- Vladimir Putin enjoys a stardom and fan following unparalleled by any other foreign leader
- Indians love his demeanour, no-nonsense nationalism and especially his favourable attitude towards India
- In many ways, the rise of nationalistic waves leading to people favouring leaders like PM Modi, Donald Trump etc can be credited to Vladimir Putin
In a country like India, which is believed by many to be highly effeminate on moral standards, Vladimir Putin is abnormally popular. His cult-like figure always makes westerners shake their heads. They can not figure out why a country that is famous for giving Gandhi to the world would end up revering a person like Putin.
There are multitudes of reasons why Vladimir Putin holds so much legitimacy both with common Indians as well as the top echelon of power circles.
There is a renewed interest in nationalism among Indians
For a major part of our history as an independent nation, successive governments did not put much effort to evoke the feeling of nationalism. After PM Modi came to power, Indians started to realise that other than economic progress, there are more virtuous values to live by. Serving your motherland is one such goal which could keep you distracted from existential crisis surrounding your life.
That’s where Vladimir Putin started to command respect. He is a staunch Russian nationalist. At the time when Putin took charge of Russian polity, there were not many hardline nationalistic figures on top of Indian hierarchy. Prime Minister Vajpayee was there, but his idea of nationalism fell more in line with the Gandhian idea of Peace and cooperation, as was evident from his decision to engage with Kashmiri separatists. The same holds true for the Manmohan administration. During 2004 to 2014, Putin’s ideas about the revival of the Russian Federation acted as an inspiration for nationalist forces. As a result of which, Putin’s popularity skyrocketed among masses, as soon as people having nationalistic credentials gained a mass reentry into Indian polity.
World order has got anarchical due to excess of liberalism
When the world started to get liberalised during the 1950s, it was widely believed that it would lead to more peace and prosperity, eliminating all national, religious, caste and gender boundaries. This is the reason why “equal outcome for all” is such a powerful phrase today. World leaders believe that equalising opportunity landscape will open up space for equal results. They believed that at the end of the process, boundaries will be eliminated and the world will be one.
But, the fact is humans are immensely tribal. ‘You vs Me’ is that aspect of nature which humans can’t do away with. This is constantly manifested in those parts of the world which have reached to zenith of economic stability. People are getting more tribal and are fighting on smallest of trivial things.
In these kinds of scenarios, people look for leaders. A leader who remains unflustered in the event of a crisis. A leader on whom they could rely, a leader who could lead by example. For Russians (and the rest of the world as well), there could be no better leader than Putin. In many ways, Putin symbolises the in your face attitude that people in India were missing in the spineless Manmohan Singh government.
Putin’s demeanour is of brass, arrogant and selfish leader, while Manmohan Singh possessed a timid presence in the internal arena. The way in which Putin talks to world leaders, the way he never refrains from publicly rebuking his close ones is something that Indians always looked for in their potential leader. They missed it in Manmohan, they found it in Vladimir Putin.
Putin’s and PM Modi’s visions of revival of their countries are similar
For Indians and their PM Modi, Ram Rajya is the ultimate truth that any ideal state should aspire for. PM Modi’s foreign, defence and especially economic policies are more in line with ideals set by Bhagwan Ram. The redistribution pattern of the Modi government and BJP ruled states do not follow any socialist or communist agenda, instead, it is in line with the pattern set up in Ram Rajya.
Similarly, Putin seems to have also taken a cue from Russian history. His idea of ideal Russian states emanates from the standards set up by Czar Peter the Great (1672-1725). Peter the Great followed a very aggressive foreign and military policy. Like Peter the Great, who left no stone unturned in making Russia a maritime superpower of his time, Putin has virtually established Russian supremacy on the Arctic Ocean. ‘The Diplomat’ summarises the similarity between Putin and Peter the Great in following words, “In fact, the highlight reel of the first two decades of Putin’s rule would closely resemble that of his predecessor.”
The parallel between PM Modi’s idea of Ram Rajya and Putin’s idea of an ideal Russia stems from historical glory. People tend to be more nostalgic about glory days than anything else.
Vladimir Putin is pro-India
If there is any leader whom India can blindly trust in the modern world, then it is Vladimir Lenin. For India, there is no reliable alternative than Lenin. As soon as he became President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin and the Vajpayee administration signed a Declaration on Strategic Partnership between India and Russia.
Even after India got closer to the United States during the Manmohan Singh era, Putin did not take it as a threat to India’s bond with Russia. Vladimir Putin maintained friendship with India which was later acknowledged by Manmohan Singh in following words, “President Putin is a valued friend of India and the original architect of the India-Russia strategic partnership”
When PM Modi took over the Prime Ministership from Manmohan Singh, relations between both countries took an upgrade. The likeability factor between both heads of states made it possible for India to engage with Russia on multiple levels. While the Putin administration has backed us up with military equipment and favourable terms of contracts, India has paid back Russia with tacit support on multitudes of issues at supranational organisations.
Liberalism has outlived its utility. It is now creating more division than ever. It can only be quelled by strong heads of states like Putin. It’s only on the back of aggressive nationalistic policies launched by Putin that the world saw the emergence of strong leaders like PM Modi, Donald Trump, Victor Orban etc. People were forced to think that if nationalism can work in Russia, why not in India, America, Hungary, France etc.