Thursday 18 April 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 18/4/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Poster boy: Narendra Modi (right)

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Debasish Roy Chowdhury

Majority rules

Tomorrow the world’s largest election will begin in India. Over the next six weeks, 970 million people will vote for 543 seats in the country’s lower house of parliament, called the Lok Sabha. Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is widely tipped to win its third consecutive term, riding the prime minister’s popularity and benefiting from a weak bloc of opposition parties.

Modi’s party isn’t just angling for a win. It is seeking a two-thirds majority, which would equate to more than the 303 seats that it won in the 2019 election. After slowly pushing the idea of creating a Hindu state over his first two terms, he is likely to make bolder moves to dismantle India’s constitutionally mandated secularism in his third. Though the BJP’s victory is considered a shoo-in, Indian voters can be unpredictable. Even in the 2019 elections, Modi’s party only received 37 per cent of the vote.

Opposition parties argue that a third BJP term poses a threat to democracy. The government has cracked down on the independence of the country’s election commission in recent years, while the chief ministers of two opposition-ruled states have been thrown into jail over unproven charges.

Such misuse of state powers is a sign of the country’s slide towards despotism. In the past 10 years, Modi’s government has shrunk the space for dissent, curbed civil rights and targeted minorities, particularly Muslims, to consolidate the Hindu vote. According to international trackers, India is no longer a full democracy and Sweden’s V-Dem Institute now calls it an “electoral autocracy”. This election will not only be a test of Modi’s continuing appeal but also of India’s democratic resilience.

Debasish Roy Chowdhury is a journalist and co-author of ‘To Kill a Democracy: India’s Passage to Despotism’. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Retail / Italy

Tale of two cities

Uniqlo is opening its first outpost in Rome this morning inside the historic Galleria Alberto Sordi. The Japanese retail giant has created a dialogue between the Italian capital and Tokyo within the shop, where you’ll find images of the two cities by photographers Benedetta Ristori and Ulysses Aoki.

Image: Uniqlo
Image: Uniqlo

New designs for Uniqlo’s “UTme!” T-shirt range have been created exclusively for the Rome shop by Italian artists such as Simone Legno, co-founder of Japanese-inspired lifestyle label Tokidoki. For those who arrive early, there will be breakfast treats by pastry chef Fabrizio Fiorani. The ambitious opening is a great example of how fashion firms can – and should – enter new markets. Localised, creative collaborations are important, even when you achieve mass renown.

Smooth landing: Australia unveils defence spending plans

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Australia

In the same boat

Australia’s government has announced a defence spending programme amounting to more than AU$50.3bn (€30.4bn) over the next 10 years. Key areas of investment will include the navy’s surface combatant fleet and bolstering the country’s long-range strike systems. The move signals Australia’s growing wariness towards China, which has made numerous territorial claims against other countries in the South China Sea in recent years.

In a report following the announcement, Australia makes tacit reference to these incursions, stating that it is willing to counter “any potential adversary’s attempt to project power” against its “northern approaches”. The briefing also reaffirms Australia’s commitment to the “collective security of the Indo-Pacific”, echoing the Biden administration’s own attempts to counter China’s influence in Asia’s maritime regions.

Design / Italy

Home front

Milan Design Week isn’t just about the brands at the Fiera Milano exhibition centre or the furniture companies taking over apartments or palazzi in the city centre. Flagship shops also have a crucial part to play. Fendi Casa, a joint venture between the fashion house and Design Holding, has turned its Piazza della Scala shop into a beautiful installation showcasing its new home-furnishings collection.

Image: Andrea Pugiott
Image: Andrea Pugiott
Image: Andrea Pugiott

There, you’ll find a strong focus on light colours and Fendi’s logo of interlocking Fs, which Karl Lagerfeld is said to have designed when he was at the maison in the 1960s. Its latest iteration appears on everything from cushion covers to the white lattice work that serves as window shading and room dividers in the shop. New pieces include the leaning Velum floor lamp from Marco Costanzi, the sleek F-Stripes sofa by Ludovica Serafini + Roberto Palomba, and the Fendi F-Affair modular sofa designed by creative collective Controvento.

For the latest updates and insights from Salone del Mobile, tune in to Monocle Radio or pick up a copy of our ‘Salone del Mobile Special’ newspaper, which is available at The Monocle Shop and on select newsstands now.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Blue Apple

Q&A / Portia Hart

Castles in the sand

Portia Hart is the founder of Blue Apple Beach, a boutique hotel and beach club on the island of Tierra Bomba, Colombia. Here, she tells Monocle about best practices in hospitality and how focusing on environmental and social responsibility is the right thing to do for both business and the planet.

Tell us about your business.
When I came to Colombia I set up Blue Apple on Tierra Bomba. It was originally a beach club but it has transformed into a hotel with 11 bedrooms and the brand has grown into a small group of companies. We also operate a nonprofit that specialises in creating jobs through waste management and recycling.

Why is sustainability such an important aspect of your business?
It wasn’t always our main focus. At first, I just wanted to serve rosé on the beach with good music and nice food. But we quickly realised that, in order to operate on the island, you had to be good at logistics and infrastructure. We needed to find ways to maintain electricity and running water, and take care of waste properly. If you don’t have millions of dollars behind you, the best thing to do is to become resourceful. We had to reduce our waste because we couldn’t afford to put so much rubbish onto a boat and send it to Cartagena. We also employ 45 people from a nearby village and help to contribute to the livelihoods of about 300 families through our supply network. This sense of community is a huge part of our commitment to sustainability.

You have also created a resort that caters for your staff. Why?
Many of our staff members started visiting Blue Apple on their days off and I wanted to offer them an alternative venue to their workplace. So we opened Amare for them to enjoy. It operates with the same ethos but with slightly reduced service and has quickly become the go-to beach club not just for our staff but for a lot of other people in the hospitality industry.

For our full interview with Portia Hart, tune in to the latest episode of ‘The Entrepreneurs’ on Monocle Radio.

Monocle Films / Culture

Britain’s smallest radio station

In the northwestern corner of the Scottish Highlands, Gairloch is a coastal village of about 700 people that is best known for its mountains, sea loch and rugged landscape. Monocle visited Two Lochs, reportedly Britain’s smallest commercial radio station, which is nestled on Gairloch’s shores. Run by a handful of volunteers, it has built a loyal fanbase of global listeners.


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