Now, that the assembly elections are over, it is easy to analyse why Prime Minister Narendra Modi won and others lost. There is also a lesson for future, particularly 2019, about the kind of subjects that shouldn’t be raked up by political outfits against Modi as they will simply not work.
Let’s begin with demonetisation – Modi’s attempt to root out black money – that should have backfired politically, but did not happen. Over many weeks, the economists and analysts laid out facts and figures about the failure of demonetisation.
Suddenly stripped of cash, the voters were expected to vent out their frustration by voting against Modi. To everybody’s surprise, it did not turn out that way in UP, Uttarakhand and earlier in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Odisha. There is a line of thought that a perverse psychology has been at play, which even Modi could not have hypothesised. The masses, it seems, derived pleasure in discomfort of the rich and powerful, even if it was transient.
Playing Up Good-Looking Akhilesh-Rahul Duo
Yet, confident about the demonising impact of demonetisation, the mainstream media chose to fall in love with the youthful charms of middle-aged ladke Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav. It was announced that RaGa has finally found his political mojo by sounding mature, while the good-looking Akhilesh and family became the Obamas of UP.
It was easy and more pleasing to play up the Gandhi-Yadav duo than the dour Amit Shah, whose most acceptable profile approximates a maths professor, specialising in caste and communal calculations that mostly adds up to a winning number.
Shah’s contribution to TRPs, as opposed to the seats, can never be very exciting. But looks can go so far in politics, otherwise Bollywood stars would be our elected representatives and Aamir Khan our PM. Post UP, there is no doubt the opposition will need to introspect into their failure before taking on the Modi juggernaut.
Modi’s triple century in UP is not just a massive score, it is also a Sehwag-kind of performance in which the opposition has been decimated. Just like in Sehwag’s innings, there is a method in the madness.
Modi’s Charm Similar to that of Big B
Modi has successfully usurped the country’s political discourse, be it good or bad, whether it succeeds or not. In the 80s, the charm of Amitabh Bachchan was such that the great actor essayed all roles in the same movie.
Bachchan romanced the heroine, sang songs, danced around trees, performed the item numbers; he was the angry young man, action hero, comedian, villain and so on. The producers were clear: they wanted Big B to be present in every shot of the movie.
The remaining actors and actresses, as Rishi Kapoor has lamented in his recently released biography, were left twiddling their thumbs. Modi, like Bachchan, has become a one-man industry, a message relentlessly underlined by an efficient marketing machinery that ensures the PM occupies screen space 24*7.
He fights against terror by authorising surgical strikes on Pakistan, crusades against corruption by banning notes, pumps more money into pro-poor and rural development schemes, shows up at a Coldplay concert to appeal to urban youth and exhorts the students to study hard in his mann ki baat.
It’s Modi Everywhere
Modi models for Reliance Jio to endorse a massive, well, you can say, freebie without costing the exchequer anything.
All the government departments buttress the persona by promoting his ideas such as digital India, Swachh Bharat, Mudra Yojana, etc. And, when the need arises, Modi can be banked upon to deliver a hard hitting anti-hero kabristan-shamshaan narrative to retain polarisation in the mix.
Other politicians, like thespians of the 80s, are twiddling their thumbs, reduced to side roles as Twitter memes, with RaGa and Kejriwal the lead characters of Internet caricaturing. Indeed, as things stand, it would probably be wise that Modi’s competitors prepare for 2024, as the eloquent Omar Abdullah has said.
(Siddharth Srivastava is a Gurgaon-based journalist and author of two novels ‘Blogging the 40s’ and ‘An Offbeat Story’. He can be reached @SiddharthWriter. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)