How Narendra Modi is winning friends and influencing people

  • Hindustan Times
  • Updated: May 10, 2014 01:12 IST

To say that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, is a communicator extraordinaire would be no exaggeration. There is not a single medium that he has not dominated this election. When addressing rallies, he tailors his speeches to suit the audience. Hence, the references to Lord Ram in Faizabad, to development in Kolkata, to the markets in Mumbai and so on. He and his spinmeisters seem to have realised early on that there has been a high involvement of the middle classes in this election.

So, we have the carefully interspersed television interviews, interviews to newspapers and tweets. Here, there are no flourishes, he presents a statesman-like figure, talking of national issues, transcending caste, class and religion. Many may say he is putting on this façade for the benefit of the viewers, but then that is what politics is all about — communication. The UPA, in contrast, in both its avatars, was characterised by an icy silence from its top leaders. The prime minister, always awkward in public, hardly ever gave interviews. The Congress president and vice-president too did little to engage with people using the plethora of mediums available now, including social media.

Mr Modi’s recent television interviews are clearly aimed at allaying fears that he has any sectarian agenda. He has consistently said that the nation comes first, though disconcertingly often referring to himself in the third person. There is a firm endorsement of opening up the economy, of generating jobs and of dealing with a Pakistan that does not indulge in terror.

While in the thick of electoral battle, he has traded vicious charges with regional chieftains like Mamata Banerjee, J Jayalalithaa and others, in his latest interview he spoke of leaving doors open to anyone who wanted to join him. He spoke of even one MP being representative of all voters. And tellingly, he spoke of how he was the first to wish Congress president Sonia Gandhi well when it was reported that she was ill. Here is the face of Modi that the world wants to see — reasonable, inclusive and progressive.

Television and other forms of social media are now far more pervasive than ever. Mr Modi has cleverly used them to his advantage while the Congress is floundering about like a technological dinosaur.

That much thought has gone into Mr Modi’s appearances in the media is clear from the fact that it is he who controls the whole show, taking all questions howsoever uncomfortable head-on. That he often deftly sidesteps some of them is another matter. Not just Mr Modi, the leaders who will be elected this time will have to shed their distance from the people.

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