What's hidden behind Narendra Modi's 3D show

Mahesh Langa

India, Nov. 19 -- Once again Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has become the first politician to pick up clues from international celebrities like Madonna and Lady Gaga and use the latest technology to reach out to audiences at multiple locations at the same time.

Earlier this year, using Google+ Hangout, he had interacted with thousands of his fans from over a dozen countries. His live interaction was anchored by film actor Ajay Devgan, who incidentally has invested in a solar power project in Gujarat.

On Sunday, Modi used 3D holographic technology to address gatherings in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat and Vadodara. His holographic image appeared on specially erected stages in front of gatherings.

According to BJP leader Prushottam Rupala, Modi will use his virtual image to reach the maximum number of assembly segments during electioneering for he is the star campaigner of the ruling party.

His innovative campaigning has led Modi to be omnipresent in the state, but there's another side to this: Others-I mean BJP leaders, MLAs and office bearers-have been relegated to be pawns that can be used and discarded at will by the omnipresent leader whose larger-than-life image can hardly be missed anywhere in the state.

Modi's strength of being regarded as a larger-than-life leader is exactly his weakness too, because in the Gujarat BJP nobody other than him matters-either in the party or in the government. This is precisely the reason why Modi has to depend on technology in reaching out to the people because without him the BJP is reduced to nothing.

"Since it's almost impossible for Modi to address a public rally in each of the 182 constituencies he is using technology to help him reach as far as possible, even if virtually," said a political observer, adding there is nobody in the BJP the chief minister has allowed to emerge even at the district level.

I find his contention logical because out of the 117 MLAs who won elections last time on the BJP ticket, at least 100 did so entirely because of Modi. They, therefore, can be treated as pawns, to be used and discarded.

In the 2002, when the BJP won a landslide riding on the impact of the riots, almost a dozen ministers of Modi's cabinet lost in the elections.

That trend continued in 2007 when half a dozen ministers, including cabinet ministers like Kaushik Patel, IK Jadeja and Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, lost though the Modi-led BJP scored another landslide.

Modi may score a hat-trick this time but many of his ministers are already on shaky ground and may meet the same fate their party colleagues did in 2002 and 2007.

In 2006, Modi chose Purshottam Rupala, who had lost assembly polls in the BJP wave of 2002, as state party president and in 2009 he chose RC Faldu, who was not sure of winning his own assembly polls in 2007 from Kalawad.

So, in a way, Modi may bitterly criticise the Congress but in practice he does what is often alleged against that party's high command: that it doesn't allow any other powerful leader to rise. Modi has perpetuated his hold on the BJP and appears omnipresent and larger than life but there is a price to pay for it.

(The writer is Hindustan Times' special correspondent in Gujarat. The views expressed are personal.)

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.