What Makes Netanyahu India’s Second-Favourite PM?


What Makes Netanyahu India’s Second-Favourite PM?

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Benjamin Netanyahu is in for quite a week. When an international superstar visits India, the excitement in the air is thicker than the Delhi smog. Each arrival follows a predictable arc – the airport touchdown, the “real India” photo-op, and the forced socialising with Bollywood celebrities. Through it all, social media goes wild with fans tweeting adoration for the visiting celebrity. So #ShalomNamaste BiBi, because to the patriotic Indian crowd, Netanyahu is a bigger deal than Coldplay and Justin Bieber combined.

What is it that makes Netanyahu India’s second-favourite Prime Minister? Perhaps it’s the number of hugs and hand-holding he indulges in with India’s most favourite PM. Netanyahu projects a similar strongman aura to Narendra Modi, which wins him brownie points from the Modi faithful. The way he uses both Israel’s and India’s common struggle against terrorism endears him to the crowds even further. It’s like becoming friends with someone after they give you a “same pinch” for getting the same dabba at school.

Finally, the way Netanyahu pushed to move Israel’s capital to Jerusalem inspired the “Mandir Wahi Banayenge” gang, who have been desperate for someone to show them how to convert history into political currency. All of this comes together in a flamboyant India-Israel lovefest which makes Netanyahu the bhakts’ travelling rock star.

Forget Ed Sheeran, Netanyahu got a welcome that no other foreigner can boast of – an airport welcome from PM Modi himself. This immediately raised his credibility even further in the eyes of the bhakts, who saw this as the IRL version of “followed by PM Modi”. Now, all BiBi has to do is go through the motions for the rest of the tour, belt out his greatest hits (“DesPalestino”, “Hamastime Sadness”, “Six-Sided Starboy”) and he’s golden.

Netanyahu started his tour by signing nine MoUs between India and Israel. We can only hope that one of those MoUs was regarding protecting Gal Gadot from the online tharkiness of Diljit Dosanjh. He has six days to spend in India, where apart from Delhi, he will visit Agra, Gujarat, and Mumbai. He’s probably going to get his real India photo-op in Agra, but the jury is out on whether the backdrop will be the Taj Mahal or the Tejo Mahalaya. Then, after breathing in a bit of Gujarat , he’s going to hit up Mumbai. Word has it that the obligatory Bollywood party will be co-hosted by Anupam Kher and Akshay Kumar. Let’s hope he fares better than poor Eddie, who was accosted by Bolly peeps for a variety of embarrassing selfies.

On that note, Netanyahu will return to Israel. And the first rock star to have visited India in 2018 won’t even have been a musician.