“He looks like an international celebrity,” said Rajesh Chavda as he saw a giant screen showing the holographic, three-dimensional image of chief minister Narendra Modi speaking as if there was a crowd in front of him. “It feels like he is with us, right here.”
Chavda was among tens of thousands of Gujarat voters who assembled at 52 different places across 24 districts to watch and hear Modi at the same time on Tuesday evening.
The 62-year-old saffron leader has been long known for putting technology to its best use in political campaigns. This election, he has taken it to a new high — becoming the first Indian politician to use the latest 3D holographic projection technology mostly used during concerts by western rock stars, including Madonna.
In Gujarat’s Modi-centric political landscape, it is important that the crowd puller makes an appearance at every place. But that couldn’t be possible if Modi were to physically hold rallies across the state – one of India’s most sparsely-populated.
He has found an answer, thanks to Musion — a UK-based company that has given the Indian filmmaker Mani Shankar and his company, Nchant 3D, a licence to use its technology in nine South Asian countries.
3D holographic technology is different from traditional video-conferencing. A special type of stage is erected to project Modi's image at the venue of the gathering in such a way that people in the audience feel he is speaking before them.
“This is new so I came here. You know that it is not a real sabha but you are not missing much from a real one,” said Chavda, a resident of a lower middle class neighbourhood, Rakhial, in eastern Ahmedabad.
He had come to Bapunagar, the venue for Tuesday’s address, where about 1,500 people had assembled. While the crowd cheered as Modi slammed the opposition in his trademark style, some felt disappointed that he wasn’t going to come physically to seek votes in their constituency. “We have to settle for a virtual Modi. That’s not a good deal,” said Bapunagar resident and engineer Shital Patel.
This is the third such telecast that Modi launched on November 18. He covered four spots in the inaugural show and 40 in the second round.
BJP officials won’t say how much money is being spent on the project but sources put the estimate at more than R100 crore. The cost involves hiring a satellite for live transmission of speeches, audio systems, lights, stages and projectors.
After the US denied Modi a visa for his alleged role in the 2002 riots, he had used live satellite telecast to address Gujaratis there on Gujarat Day.