The global trend towards strongman leadership is now well-established. It runs from East to West, and from democracies to autocracies. The key figures are Xi Jinping in China, Donald Trump in the US and Vladimir Putin in Russia — with Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines occupying smaller places in this unappealing tableau. But does India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, belong in that list? The answer to that question matters a lot. India, with a population of more than 1.3-billion people, may be about to surpass China as the most populous nation in the world. The country is now the third-largest economy in the world, ranked by purchasing power, and its economy is growing at over 7% a year. As James Crabtree writes in The Billionaire Raj, a forthcoming book: "As democracy falters in the West, so its future in India has never been more critical." India’s significance is increased by the fact that Modi’s position on the autocracy-democracy spectrum is...

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