Senior editors jostled with junior reporters for a selfie with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the BJP’s Deepawali Milan in New Delhi. This in a way marked the creation of a synergy between the Indian media and Modi’s grand vision for the country. For Modi, the message has always been more important than the medium. As Gujarat CM, he evolved an impressive system for mass marketing of ideas. Modi was the first politician to use the social media as an effective tool for political messaging. Through this he countered the decade-long vilification campaign in the mainstream media.
No other PM in the post-liberalisation era has shown as much faith in Doordarshan as Modi has. This has ensured larger viewership and greater credibility. Modi’s ‘Mann ki baat’ on All India Radio is a big hit. Together the social media, Doordarshan and AIR ensure the largest reach. The social media is accessed by 84% of Internet users in India, numbering 220 million and growing. The Modi government has pledged to professionalise official media and spread the reach of new media. Modi has created a network to connect with his voters irrespective of the role the mainstream media plays. As long as his face draws viewership the electronic media cannot ignore him.
India has the fastest growing media industry in the world with over 600 TV channels, 110 million newspaper copies sold daily and radio FM stations slated to reach 1,200 in the next few years. While the Opposition complains about Modi’s propaganda blitzkrieg, the reality is that brand Modi is not a media creation. He has made news. During the election campaign the TRP of the news channels proved directly proportional to the time they allotted for him. That pattern has persisted as his visit to the United States showed. The media lapped up Modi’s Deepawali Milan even though he offered them nothing more than photo ops.
What makes Modi such a big draw? Perhaps it is the novelty of his politics. He is speaking a language so far unheard of. By lauding the media for its commitment to the Swachh Bharat campaign, Modi has re-jigged the media role as the fellow traveller in social change. Like everything else in politics, Modi has effortlessly redefined the place of the media in his political journey.
R Balashankar is national convener, BJP Intellectual Cell.
The views expressed by the author are personal.