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India's strongman PM: Modi to appear on Bear Grylls' Man vs Wild

Not withstanding the fact that India remains one of the most polluted country, Narendra Modi claims the programme will showcase India’s ‘beautiful mountains and mighty rivers’, in the latest in a string of choreographed media appearances


India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, will appear with Bear Grylls in a wilderness survival television programme, the latest in a series of Putin-style media appearances in which the 68-year-old leader projects himself as a man of action and a champion of the environment.

A trailer for the programme, Man vs Wild, which will air in India on 12 August, shows the two men cutting through forests, sniffing animal dung and floating down a river on a makeshift raft. In one scene, Modi holds an improvised spear and tells Grylls: “I’ll hold this for you.”

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The programme is the latest of Modi’s choreographed media appearances where the strongman leader casts himself as the a symbol of masculinity, strength and robust health – a pitch that appeals to his party’s nationalist voter base.

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“He is the alpha-male. He will not lose even a single opportunity to project himself as the man with the 56-inch chest,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author of a biography on Modi, referring to a claim Modi made on his campaign trail in 2014.

In recent months, Modi has bolstered that superhuman image – appearing in images that show him meditating in a Himalayan cave and doing early morning yoga exercises. “He wants to be seen as the biggest and most popular globally-accepted political leader from India ever. He wants to have iconic status globally.”


Promoting the trailer for the programme, Modi tweeted: “India – where you find lush green forests, diverse wildlife, beautiful mountains and mighty rivers. Watching this programme will make you want to visit different parts of India and add to discourse of environmental conservation.”

The programme previously caused controversy in India after the Indian Express reported that Modi was likely to have been filming with Bear Grylls on the day of a terror attack in the disputed region of Kashmir, when extremists from neighbouring Pakistan killed dozens of Indian armed security personnel and almost prompted military conflict.

The day he announced the results of a tiger census, which showed the number of Bengal tigers in the wild had risen, Modi said: “I feel it is possible to strike a healthy balance between development and environment. Our country is one where for thousands of years there have been teachings of co-existence [with nature].”

August 6, 2019

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