Children wear masks with pictures of Narendra Modi during a road show in Wayanad.
Children wear masks with pictures of Narendra Modi during a road show in Wayanad.(Photo | E Gokul, EPS)

Modi must beat whispers with his old Mystique

Because there is no BJP without Modi. The Whisperers insinuate that Modi is scared of losing and having ridiculous public meltdowns alleging Congress will steal mangalsutras to give to Muslims.

There are two simultaneous election campaigns underway: Modi Mystique and Whisper Wave. Number One is happening everywhere with pomp and promises. Number Two is a stealthy tinnitus spread by a vast web of organisations, individuals, political parties, social media activists and alternate media. The Whisper Wave, or WV, is an insidious net of labrish which cannot be attributed to a person, party or movement. Hence it could make any conspicuous figure of authority a sitting duck.

In 2014, Modi’s formula was novelty, innovation and Hindu symbolism. If BJP then benefited from its aggressive social media blitz by lampooning ‘Pappu’ and glorifying Modi, currently a well-planned counter social media fightback and contrarian YouTube channels are aggressively creating an alternate narrative and gaining traction. 2024 looks like samizdat time: in Communist Russia, where officially unsanctioned news and publications were banned, people got their news from underground publications, often handwritten, which they passed from reader to reader.

Here is an example of today’s Indian samizdat—a Facebook post, which has now mysteriously vanished: “…the staggering rise in viewership and subscription of independent news channels in the last few months (perhaps even weeks), curiously all Hindi, is a historic moment that would not have happened quite like this in 2019 even if the Opposition had come together then.” Have atonal news channels—especially Hindi—once Modi’s biggest asset, become his worst weakness? WV is directed solely at bringing down Modi, not BJP.

Because there is no BJP without Modi. The Whisperers insinuate that Modi is scared of losing and having ridiculous public meltdowns alleging Congress will steal mangalsutras to give to Muslims. Another WV tactic is disinformation: ‘BJP will remove reservation for the weaker sections if they win.’ Hitler’s master propagandist Joseph Goebbels explained his pet strategy as “If you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth.” The Whisperers keep repeating that Modi will lose, the RSS is not stumping for BJP in the heartland, Yogi will sabotage Modi to prevent being beamed up to Delhi from Lucknow and that the Supreme Court has exposed electoral bonds as corruption. Gossip, even false, has a tendency to stick.

In the halcyon days of 2014, Modi stood for technology and development with a spicy soupcon of Hindutva: long before AI, Indian voters were treated to Modi holograms, crowdsourcing, Facebook dialogues and NaMo cellphones. A fawning media’s adoration and a political combo of futurism and nationalism created Brand Modi. Its mystique won him two elections and innumerable state polls.

However, mystique must be only invisibly omnipresent: why God is God. This time Modi Overkill is rampant. Slavering zombies are broadcasting Modi stories, Modi interviews and Modi statements, largely ignoring his adversaries. A raucous democracy like India admires an independent media; the honeymoon with high-decibel anchors seems to be getting over. It would be a pity if India’s most nationalist prime minister’s mystique is diluted by media sycophancy.

Narendra Modi is the only Indian PM who holds an independent foreign policy stand, has struck back against terrorism in its own nest, cancelled Article 370; and is also ironically the country’s most successful liberal (he would be horrified to hear it) for banning triple talaq and promising UCC if he wins. He must enhance his mystique by being heard more and seen less. Modi has enough to speak for 10 years of New India to hear its applause in the voting booths.

Ravi Shankar

ravi@newindianexpress.com

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