Is Modi creepy propaganda a sign of weakness or strength?
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The big story: Supreme or Subprime?
The meme below may need some explanation, but it’s worth checking out why it’s so fun. The post said the picture shows Venkaiah Naidu, India’s vice president – a position ahead of the prime minister in terms of ceremonial primacy – and Piyush Goyal, India’s trade minister.
Besides the photo itself, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is shown next to a wax figure of Narendra Modi.
Venkaiya Naidu with Piyush Goyal .. pic.twitter.com/vIAxHJPwU4
– Vinay Kumar Dokania (inVinayDokania) October 4, 2021
To understand this, you need to look at two more photos from the past few weeks. First a sign announcing Venkaiah Nadu’s visit to Assam:
M Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President, visits Assam… yes Venkaiah Naidu pic.twitter.com/tSVFdTPf5Y
– Devabrata Dutta (@hiiamdevd) October 2, 2021
And next, a newspaper ad announcing Piyush Goyal’s presence at Dubai Expo:
But where is Minister @PiyushGoyal in the ad? pic.twitter.com/OfpFdKMnjC
– Tinu Cherian Abraham (Tinucherian) October 1, 2021
Memes like these mock the decision of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s government to put the image of Prime Minister Modi absolutely everywhere, regardless of relevance. That’s not new. After all, it wasn’t until the beginning of this year that Modi joined an illustrious list of former world leaders like Josef Stalin from the Soviet Union and Kim II Sung from North Korea and named a huge sports stadium after him – which we wrote about in March.
But the recent burst of Modi propaganda was still remarkable.
As we discussed a few weeks ago, the BJP was unabashed in its hero worship around Modi’s birthday, doing things that government supporters would have called grouchy if addressed to a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family – including pressure at vaccination centers in Bihar to administer the doses “offline” and then upload the data on September 17th so that India could set a record on Modi’s birthday.
That ball rolled on, with BJP executives in place last week to celebrate Modi for 20 years in office, and big-name newspapers had to publish things like this under the guise of an “op-ed”:
“The essence of Modi’s life – even before he came into public office, and certainly after he took it – is that of a relentless essayer or Amrit Prayaasi … surpasses any prediction that extrapolators or academic theories can predict … because Modi is such an honest believer the philosophy is to make karma and not care about the outcome, fate was good to him too. “
There are two ways to interpret this sudden flurry of Modi propaganda, and both are worth exploring:
Position of weakness?
There is no doubt that 2021 was Modi’s worst year in office as prime minister yet.
The sheer magnitude of the second wave of Covid-19 that hit India in April and May was compounded by the fact that it had already declared victory over the virus and decided to turn its attention to trying to get an election in West Bengal to win rather than tackle the health crisis that has gripped much of the nation. To underline this, the BJP also suffered an embarrassing loss in this election.
Opinion polls, which are always mixed when it comes to reliability in India, seemed to indicate a sharp drop in Modi’s popularity. In connection with the economic consequences of the Covid crisis and the effects of 10 months of peasant protests, Modi’s image has certainly suffered.
As we wrote a few weeks ago, this state-level exodus is taking place against incumbents, with the BJP deciding to abandon prime ministers and local leaders in the hopes that anger there will be contained and not spilled over the top leadership.
So one reading of the propaganda spurt is to see it as an attempt to use soft events – Modi’s visit to the US, his birthday, his 20-year term in office – as opportunities to rehabilitate the prime minister’s image, this time with an even more crawling time Sound on paper about the difficulties of the year.
The BJP needs people who trust Modi, not the party. As political scientist Neelanjan Sircar put it, Modi represents a “politics of the vishwas” based on the idea that all good that comes out of government is the result of the prime minister’s personal intervention.
This explains the need to stick Modi’s image on pretty much everything the government does, and for the Prime Minister to reap the PR benefits of things like India’s success in the Olympics – as this image of a lucky ceremony makes clear:
In this reading Modi’s propaganda push is a desperate attempt to restore the prime minister’s image in hopes that the damage of the year that lies behind us can be contained, with the shrill hero worship reflecting that desperation.
Position of strength?
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this year offered a template to political leaders who had horribly mismanaged their country’s efforts to contain Covid-19 and prevent deaths.
Despite the disastrous stumbling block of Johnson’s administration, a cheap election calendar – which his friend, former U.S. President Donald Trump, didn’t have – meant he could stay long enough to reap the benefits of the vaccines that are flooding the country and the economy open. He just had to hold out until the tide turned.
Another reading of the current Modi propaganda push is that public memory is short. The government has tried to save Modi from being too tarnished by the dire developments of the past few months, but now that the numbers are low, the vaccination campaign is advancing and the economy is recovering, it is the perfect time to get Modi back in Bringing the world into the spotlight and leaving the slump in popularity behind.
Indeed, the major PR push could be a sign of confidence, suggesting the government has concluded that the woes of the second wave will be remembered and will not hit Modi quite as badly as some expected.
Those unfamiliar with the Indian mainstream media’s approach to Modi interviews over the past year may be surprised at the questions – if you can call them that – the Prime Minister asked in an interview he recently did granted to Open Magazine. Here are some of those requests that at some point became simply comments:
- “You have traveled a long way. From someone who was forced to sell tea and whose mother had to work in other people’s homes to provide food for the family, to the top political office of the world’s largest democracy and arguably the most popular prime minister, it’s really stuff of which Legends are made of. Are you impressed with the trajectory you’ve traveled?
- In many ways, you’ve changed the governance paradigm of every subject. Look at a nation, a map. They made it portable. While programs like MGNREGA persist, you have brought in accountability. You have also overlaid this authorization program with authorization. The same is the case with Ujjwala, power, delivery of grain. In all of these schemes, governance is overlaid with an actual proof of concept. Previous governments have faced a lack of confidence due to poor shipments. How far has the government gone in terms of trust in the past seven years?
- Now we have modinomics. At Modinomics, the audacity of reform is unparalleled. That results from your full majority in Parliament. You are someone who uses social capital for the social good. ”
Unfortunately, this kid-gloved treatment is a given for Modi interviews and actually explains why the Prime Minister never took the risk of facing a press conference.
But even at this low bar, it was absolutely shocking that in a year that officially hundreds of thousands died after a health system collapse and a disaster some compared to the partition, hundreds of thousands, according to official data, died, the only question about this The subject of a pain relief was the question on “the lessons about the state and readiness of the health system during the fight against Covid-19 that you now want to change and transform”.
Again, this could be viewed as shying away from reality – or based on the belief that public memory is short enough that Modi can look past the worst point of his tenure without worrying about looking callous or cowardly.
So which one is it? Is the current surge in propaganda a sign of weakness or strength?
The answer is most likely somewhere in between, as the BJP recognizes the need to invest heavily in Vishwas politics while also seeing signs that the tide has turned and this may be the right moment to help the public out Forgetting the horrors of the past year – provided there are no major Covid surprises again in the near future.
Can’t make this up
You only live twice … if you change your name:
Important NOTE. Please note
(That’s why I love Delhi :)) # Punjabi pic.twitter.com/DNxJcwGAMf
– Gurmeet Chadha (@connectgurmeet) October 7, 2021
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