Prime Minister Narendra Modi will counter the Opposition’s attempt to project the NDA and its land acquisition bill as “anti-farmer” by reaching out directly to farmers through his Mann Ki Baat radio programme on March 22. Modi’s decision is apparently in response to what ruling party strategists say is a “general communication failure”.
“I will have Mann ki Baat with farmer brothers and sisters on March 22… I want to hear from farmer friends and want them to write letters to me,” the PM tweeted on Thursday.
Modi’s Mann Ki Baat response, however, hints at a communication failure of the intra-party kind. The PM tweets, speaks and makes radio appearances but his efforts have not resonated among his MPs, who say, on condition of anonymity, they feel ignored in what has become “one-way communication” at the Tuesday meetings they have with the PM and senior ministers in Parliament.
“We call it a classroom as only the teacher speaks here,” said an MP. The PM once warned his MPs that if they failed to turn up on time, the doors (of Central Hall) would be closed, another said. “We have become button-pushers (during voting in the two Houses),” said a UP MP.
This disenchantment across BJP ranks meant a lukewarm response when the PM and senior ministers asked party MPs to convince people of the merits of the land ordinance. “They never consulted us before bringing those ordinances, now they want us to justify them,” said another MP.
BJP sources pointed out flaws in the party’s internal communication system, too. Referring to the government’s stand on Masarat Alam, a senior BJP leader told HT, “We could have simply justified the release saying that it was legally untenable to keep him in jail. Instead, we fell into the Opposition’s trap by denouncing it.”
It does not help that MPs, expected to be the government’s communication managers, feel they are “being watched”. A BJP MP’s recent purchase of an Innova was followed by a call from an RSS leader, asking him why he had not informed leaders about it, and seeking details of the source of the money.
“The PM asks us to spend our MPLADS fund on Saansad Gram Yojana. The President tells us we should spend half of it on Swachh Bharat. The railway minister tells us to spend it on railway stations. Nobody tells us what to say when our voters ask for money for community halls and other needs,” said a first-term BJP MP.