Indian prime minister uses G20 summit to advertise global reach, court voters at home

Major roads in New Delhi are teeming with giant posters and billboards announcing India's presidency of this week's summit of the Group of 20 nations. And one leader's picture — smiling benignly from every traffic circle — stands out from the rest: Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi is also on the front page of major newspapers, and Indian TV channels are flashing his picture, accompanied by the Hindi word "Vishwaguru" — a leader of the world. In public speeches, his ministers are touting him as a steward of a surging India.

It is an unabashed homage to the populist prime minister and staunch Hindu nationalist, who is celebrated by his supporters and by his party as someone who is leading a developing nation of more than 1.4 billion people to a bright new future.

But this advertising blitz also displays the personal ambitions of Modi, who in the past has used the optics of New Delhi's growing geopolitical clout and foreign policy triumphs to consolidate power. Experts say while India's presidency of the summit represents a moment of pride for the country, Modi's government has also used it to market the leader's image and elevate his party's prospects ahead of a national vote scheduled for next year.

"Modi is positioning himself as a global statesman, a global thought leader … and the voice of a rising India. And all of this, I believe, is designed to feed into the Modi personality cult, which is a very expertly created, very well marketed cult, designed to appeal to a demographic which will be very swayed by these promises of rising India," said Sagarika Ghose, a political analyst.

The Sept. 9-10 summit, which groups the world's 19 wealthiest countries plus the European Union, is particularly important for Modi ahead of the 2024...

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