What’s common to actor Salman Khan and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi? Besides the very visible maschismo they both display, there’s a story that unites them, one that Rajat Sharma of India TV likes to recount. Three years back, he put the chief minister of Gujarat in the dock on his programme Aap Ki Adalat, in which he subjects public figures to a mock trial after which a verdict is delivered. He says Modi drew a viewership of the kind drawn by stars like Salman Khan.
Who funds his campaigns? Who pays for his publicity? The answers are somewhere out there. The methods, however, are reminiscent of the late Pramod Mahajan, another media-savvy BJP leader. Mahajan had tried to hardsell the ‘India Shining’ image through a campaign that however did not serve the NDA well. Modi’s machinery is trying to project a ‘Gujarat Shining’ image, with his eye and stride set upon the national stage. It is a telling comment of the age we live in that Modi and his event managers do not shy away from highlighting his ambition, which grows by the day.
Ashutosh also points out how both television and the print media have criticised Modi and never allowed him to forget 2002. “We do point out that Gujarat is 13th on the hunger index—that despite its vibrancy, its social indicators are in a bad way.” But he acknowledges Modi’s myth-building machinery that seems to negate such criticism.
It’s difficult to estimate how much money is being spent on such campaigns. Says an official from a PR firm, “The idea of selling Gujarat as a dream investment destination began soon after the 2002 riots, during which Muslims were targeted.” Worldwide tenders were floated by the Gujarat Investment Bureau with the objective of projecting Gujarat as an ideal industrial hub rather than a tourist destination. Apco Worldwide bagged the rights to do so, with the limited mandate of focusing on industry and investment. Simultaneously, Vibrant Gujarat summits, during with investors signed MoUs to set up units in Gujarat, were held: the sixth such meeting will be held next year. Some say the constant burnishing of Gujarat’s pro-business image has been responsible for the change of heart in countries like the UK, which at one time was unwilling to forgive Modi. NRI Gujaratis—traditional fund-raisers for the Conservative party—did their bit to bring people over. Eventually, James Bevan, the British commissioner to India, recently met Modi, ending a 10-year-old boycott of the chief minister.
It is clear then that the media seems to seek out politicians who aren’t averse to showing off their ambition: it makes for riveting TV and sharp copy. Rajat Sharma got his interview after requesting the CM for years till he finally agreed. Among the many questions Modi was asked was if he had plans of leading the country. Modi had then said, “Abhi Advaniji hain, bhai! (Advaniji is still around, brother!).” From all accounts, that episode of Aap Ki Adalat was a huge draw with viewers. But despite the media blitz, the Gujarat election results—with 115 for the BJP, Modi hasn’t been able to better the party’s earlier record—show his appeal has its limits.
Corrected online: the print version of this story erroneously mentioned over one lakh followers, which was corrected to over 11 lakh.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Most of the journalists who indulge in Modi-bashing are corrupt, biased and cunning.
Ashutosh from IBN 7, may not be a Modi fan, but he is an honest individual.
A rare honest media person.
I once saw him give that donkey abuser that goes by the name of Karan Thapar, a well-deserved bum rap for being a sycophant.
Actually, he didn't directly even name Thapar, but he(Thapar) felt really insecure and started defending himself.
It was hilarious!
As for Modi not being to better his support base:
Please look at the Keshubhai factor and how he played the spoiler role to perfection in many constituencies.
Moreover, Congress and Keshubhai's Party are representative of an old style RSS/VHP kind of politics which is not pro capitalism as such.
So, Gujarat one way or another, is the first large rightist state in India.
Haryana, is also a rightist state. But it is a small state in comparison.And the irony in the congress and a farmer(Hooda) being in power and promoting largely free enterprise hasn't been lost on me!
To be honest, Modi's usage of media and myth is just a fraction of the amount of public money that the Nehru-Indira-Rajiv-Sonia-Rahul dynasty has spent to spread the myth of CONgress party and Nehru-Indira-Rajiv-Sonia-Rahul Dynasty laying their lives for the well being of India.
Countless roads, bridges, public institutions have been named after a few members of a dynasty (nehru,indira, rajiv) even though India is today one of most underdeveloped nations in the world and the role of the dynasty , which has ruled for 50 out of 65 years (of free india) in destroying India from within has never been fairly investigated by media.
If journos like you were really honest, you will examine the media's glorification of dynasty and the money trail behind it, but you will not or rather your employers viz the billionaire neo rich industrialist Rajan Raheja will not allow you to do such an investigation.
"Numerous MoUs signed, but not clear how many translated into projects on the ground"
What the heck are you doing? Is it not the job of a reporter to find these things out?
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