Best columns: International
Putting a bigot in charge is a huge mistake
An outspoken Islamophobe is surely the last person a great Indian political party would choose to run a state containing some 44 million Muslims, said the Deccan Herald. Yet that’s exactly what Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has done. It has appointed Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu nationalist priest with a vile reputation for hate speech, as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh— India’s “most populous and politically important state.” The priest has been named in several ongoing legal cases related to “his hostile and objectionable statements against Muslims”: He has threatened to force every mosque in the state to erect statues of Hindu deities, and has said that if a Muslim man marries a Hindu girl, “we will take 100 Muslim girls.” The BJP, which has moderated its own Hindu nationalism in recent years, has previously shrugged off such statements as the ravings of the fringe. But with this appointment, it has “legitimized all the outlandish and dangerous views” of the bigots that it once insisted were not official policy. The BJP seems to have calculated that putting a rabble-rouser in charge is the way to win votes. Forget about all the talk of “inclusive development” that Modi has so often mouthed. After this, who could possibly take him at his word?
Putin no longer looks invulnerable
For a long time, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed like “one of those fairy-tale dark princes whose every intrigue is crowned with success,” said Ilta-Sanomat. He stole Crimea from Ukraine without firing a shot, used airpower to change the course of Syria’s civil war, and appears to have helped Donald Trump win the American presidency. But a crack appeared in Putin’s all-powerful image last week, when up to 150,000 protesters demonstrated in dozens of cities across Russia and denounced his kleptocracy. The world has seen that beneath its seemingly calm surface, Russia is bubbling with fury over rising food prices, shrinking wages, and the elite’s flagrant corruption. Of course, none of this means that Putin—who has ruled as president or prime minister since 2000—will disappear anytime soon. He has spent years preparing for mass protests, creating a 350,000-strong National Guard that is directly under his control and tasked with quelling dissent. They might not be needed. Many Russians fear that Putin’s overthrow would “result in bloody chaos” as rival factions battled for power, and so they resist rising up. Still, the sight of so many angry people on his nation’s streets last week should remind Putin “that no one remains in power forever.”