Billionaire George Soros’s investments in the Indian technology and startup world are no protection against the Hindu right wing’s ire over his trenchant views against prime minister Narendra Modi and democracy in the country.
Since 2008, Soros has invested over $90 million in Indian businesses, including in Chennai-based unicorn Freshworks. In 2010, he bought a 4% stake in the Bombay Stock Exchange, but offloaded the stake in 2017.
However, since the philanthropist investor slammed Modi at February’s Munich Security Conference, Hindu nationalist Twitter influencers have condemned him, citing his Jewish background, conflict with Israel, and his home country Hungary’s antipathy towards him.
The recasting of Soros, 92, as a manipulative enemy of the Hindu religion and nationalism seems largely to be the handiwork of influencers on social media—especially Twitter—rather than mainstream media, according to Joyojeet Pal, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Information.
“The real driver of the Soros story was Twitter influencers. The overwhelming majority of the most amplified messages were from right-leaning influencers, who were more effective in driving the narrative than journalists, politicians, or even mainstream media handles,” Pal tweeted on April 26.
Soros’s strong views on Modi and Hindu nationalism
At Munich, Soros criticized Modi for his anti-Muslim policies and cronyism.
“India is...a democracy. But its leader, Narendra Modi, is no democrat. Inciting violence against Muslims was an important factor in his meteoric rise,” Soros said, getting the Hindu supremacists’ goat.
This riled India’s ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) to no end, with Modi’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar calling him “old,” “opinionated,” and “dangerous.”
“Jaishankar chose his words carefully in calling Soros ‘dangerous’. In doing so, he extended his boogeyman status beyond countries with a White Nationalist/antisemitic streak,” Pal said in his Twitter thread.
Following his outburst, the Indian government has turned its lens on several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), institutions, and media organizations in any way connected to Soros, Pal said. These include the Centre for Policy Research, a public policy think-tank since 1973, and the Independent And Public-Spirited Media Foundation (IPSMF), a philanthropic organization that financially backs digital news outlets such as Alt News, The Wire, and Caravan.
“While Soros is the ostensible target, the attacks of the Twitter campaign are organizations that aim to fund independent media such as IPSMF & NGOs/indivs who are seen as critical of Modi,” Pal said.
Meanwhile, public figures like Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen, former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan, public intellectual Pratap Bhanu Mehta, and journalist Rana Ayyub have been labeled agents of Soros for calling out Modi’s policies, Pal said.
Even successful businessmen like Nandan Nilekani and Azim Premji have not been spared.
“Most of what has gone wrong in India last few years is attributed to him (Soros),” Pal said in his tweets.