Senior Indian politician calls for Dublin ambassador to be sacked over Irish Times letter

Disputed letter challenged election editorial on populist prime minister Narendra Modi which criticised crackdown on free speech and opposition parties

A senior political figure in India has called for the Indian ambassador in Dublin to be dismissed after he accused that country’s opposition of entrenched “corruption” in a letter to The Irish Times.

The disputed letter from ambassador Akhilesh Mishra was published on Monday, challenging an election editorial in The Irish Times on populist prime minister Narendra Modi. The editorial criticised a crackdown on free speech and opposition parties under Mr Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP).

Mr Modi is forecast to win a rare consecutive third term in the general election that started on Friday – the first of seven voting days in a poll that continues until June 1st. With hundreds of millions of people eligible to vote, it is the world’s biggest election.

The ambassador’s letter had praised Mr Modi, saying a major factor behind his “ever-growing popularity” was “the fight against the deeply entrenched ecosystem of corruption (created by the 55-year rule, including first 30 years, by a single dynastic party in India).”


That prompted a withering response on social media site X, formerly Twitter, from Jairam Ramesh, a former minister who is general secretary of the centrist Congress opposition.

The Congress governed India for decades after independence from Britain in 1947, but is a weakened party today. Its main election candidate Rahul Gandhi – the son, grandson and great-grandson of former Indian prime ministers – is struggling to break through against Mr Modi.

Mr Ramesh said Mr Mishra’s letter was like something from “a party apparatchik”, accusing the ambassador of unprofessional behaviour that he said was “par for the Modi course”.

He added: “This ambassador is actually a career diplomat, which makes his comments even more shameful, disgraceful and completely unacceptable. He has actually breached service rules and should be sacked right away.”

Asked on Friday for his response, the ambassador said Mr Ramesh was “a senior national leader and I have great respect for him, so I would not like to comment on his remarks”.

Mr Mishra again challenged the comment item in The Irish Times, saying he was disturbed by “recurring blatantly partisan, prejudiced and viscerally hostile editorial opinion” on Mr Modi and India’s democracy.

Readers should be reminded “of the historic fact of 30 consecutive years of rule by one party” in India, the ambassador added.

“It is in the very nature of power that it creates web of connections which over time evolve into an ecosystem of corruption. There is absolutely no partisan angle in stating a well-known natural, universal phenomenon.”

The editorial noted hundreds of politically targeted corruption and tax cases against opposition MPs, saying India’s democratic credentials have been severely tarnished.

It went on to say Mr Modi’s embrace of Hindu nationalism in the 80 per cent Hindu country had stoked anti-Muslim tensions and violence, seriously eroding the traditional Nehru-inspired secularism of India’s politics.

“An intolerant Hindu-first majoritarianism is the order of the day, sustained by a BJP populist welfarism that has a strong appeal among the country’s poor,” the editorial said.

Mr Mishra said Mr Modi was not prime minister “of only one party, but the entire country, including those who don’t vote for him”.

He added: “Even when bestowed with highest awards by foreign countries, [prime minister] Modi always receives them in the name of the 1.4 billion people of India.”

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times