Singapore Media Meddling in Indian Elections?

Free Speech is Fine, But Suspicions Arise When It Appears Like a Prejudiced Pattern

China’s aim with any manoeuvring in the U.S. is to topple President Donald Trump, an allegation that is gaining ground amid an escalating trade war, there may be external forces seeking to help Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi retain power in 2019 when it is due for elections.

China is not alone as Russia has also been accused of meddling in U.S. elections.

I get the impression that The Straits Times of Singapore and some institutions in the country are trying to do just that by unleashing everything within their means to undermine the opposition and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in India.

Mocking Rahul Gandhi

In today’s edition of The Straits Times, an opinion piece describes Rahul Gandhi as the “son of a Roman Catholic mother and a father who was half Zoroastrian and half Hindu.” It was obviously designed to mock at Rahul visiting temples and portraying himself as a staunch Hindu and devotee of Lord Shiva.

The image makeover has clearly been driven by political compulsions as the Indian electorate is fixated on making India a Hindu theocracy akin to Islamic Pakistan.

Singapore also served as a platform for Modi fanatics to ridicule Rahul Gandhi at an event in Singapore in March this year, suggesting that the Congress leader’s family was behind some of the country’s problems.

ST interference in Indian politics

Rahul’s response to it was: “If anyone in this room thinks the Congress had no role in the country’s success – that getting freedom, green revolution, telecom revolution, rights-based laws and liberalisation are not part of that success, he must write a new book.”

Rewriting History with Fake News

Rewriting history with fake news is the agenda of the current Indian government. BJP’s president Amit Shah recently boasted that the party had the power to make any message, including fake news, go viral.

A few months ago another report in The Straits Times, Mr Modi Comes to the Shangri-La, advised him to “break from the U.S. to proclaim his faith in free and open trade, and for a closer economic partnership with the region.”

Religion is the only card that works in Indian politics – Modi rode to power in 2014 on the power of Hindutva aided by corruption that had seeped into the system during the Congress regime. The country did have reason to feel let down by the Government, particularly after the 2010 Commonwealth Games fiasco.

Corruption Intact, Majoritarianism the Trump Card

Four years after Modi assumed prime ministership, governmental corruption remains intact even as economic mismanagement has left India in a financial mess – rupee at an all-time, joblessness growing by the day, the adverse impact of demonetisation still being felt across all sectors, religion-based crimes at its ebb, no thanks to the ruling BJP’s politics of hate, and the country’s secular fabric has been damaged beyond repair.

Majoritarianism remains the trump card for Modi and the BJP.

With newspapers such as The Straits Times, Modi is getting help from beyond India’s shores which cannot be discounted as Singapore has a significant NRI population.

Singapore is generally very stern with the international media poking their nose into the country’s internal affairs. The local media should get the same treatment when they try to wade into the political scene of other countries. Free speech cannot be allowed to betray the writer’s political prejudices. If Modi’s divisive, communal agenda resonates well with some in the country, it can prove harmful for multi-cultural Singapore.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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