I have been saying this - the nature of the media in our country is such that Mr Modi has complete control of the media in a sense and support of the media. The kind of exit poll results and pre-poll predictions gave him a natural advantage in this election.
Kapil Sibal, Veteran Congress leader and Telecom Minister,
just before the BJP, led by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was announced victorious in the Gujarat elections in December I fail to understand why media is getting restless on this issue (Modi as PM). It is our job to decide who will be the PM candidate... media has made the matter a monkey disease.
Shivanand Tiwari, Janata Dal (United) leader, on February 3, 2013
(He has on several occasions voiced the party’s strong reservations against Modi’s candidature for the PM’s post)
No politician in independent India has been demonized in such a relentless, Goebbelsian manner as Narendra Modi, and no politician has withstood it with as much resilience and courage as him.
Ram Jethmalani, Lawyer and politician,
In his column, Ethic & Power in The Sunday Guardian
The media just can’t decide whether to love or hate Narendra Modi, some of them in fact wish to project him as candidate for Prime Minister in the 2014 General Election.
Many expert polls and opinions have been rooting for Modi to be projected as the next PM of India and given the all-round scams, scandals and anti incumbency factor of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the question is whether clever public relations in Delhi strengthens his candidature for PM or is a shrill cheap shortcut to invite obstacles.
At the same time, there’s nervousness ver him, as the lethargy – or is it strategy? – that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to be exhibiting in announcing his name as its prime ministerial candidate. BJP-watchers are anxious as detractors say that many party senior leaders, and the Rashtriya Sevak Sangh (RSS), may not back his candidature. Even a large part of the country sees him as a Hindu hardliner and perpetrator of state-sponsored violence in Godhra.
According to Amarnath Tewari of the asiancorrespondent.com, “The Congress party, in all likelihood, has decided to play the biggest electoral match under Rahul Gandhi but it’s the name of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi which has been haunting the party the most. Not only the Congress party, but the opposition BJP too, apparently, is wilting under the weight of Modi. For its parent body RSS, the name of Modi has grown out of its size. It’s the Modi-fication of Indian politics, many say in India today.”
The BJP leaders too have been strategic in ‘using’ the media to portray a secular Modi and the reasons for them to do so are all too clear. Yashwant Sinha has openly backed Modi’s projection as the BJP prime ministerial candidate while Jethmalani, supporting Sinha’s stance, said, “Modi in my definition of secularism is 100% secular and his enemies and detractors have done their best to silence him by disseminating untruth and creating false evidence supporting their false claims. I believe he is impeccably secular.”
Rajnath Singh, the new BJP president, joined the clamour, when he said in an interview to the Hindustan Times that as far as Modi is concerned, he is undisputedly a “very popular leader”.
But then, does it mean that the BJP leader and Gujarat CM has become indispensible for the party and politics today? Is it that India’s future is intertwined with the idea as to whether, or not, Modi will become the 14th Prime Minister? Is it that his party -- and the country – are too short of a better choice than him to steer the country towards the next step, after the second five-year term of Manmohan Singh?
One thing is certain about Modi: he plays to the media and utilizes the 24x7 news cycle better than others, especially Rahul Gandhi. Modi’s PR managers catapult his image, be it with the traditional or the social media, and have used his visits outside Gujarat. I believe India is not Gujarat and Gujarat is not India. One aspect that has truly lent to his ability to build ‘Brand Modi’ is how brilliantly he capitalized on the advent of the new media, and used it to full advantage. The larger question is, can good communication sell a not-so-good product? Can PR change perceptions about a strongly negative brand? Modi s digital strategists have been able to mount a stunning PR strategy on social media to showcase a Gujarat with robust growth rates; Modi is the third politician globally, after Obama and Australian PM Julia Gillard, to host a political conference on Google+; according to twittercounter.com, he adds nearly 24,000 Twitter subscribers every 12 days. A leading Congressman, however, calls it “spreading Internet canards”.
Maybe there will be no general consensus on what Narendra Modi is – a genuinely successful CM or the creation of a well-oiled propaganda machinery. At the same time, one thing is certain: controversy will stick to him like a leech and critics will continue to flay him. But with his 3D speeches, LED raths equipped with 110-inch screens, smarty website stay, continuous tweeting, Facebook page and YouTube, will Modi be able to re-engineer perceptions around Brand Modi?
Currently, there is a clever public relations overdrive to project Brand Modi as Shining Modi. It could boomerang as Shining India did, because reality is bigger than perception.