India Elections: Modi The ‘Creative Disruptor’ And The Mood Of The Nation (Part V) – OpEd


Millions of likes on the hundred-odd AI-generated songs mimicking PM Narendra Modi’s voice are going viral on a YouTube channel. These trending songs and many more, shooting up on the popularity charts, presenting Bollywood and Punjabi songs in Modi’s unique and distinctive tone and style, capture the essence of the popularity that the Indian Prime Minister enjoys, cutting across age groups and diverse backgrounds of the country’s mammoth electorate.

At every BJP roadshow and rally, the air reverberates with the most popular song of the season “Abki Baar, 400 Paar” (This time, 400 plus). 

One of the popular BJP leaders, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, has been dancing and singing to the Assamese rendition of the 2019 poll campaign song “Phir Ek Baar, Modi Sarkar” (Once again, Modi government). Sarma’s supporters say he has danced with more than 20 lakh people in the state over the last month attending more than fifty rallies, where ‘Akou Eibar Modi Sarkar’ (Modi government again), played out throughout his campaigns.

When it comes to Modi, there is a touch of reverence that is palpable amongst the general people, not just the party workers. Millions of volunteers and party workers whip up a frenzy around Modi’s campaign vehicles as he tirelessly jetsets across states, in the sweltering heat and dust which is so typical of the month of May in India. 

So, What Is The Mood Of The Nation?

The fate of over 283 Lok Sabha seats has already been sealed today, after the third phase of elections got over. Simplified, it means that elections to more than half of the 543 Lok Sabha seats are over today.

After the first three phases of the election, BJP’s dominance in the north seems assured, and political analysts say the party will make a decent breakthrough in southern states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala where in the past they had no standing. There is little dispute that people expect Modi to win this election comfortably and return for a third term as Prime Minister. 

“Why do I need to be defensive about Modi’s aggressive Hindu nationalism”, says a young party worker, who has been at the helm of the social media campaigns for one of the largest Delhi parliamentary constituencies for the third consecutive general election. “We are a majority in this country and we must not feel threatened by the ‘pseudo-secular Hindus’ who have joined hands with the Muslims to try and defeat Modi”, he says, adding that “his grandfather wept on the day that the Ram temple in Ayodhya was consecrated in January this year”. 

Eulogising Modi, a young PhD student studying at the Delhi University says – “Is respecting your own religion in your own country an example of hate speech? Why is Rahul Gandhi so anti-Hindu”?  

The opposition argues that the youth is not with Modi as unemployment remains a major promise that could not be fulfilled, but one look at the thronging crowds of youngsters, in BJP rallies and equally active on social media campaigns across YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, is enough to debunk that argument.

The opposition parties have resorted to unprecedented mud slinging and hitting Modi below the belt, trying to dent his reputation by raising questions about his single and separated marital status. Hitting back at the opposition parties, Modi blasted the Indian National Congress calling it “dynastic and corrupt to the core”, saying, “My life is like an open book. People of the country know about it”, and that “140 crore Indians are my family”. Modi reiterates in each and every speech that his commitment is to the people of the country and that he had left home at a young age with the dream of serving the people.

“140 crore people of this country are my family. Mera Bharat mera parivaar hai” (my India is my family).

What Explains Modi’s Popularity?

In an article titled ‘Why India’s elite backs Narendra Modi’, international publication The Economist says, “Three factors — class politics, economics, and elite admiration for strongman rule — help explain why.” Calling it ‘The Modi Paradox’, The Economist says that “India’s Prime Minister is often lumped together with right-wing populists such as Donald Trump, but Modi, who is expected to win a third term, is no ordinary strongman”. And that explains very well the position that is.

In addition to this, India’s youth views Modi as an incorruptible leader, who has raised the prestige of the country to remarkable heights. They admire his foreign policy and his focus on economic growth. 

Who Can Replace Modi?

“Who can replace Modi?”, asks a first-time voter In the over-populated state of Uttar Pradesh. The young boy’s remarks endorse one more reason that Modi will win. He is talking about a weak opposition alliance that is inarticulate and divided. Rahul Gandhi, the PM candidate of the opposition alliance, does not represent a credible alternative, given his continuous volley of faux pas and his dynastic background. 

Whereas, on the other hand, Modi has mastered the art of communication. He is an excellent orator who can read the pulse of the crowd as he speaks and fine-tunes his speech. He has successfully exploited the social media use in the last ten years to create an iconic image for himself.  Regardless of the debate about the political exploitation by the BJP of the inauguration of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya, Modi has emerged as the tallest Hindu icon of present times.

Reframing, Redefining & Reinterpreting 

Due to his persona and mass appeal, Modi has emerged as the most popular leader in the world after defeating global leaders like US President Joe Biden, UK PM Rishi Sunak and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, according to a recent survey by a US-based agency Morning Consult. The Global Leader Approval Rating Tracker of the Morning Consult shows that PM Modi received nearly 78% approval ratings, the maximum by any leader across the world. In the rating, 17% of the participants had expressed their disapproval for PM Modi, whereas, 6% gave no opinion about him.

The overwhelming sentiment, at least for the time being, is for the BJP hat-trick, with Modi having reframed, redefined and reinterpreted all political discourses. Modi is a disruptor. He speaks the language of 21st century ‘Young India’. With an unmatched youth population in the country, more than two-third Indians being between the age group of 15 and 59, there is a huge “demographic dividend” which only Modi could reap because his story of ‘rebooting India’ is a powerful one. It is a story of myriad social welfare schemes benefitting millions in rural hinterland, progress in education, public health and sanitation, economic development as well as pacy advancements in science and technology. 

People Haven’t Forgotten Congress Atrocities

Modi’s detractors are calling out for him alleging shrinking space for dissent, with crackdowns on media and civil society. But who said that this was unprecedented in India. “Those who are shouting from the rooftops were responsible for having imposed Emergency between 1975-77 and justified too by the-then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi”, says a Delhi-based software engineer. Resonating the same, a Delhi BJP leader says, “They are pointing fingers at Modi becoming part of Hindu religious ceremonies, alleging that Muslims will be forced out of this country and are facing grave injustice at hands of the BJP government. But they are forgetting how brutal the Emergency was, especially for Muslims and Dalits. During the Emergency, officials were fired or faced consequences for not ‘motivating’ enough Muslims to undergo vasectomy”.

The Modi government has faced criticism for having suppressed the student protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Jamia Millia Islamia university. The CAA, passed in 2019, offers a fast-track path to citizenship for non-Muslim religious minorities (Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, Buddhists, and Christians) from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, who entered India before December 31, 2014. 

But validated accounts establish that there was much worse police violence at Turkman Gate in 1976 when the Congress was in power. Congress leader Sanjay Gandhi’s sterilization and demolition drive marked the beginning of the Turkman Gate violence. The subsequent massacre was an infamous case of political oppression and police brutality and residents of Old Delhi (predominantly Muslim) were killed by police.

The Modi Cult

India has experienced communal tensions much before Modi arrived on the political scene. Indian Muslims have tended to be the most vulnerable, but communal tensions have harmed every community.

There is no denying that Modi is a phenomenon in world politics. Amongst the deafening pitch of “Modi-Modi”, he takes a deep bow, wearing a neatly-starched ‘Modi kurta’ which has become a rage in India, he throws his hands up in the air to say a loud “Jai Siya Ram”. He leads from the front and has transformed India. This defines the Modi cult and this cult is here to stay. At least for now. 

Manoranjana Gupta

Manoranjana Gupta is a Journalist, TV opinion leader, and a Special Advisor for GDKP in India, at the Center for Digital Future, Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism under the University of Southern California.

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