The day after Mumbai book-makers stopped taking bets on India’s Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi winning that country’s ongoing national elections because his chances are thought so low, elitist and big media opponents of India’s surging conservative Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendi Modi are euphoric at having come upon what might be their last best chance to prevent the man they loathe from ever reaching India’s highest office.
Since Indian election laws bans formal politicking and the public display of election symbols for 48 hours before polling stations close, Mr. Modi Wednesday’s posting of a smiling “selfie” to his Twitter account 3.6 million followers while flashing his party’s Lotus sign after he voted in his home constituency of Ahmedabad, is like manna from heaven.
In a country so deeply marinated in political corruption, it might seem strange that the Modi “selfie scandal” is taking banner headlines nearly all of India’s main establishment papers. Since so many millions of Indian voters look to Modi to help deliver them from India’s notorious corruption and mismanagement, the chance to pin the corruption label right back onto Modi’s own lapel is took good a chance for his opponents to pass up.
India’s The Hindu’s daily speculates that Modi’s “selfie” violation was so severe, it not only potentially disqualifies him from becoming Prime Minister, but might even land him jail.
India’s Election Commission’s (EC) claim that Mr Modi snapshot of himself constituted a “gross violation” of election laws. Furthermore, the EC reminded Indian media outlets, that by flashing the party symbol as he posed quickly before his iPhone camera, as well as chatting briefly to reporters as he left his polling station, Modi’s “offense” carried a punishment of two years in prison.
India’s First Post newspaper scoffed that “Modi’s selfie of his ink-marked finger” holding a miniature lotus cut-out was a “blatant violation”. “Mr Modi knew exactly”, it claimed, “what the law is. He doesn’t care for institution and he has displayed that to the nation.”
If any of India’s hundreds of election polls predicting a huge Modi landslide win are accurate, those horrified at the prospect of a pro-American, anti-Islamist, free market devote of Ronald Reagan winning a landslide election victory in the world’s largest democracy have much reason to worry.
The ruling Congress Party’s standard bearer, 43 year old Rahul Gandhi, scion of the dynastic Gandhi family clan, faces what nearly everyone concedes could be the worst defeat ever for the party that has ruled India for more than half of its 67 year history when election results are finally announced on May 16.
The reticent son and grandson of assassinated Indian Prime Ministers, as well as great grandson of India’s founder Jawaharal Nehru, Gandhi is a considered a reluctant candidate, thrust into the public eye following the decision of his mother, the Italian born Sonia Gandhi, to put him there.
Congress party operatives are furious with Gandhi, who still can not bring himself to publicly call himself a candidate for Prime Minister, for not attacking his opponent more forcefully. Even the New York Times laments that the character and personage of the conservative Modi has not been sufficiently bloodied during the campaign. “Congress needed to tar the opposition as an unacceptable and dangerous alternative. With Modi as the opponent”, the Times opines, “this strategy should have been easy to execute.”
Meanwhile, Indian election officials report that despite a severe heat wave plaguing much of the country, Indian voters recorded another high turnout during Wednesday’s seventh phase of the giant democracy’s national election. There are two more phases before the election ends, with results announced May 16.