By the Blouin News Politics staff

India’s Modi tops Google, but stymied by conversion controversy

by in Asia-Pacific.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waving to supporters during a BJP election rally on December 16, 2014 in Jammu, India.

P.M. Narendra Modi waving to supporters during election rally on Dec. 16, 2014 in Jammu, India. Hindustan Times/Getty Images

India’s recently-elected prime minister was one of the most-searched-for individuals on Google India in 2014, according to Google’s Year in Search. Nabbing the number 2 spot, Narendra Modi trailed behind Bollywood star Sunny Leone.

The charismatic pol’s high online profile no doubt contributed to his win in the prime ministerial race this year. (“Elections 2014” was also high on the list of searched terms.) Rajan Anandan, the Managing Director of Google India, notes “These elections were fought as much on India’s dusty plains as it was on digital platforms, including social media such as Google Hangouts and YouTube.”

The leader is nonetheless struggling to push through the reforms he promised during his campaign. This is due in part to resistance from within his nationalist Hindu party. This week Modi called on party members to focus on economic issues – the heart of his campaign – and shy away from more controversial subjects. Namely religious conversion. One Hindu group affiliated with Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has acquiesced to the prime minister’s demand, canceling a program that aimed to converts thousands of Muslims to Hinduism on Christmas day. (Religious conversions are legal in India if they do not involve coercion.)

Yet other rightward elements of his BJP party continue to push for the “Hinduisation” of India. Reuters reports:

Modi’s rise to power has emboldened right-wing activists to openly declare India a nation of Hindus, posing a challenge to its multi-faith constitutional commitment. About a fifth of India’s 1.27 billion people identify themselves as belonging to faiths other than Hinduism.

The result is bitter infighting in parliament, where opposition parties are lambasting BJP hardliners for endorsing forced religious conversions. Parliamentary proceedings are at a standstill, meaning that Modi’s economic initiatives, e.g., a campaign to increase foreign investment and an overhaul of India’s tax system, are stalled as well. (Debate on the bills has been adjourned for three days in a row.) With only one week left until the current parliament sessions ends, it looks unlikely that Modi will push through any of his much-touted reforms.

Though, that may not slow the premier’s trajectory. The Indian leader is nothing if not resourceful, co-opting his opposition’s campaign slogans and relating dry reform ideas to every-day life situations (i.e., stressing how increased foreign investment will lead to better produce on the dinner table.) And as the yearly Google search results indicate, Modi still knows how to get his constituents’ interest.