ENARADA, New Delhi
By AJAY N JHA
One of the notable developments in the past 7 days has been the change of gear in BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s tone and tenor along with a subtle shift from BJP’s ‘Hindutwa to Moditwa’. The Gujarat Chief Minister has been hitting them harder when required and at the same time, espousing his own outlook and worldview to a larger audience during his election rallies.
When in the hitting back mode, Modi has been as lethal as he could be. When P.Chidambaram gave him the title of ‘Encounter Chief Minister’, Modi returned back with ‘re-counting Minister’ barb. When Congress Vice- President talked about “Modi balloon going to go bust soon”, Modi thundered back at him saying “balloons and toffees only endear Children and Mr Gandhi had not yet come out of that syndrome”.
At the same time, Modi’s penchant for technology has kept him far of Congress and other political parties in making Lok Sabha 2014 polls on the lines of US presidential poll mode by trying to reach the maxim number of people across the country through the use of 3D hologram technology. The idea behind this move was to let the voters from far flung areas know who are they would be voting for. Secondly, it would force greater responsibility to fulfill his promises as compared to other politicians who promise moon in every afternoon to their voters during elections and then disappear thereafter. Moreover, real issues facing the country would remain the main focus instead of ubiquitous lip-service to principles and poll promises which are violated more often than practiced.
Modi used 3D Hologram technology for the first time in 2012 Gujarat assembly polls when his speech was broadcast simultaneously at 53 locations across 26 cities in Gujarat using 3D hologram projection technology which has earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Incidentally, this record is for the most simultaneous broadcasts of the Pepper’s Ghost Illusion, a technology used to create multiple illusions simultaneously. At the end of that campaign, Modi had even tweeted “Gujarat election campaign-2012 becomes even more memorable with 3D interaction creating Guinness World Record.”
Modi may continue to pour his vitriol and a hectoring and belligerent language against his opponents, yet his tonality has begun changing as he gets closer to power in Delhi. In his remaining election speeches all the way to the last day of polling, he may still talk of Shehzada and his infantile concerns, attack Sonia Gandhi for emasculating Manmohan Singh, and chip away at Mayawati and Mulayam Singh in Uttar Pradesh, but Modi is changing colour in the last few laps. That has started showing in his recent interviews and interactions with a few TV channels including India TV and another to ANI and TV9, revealing a subtle shift in his persona from aggressive challenger to mature incumbent of the future , even as his opponents spew venom and spread doom and gloom messages about him.
Even on the vicious issues like Robert Vadra, Modi’s take was “Let the law take its own course. There will be no role for Modi or a Modi government. Our focus will be positive, to fulfill the pledge made to the public. No government should work with a vindictive mindset. Democracy is not meant for that. Modi, in particular, should never do that. I have faced it for the last 12 years.”
His opponents may not believe him, but these words will enable doubters to make up their minds about him in the remaining part of the polls. So should one forget the invectives used against his political opponents, including Nitish Kumar? Modi’s supporters would be happy to forget them: “Political fever is going on right now, which is why such language is being used. This is temporary (personal attacks).” He adds: “I may also have used harsh words against Soniaji, Rahulji and Nitishji. This is not permanent” Said Modi in interview with ANI.
With two lines, and an indirect mea culpa of sorts, he has changed the discourse from abuse to amity. Said a veteran political commentator “But there is a calculation here too. While Nitish Kumar may be on the ropes in this election, in the state assembly elections due in 2015, he could be a different proposition. Modi has left space for a rapprochement with Nitish in case he needs him later. On the BJP manifesto’s subdued hint of a more robust nuclear stance, Modi’s has shifted position to statesman-like obfuscation.”
At the same time, Modi has also started airing views in public on issues like an abandonment of the no-first-use of nuclear weapon policy, the retrospective amendment on taxes, which had Vodafone in its crosshairs and so on. He also gave enough indications of being business friendly and FDI friendly.
Modi made no bones about his disdain against media but in a rather measured way. But unlike Arvind Kejriwal, who blasted the media for bias and threatened them with jail, Modi paid a left-handed compliment to the media and indicated he was not for vendetta. In his interview with ANI, he pointed out that “if the media had not worked to malign Modi, then who would have known about Modi today?” As for the fears of some media editors that he will come after them once in power, he pointed to Gujarat: “For 14 years, we (the BJP) have run the government in Gujarat. I ask you, has any editor left or, has any reporter left?”
These statements clearly mark a shift in Modi’s position from election mode to governance mode. Thus, even in the coming election contest in Varanasi, which promises to be bitter, he chose to play the love theme. Even as Rahul has been going around saying Congress wants to bind hearts while BJP wants to divide, Modi turned this one against him and said: “I am not going there (Varanasi) to defeat anyone, but to win hearts. Once I meet them all, they will love me.”
About Snoopgate, he didn’t come out all guns blazing against Rahul, who has been castigating him saying if Modi could snoop like this on one woman, he can’t talk of empowering women. Modi turned the tables again on Rahul Gandhi saying “Crimes against women are a national shame. We should all work as a nation. Rahul (Gandhi) shouldn’t politicize it and nor should I.”
Clearly, a new Modi is emerging from the woodwork. A kinder, gentler Modi ready to seek new friends and influence people after a possible victory on May 16 declaration of poll results.
However, the Modi Tsunami (as many BJP leaders have been saying it) would have to reach Delhi via Uttar Pradesh and some other States as well. As far as the current elections are concerned, the high voter turnout is indeed making the current elections stand out, which is better for all concerned. For logic dictates that an unusually high voter turnout, has every time gone against the incumbent with two exceptions, one in Gujarat for Modi and the other, in MP for BJP. Of course no one can presume to know the mind of the voter, most media channels have covered nearly every constituency with the usual question being asked as to who they voted for.
And so far, in nearly every constituency with the “bump” in votes, most have declared on prime TV that their vote was for Modi. Of course public assertions or declarations by voters need to be taken with a pinch of salt but it does show one in which direction the “wave” is heading.
Yet it is also true that some of the BJP leaders have already started behaving as if they have already won the elections and the distribution of portfolios is the next logical step. On the face of it however, the BJP may ramp up their marketing efforts even more, given that elections are on instead of just being satisfied with the current efforts.
On the other hand, these BJP leaders have also been saying that the Congress party has already been so demoralized and was just dragging its feet in the election fray as a face saving device. That may be partially true. The Congress is certainly not being complacent in their efforts to retain power at any cost but that for some reason has seen the congress lose its script on account of the sheer desperation on its part.
So, the real taste of Modi and Moditwa would be not just in marketing or countering the Congress bag of dirty tricks or countering congress “divide and rule” strategy but to also get their point across to the public as regards what they bring to the table.
What poll surveys may paint any kind of picture from their tailor made brush to please a few. But the cognatic picture of Indian poll arena has sometimes been surprising. Some Parties have done well in some states and not in others. Local factors are very often and some might say most often the predictors for performance. This is the reason the Congress might even sweep a state and be reduced to nothing in the one next to it.
Those states in which the Bharatiya Janata Party has a presence, something striking is on display. Look at Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In none of these states the Congress is winning more seats than the BJP. The one state in which the Congress did well only a few months ago, Karnataka, is also falling into the BJP’s hands in the Lok Sabha elections.
One thing that even the Modi haters admit in private is Modi’s tireless campaigning – he has been on the road now for a year – shows the work ethic of a motivated politician who is focused on the prize. As a noted commentator wrote: “ His new call to the voter to give him 300 seats (something last achieved by Rajiv Gandhi 30 years ago) shows the confidence with which he is campaigning. One must also accept that the BJP has produced a much sharper, and far more entertaining advertising campaign than the Congress. For Modi 272 seats is no longer satisfying, and he seeks dominance. It shows the difference between him and the totally defensive-minded Congress. The spirit seems to have gone out of the Gandhis with Sonia less and less visible on the campaign trail. Their reluctance to face the media, which is fine when the party is in power, is now damaging them.”
Yet there are a few contradictions which neither BJP nor Modi himself has as yet been able to address to. For example, if there is a Modi wave in Bihar and UP where the BJP expects to win a handsome number of seats, then surely any candidate fielded by the BJP should win hands down irrespective of caste, community and religious considerations. Then why the BJP has kept its target as 40 seats only? Secondly, after such campaigning strategies which Raghul Gandhi compared to selling comb to a bald, Modi’s claim that the wave in his favour is turning into a Tsunami shows that his speech writers have lost track of where the marketing hype ends and the reality of electoral politics begins.
One also wonders about the stupidity of Modi media machine using such epithets like “Tsunami” which is a huge natural disaster leaving a trail of mammoth death and destruction in its wake. In other words, is team Modi trying to give an advance warning signal that such kind of calamities would also follow in Indian political arena if Modi comes to power??
Even Tsunami having been used as a metaphor would mean that all other political parties would blow away in front of Modi. Something like this had happened in 1984 when the tragic assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi created a nationwide wave of sympathy and gave 415 seats to Congress party in Lok Sabha Polls. If that is the case, then why the RSS and BJP are harping on Mission 272 plus? Are they scared that there was a big chance of a slip between the cup and the lip?
It is the Modi media machine which has created the smokescreen of his invincibility and compared him as the proto-type of Lord Shiva by calling him Har har Modi, Ghar ghar modi. According to some political pundits, Modi’s 3D avatar and other gismos used by BJP to attract and entice the voters may work in some places but not all over the country. His political rallies are stage-managed like Bollywood extravaganzas where the humongous media chase and presence is mostly corralled and contained. Such high pitch may leave him in a blur of clamor and clutter.
Even as compared to Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi who have broken the security line to mingle with the crowd and have a few exchanged with villagers around, Modi’s security machine is almost impregnable because of the “cordon sanitaire” of his body guards, bouncers and personal advisors that have mostly drowned him in a hate of saffron noise. Yet Modi remains the hot favorite topic right from the drawing rooms of big-wigs to even at the corner tea shop almost every day and the chorus is likely to increase in the days ahead. Where that would finally take him to 7 race course after 16th May remains to be seen.
(Posted on April 19, 2014 @ 5:30 pm)
(Ajay N Jha is a veteran journalist from both Print and Electronic media. He is Advisor to Prasar Bharti. The views expressed are his personal. His email id is Ajay N Jha <email@example.com> )
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