Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s candidate for prime minister, caused a stir on Wednesday when he delivered a political speech and snapped a selfie of himself holding up a cutout of a lotus flower with his ink-stained finger after voting in his home state of Gujarat. The lotus flower is the party symbol of the BJP.
The problem is that what he did is against the rules of India’s Election Commission, the federal authority that monitors electoral processes in the country. The Guardian reports:
Angry supporters of the ruling Congress party complained to the authorities that Modi had flouted election law by canvassing for votes in violation of rules forbidding campaigning on election day. Gujarat police chief PC Thakur said a preliminary case was launched against Modi at the request of the election commission.
Maximum punishment for violating the rule is two years imprisonment, although Modi is unlikely to be charged. Politicians in India routinely face criminal cases which rarely reach the courts
Modi’s selfie became a sensation on the Internet, with reports that there were over 16,000 tweets related specifically to it the day it was sent.
It also brought out deeper observation and analysis of Modi’s character. Modi’s biographer Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay wrote how Modi’s selfie reveals a potential flaw in his persona — that he apparently has a disregard for the various institutions he hopes to have under his command less than two weeks from today (the final day of voting in the Indian elections is May 12). Mukhopadhyay writes:
I call this a weak spot because ever since the idea of Modi as PM became a idea worthy of consideration in the Indian public space, he has had one charge thrown at him all the time: that he is autocratic, has little respect for constitutional norms, does not care for the opinions of others and believes in doing things his own way. Modi and his team have consistently argued that the charge had little validity and was simply an instance of attempts to demonize him. But this defence has paled just a wee bit again.
What is at the root of the Modi persona that makes him such a self-indulgent political leader? How long will he employ the underprivileged narrative to justify display of personal grooming? What was going through Modi’s mind when he appeared outside the voting booth knowing completely well that the media would [be] out in full strength and waiting for a sound byte or two? Instead of making a dignified short statement, why did he have to run a virtual victory lap?
Deeper analysis aside, other observers were quick to report on the quirks of Modi’s selfie. He seemed to struggle at balancing his camera while holding up the lotus, for example, and also looks to have stuck the lotus cutout up his nose when posing.
This piece was originally published on May 2, 2014, on Link TV’s World News website.