Written by 07:01 World

Free Food? Modi Makes Sure Every Indian Knows Whom to Thank for It.

Durga Prasad, an 80-year-old farmer, was resting under the shade of a tree in front of his home when the party workers came. An app on their smartphones could tell them in an instant who Mr. Prasad was, whom he might vote for — and why he should be grateful to India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi.

“You get installments of 2,000 rupees, right?” asked a local official from Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P. Mr. Prasad concurred. He receives $72 a year through a farmers’ welfare program started and branded by Mr. Modi.

“Do you get rations?” the official then asked, though he already knew the answer. He had made his point.

Such handouts are among the most distinctive parts of Mr. Modi’s mass appeal. The country’s new airports, diplomatic prestige and booming stock markets may look like Mr. Modi’s calling card, but for the 95 percent of Indians who earn too little to file income taxes, small infusions of cash and household goods matter more. And Mr. Modi’s party is organized to make the most of them in the national election that ends early next month.

India’s welfare programs are vast in reach and scope. Under the biggest, 821 million Indians are entitled to five-kilogram (11-pound) sacks of free rice or wheat every month. The government started doling out grain to prevent hunger early in the pandemic and has since committed $142 billion to the program. Mr. Modi’s face began appearing on the sacks in January.


Last modified: 27 May 2024