By Adrian Horton

)n his latest Last Week Tonight, John Oliver looked into India’s mammoth election, the country’s largest and longest, in which over a billion people were eligible to vote starting in April. The country’s two-term strongman prime minister, Narendra Modi, is expected to win a third term when the announcement is made on Tuesday, after an election marred by allegations of irregularities and Muslim voter suppression by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party (BJP).

“Over the course of Modi’s rise, he’s chosen to be strategically quiet about his pseudo-authoritarian, pro-Hindu vision of India,” Oliver explained. “But there’s been a noticeable shift in his rhetoric this election season” toward anti-Muslim statements, such as a recent campaign speech in which he falsely claimed that his rival party would redistribute wealth to Muslims and referred to Muslim citizens as “infiltrators”.

“That’s already ugly enough,” Oliver noted, “but it’s also coming at a time when Modi and his party have seemed increasingly comfortable threatening democratic institutions by, among other things, stifling political opposition and freedom of the press. In fact, on multiple fronts, India seems to be sliding toward authoritarianism.”

Though he had already discussed Modi on two prior episodes, Oliver checked in on the likely three-term prime minister, who has heralded India’s infrastructure and economy and has been feted in the west – a state dinner with Joe Biden, a rally in Australia in which the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, compared him to Bruce Springsteen.

Modi has built his popularity in part on infrastructure and food distribution programs, delivering grain in bags with his face on it. “Which feels a little egotistical,” Oliver deadpanned. “It would be like if Lyndon Johnson signed the Food Stamp Act of 1964 but insisted that the food stamps be rebranded as ‘Lyndon’s Lucky Yum-Yum Voucher’. Good program but I don’t know, man, maybe turn it down a notch.”

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