdrawn.

In 2018, then minister of state for external affairs, M.J. Akbar, was accused of sexual harassment by several women journalists who had worked under him when he was an editor. When the accusations came out, Akbar was travelling in Africa. The media pressure was such that he was expected to resign as soon as he landed in Delhi. But the Modi government didn’t ask him to resign. As the number of accusations grew and the pressure built up, Akbar finally submitted his resignation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi likes to avoid talking about lynching. But every once in a while, once a........

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