Finally, God entered poll discourse 2014 after Pakistan, beef, the media, opinion polls, the Gujarat model, corporates, communalism, badla, scams, policy paralysis, development, empowerment had run their course. Perhaps the over year-long campaign—rolling since Narendra Modi’s third consecutive win in Gujarat—worth thousands of crores of rupees on the social, electronic and print media must not have been proving enough. The big capital-backed superhero of the BJP, the RSS already with him, drafted God too on his side just before the third phase of polling to fight the assorted paapis of the UPA and the alleged third front. (Paap or sin, and never secular words like crime or illegality, is Modi’s favourite epithet in his campaign speeches to characterise the transgressions of his rivals.) And so it was that God made an appearance in a 3D invocation that was telecast across the country: “God chooses certain people to do the difficult work. I believe God has chosen me.” And if God be around, can Ma Ganga be far behind? It was she apparently who urged him to file his nomination papers from Varanasi, and the matrubhakt that he is, could he have done otherwise? One could almost hear Gujarat’s brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan mull that old question anew: “Tumhare paas kya hai?” “Mere paas God aur Ganga ma hai”.
The Bollywood-style voice-modulated delivery of lines, playing to the lowest common denominator in the gallery, the close-ups capturing the crafted animation of his face, the macho stride up to the front of the stage and the television screen, the messiah-style raising of arms while leading the slogan-shouting, the pageantry, the costume drama, the changing plumage of all headgear except the skullcap, the crowds waving and screaming on the ground or strategically atop poles as the camera approaches, so panned as to show only the densest point in the crowd, never their extent...each Modi rally or roadshow is a carefully choreographed surge of support and passion tailormade for television. No wonder then that in the land of spectacle and tamasha, which dominates our worship, our rites of passage, our socialising, entertainment and public life, a spectacularly mounted surge via old and new media first generated great recall and then started reflecting in myriad opinion polls, mirroring each other at angles that made the image larger than life, and creating a bandwagon effect on the ground.
Such a kaleidoscope of spectacle, the mobilising of multitudes, the jet-propelling of the protagonist of Election 2014 to far-flung corners of the country on a single day, ensuring their telecast on hundreds of TV channels, or in their lieu, 3D hologram addresses across multiple locations, the thousands of stormtroopers on new media, the full front-page ads in major newspapers or the thousands of audio-visual publicity vans with GPS roaming the countryside where television outreach is limited...all of it needs megabucks. And Modi has had no dearth of corporate moneybags backing his blitzkrieg. The campaign from above has been reinforced by the all-out effort of thousands of RSS volunteers on the ground as well as hired teams of unemployed youth. It’s a wonderful fusion of the green of corporate lucre and the saffron of new-age Hindutva to get the Modi flag flying over the country.
Of course, the Congress rout in the recent assembly elections, and the BJP’s win in three states helped too. It so demoralised the Congress camp that many of its big leaders abdicated campaigning altogether. Elsewhere, the Modi juggernaut edged the Aam Aadmi Party out of old media space and the BJP’s spin doctors magnified some of the fledgling party’s self-goals. In fact, they managed to turn the screws on them even more; the poor AAP chaps have been beaten up every other day and moreso since Arvind Kejriwal’s foray into Gujarat.
In the light of all this, it’s not surprising that there is a surge in the NDA seats in the numbers our punters are giving now over what they gave the formation in September. Of course, the NDA has expanded since from a five-party alliance to a 28-party one, with footprints in the south too (though none among the new allies is a big regional players save the TDP).
Yet, Modi has felt the need for divine intervention. But even God is shy in helping him turn the footprint in the south and east into a foothold necessary for him to form a government. Even in the north, despite the huge strides, there is shaky ground: in Punjab, Bihar, Delhi, Himachal and J&K, for instance. Even UP. Modi seems within striking distance, but whether he makes it depends on whether the leaders of big regional parties—beyond the now-expanded NDA—will warm up to God’s chosen one, given the compulsions of their mass base or their own ambition.
Diehard Modi fans, of course, would wonder why big chunks of the electorate and several politicians would not naturally choose the Almighty’s deputy.
Delhi-based Neelabh Mishra is the editor of Outlook Hindi
Tsk, tsk, Mr Mishra. How dare you call Modi God’s deputy (Now Showing: The Modi Hollowgram, May 12)? Listening to him speak at rallies, have you not realised that God now is Mr Modi’s deputy? Come May 16, nothing (the monsoons, El Nino, trains, the US, sunrise) will move without the permission and blessings of Mr Modi.
Kumar A., on e-mail
God Almighty, spare us these moronic and bull-headed discourses. We have suffered these too long. Pray, grant us our salvation, and grant it fast.
Narayan G.N., Mumbai
Are you sure it’s not a typographical error? Instead of 279, you have inadvertently announced 229? If it’s 279, he will go down in history as the first prime minister of independent India elected directly by popular mandate.
S. Sreenivas, Bangalore
The hallmarks of a good journalist are objectivity, neutrality and integrity. Neelabh Mishra is singularly lacking in all these essential attributes. He is even worse than the likes of Kumar Ketkar and Vinod Sharma. Journalistic ethics, rip.
D.L. Narayan, Visakhapatnam
It is illegal to publish opinion polls during elections. Outlook has violated the law by publishing the opinions of its eminent psephologists. Whether the sample size is 50,000 or 29 or less, a poll is a poll.
Cdr Arun Visvanathan, Chennai
What happened to Outlook? There should have been a big NOOOOO along with 229. And the 229 gives the game away. There is a psychological difference between 229 and 230. How come the experts arrived at such an expert figure? I think nda will cross 272 on its own.
Akash Verma, Chennai
Neelabh Mishra lost all sense of prudence as he indulged in Modi-whipping with all the hostilities in his armoury he could muster. Each word in his piece is full of malice.
Saroja B., Darwin
One is appalled by the euphoria created over Modi becoming India’s PM, never mind his ability and credentials for the office. It’s the same frenzy that leads to educated and uneducated people alike making ordinary people like Asaram and Ramdev into demi-gods.
Narinder K. Sabharwal, Gurgaon
Rahul Gandhi’s weakness and lack of political exposure will lead to a Congress debacle, and Modi’s strength and overexposure will equally lead to the BJP’s sooner than later.
Amrita Muttoo, Mumbai
Modi wave! What we have been seeing is waves of media hype for sure! It was five years of paralysis by the UPA and anti-incumbency. And finally, a demoralised UPA, seemingly, giving in without even a semblance of a fight.
R.V. Subramanian, Gurgaon
Post the May 16 election results, the Outlook cover announcing—Gumshoe Guesstimate NDA 229—has unwittingly become a collector’s item. The cover story—Now Showing: The 3D Modi Hollowgram—by Neelabh Mishra and The Lever Pivots on the Magic Thirty by Kumar Ketkar, not to mention some of the election analysis by your ‘29 experts from 29 states’ are so tearily, gut-bustingly, mirth-inducingly fanciful that I finally related to the expressions I had disapproved of so far: ROFL and ROFLMAO. Henceforth, whenever I’m depressed, I’ll thumb through this tome more than any issue of mad that I possess.
Vinod Kumar B., Bangalore
For a moment I thought I was reading another magazine. Then I figured it was Outlook.
S.N. Ram, Chennai
I’m new to Outlook, a subscriber only since February 2014. It took only a few issues for me to discern a certain lopsidedness to your views. I do not mind a democracy even with a bit of contamination. But Outlook seems to cater to a readership that would rather have a general at the helm than Modi. I waited with curiosity to see the magazine’s reaction to his astounding victory. Now is the time to say goodbye. I’ll check again after 12 months.
M.C. Menon, Bangalore
Week after week, Outlook conducted a vitriolic campaign against Modi, an effort with few parallels in Indian journalism as far as personal attacks go. You were so caught up in trying to stop Modi that you gave the go-by to objectivity and balance.
Rupjyoti Bhagawati, Basel, Switzerland
Oh, what happened to all that talk of “manufacturing consensus” and “hate merchants”? Is Outlook changing its tune?
M.K. Saini, Delhi
If we could give a precious 60 years of our independence to Nehru-Gandhi misrule, why does Outlook find it so difficult to give Modi some time?
Rajiv Mukherjee, on e-mail
Outlook spent endless reams of paper and many bottles of ink to tar Modi, but the voters of India delivered a slap to its face and have thrown out its pet party and its blue-eyed Sonia Gandhi and Company.
Rama Krishna M., Kakinada
A few months back, one of your readers had predicted that Modi’s chances of becoming PM increase by the intensity of your tirade against him. Looks like it was true. Hope you’ll be impartial in the future.
Jawahar P. Sekhar, Calicut
You fought long and hard against Modi and the BJP and the verdict is as big a loss for your biased journalism as for the UPA. The general tirade against Modi-BJP aside, you did your best to convince us readers by getting ‘intellectuals’ to debunk the Gujarat model, assured us the ‘Modi wave’ was just hot wind, and wrote off the NDA at a mere 229 even as late as the first week of May. And even after the resounding result, you are half-hearted in your praise of the achievement. Can you at least make an effort at neutral journalism or are you content in your prejudice?
B. Kaushick, on e-mail
Time to realign your loyalties?
Dinesh Kumar, Chandigarh
Apropos your readers’ comments in the letters pages (Eating Your Words, Eh?, Jun 9), I feel it would be wrong to say that Outlook is anti-BJP or against Modi. For it has only been articulating the concerns of those 69 per cent of the voters who disagree with the RSS worldview and did not vote for the BJP.
K.Z. Amani, Aligarh
The disapprovals expressed by some of your readers are based on the BJP’s hitherto untested promises. If our history is any reckoner, political parties have only misfired till now.
A.N. Laad, Panaji
Outlook, please note that it is parts of the Indian media and Outlook-type journalism which turned this parliamentary election into a presidential-style campaign for Narendra Modi.
A. Nathan, on e-mail
If the editor of this magazine had any shame left, he would have stopped publishing this magazine after the public humiliation of Sonia Gandhi on May 16.
Vaibhav Shrivastava, Calcutta
Some of your election result presentations fell much below expectations. It was often incomplete and erroneous. Like one of the graphics completely left out a major party, the DMK.
P.C.K. Nambudiripad, Guruvayur
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.
“And the 229 gives the game away. There is a psychological difference between 229 and 230.
How come the experts correctly arrived at 229? “
You may know, in science, there is a concept of "significant numbers“ to express the data …
Apparently, the author is telling us that his data accuracy is (+/-) 1, so we have 229.
Else, he would have rounded it at 220 or 230 (for +/- 10)
Basically, 229 implies as precise as it can get!
On May 17th, media "hollowgram" on Moodi is going to be --> Ctr-Alt-Del
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Not quite ‘La Fin du Monde’, if Modi doesn’t become PM
What if Narendra Modi does not become prime minister? Apart from a spurt in the sale of antidepressants in corporate India, what are other predictable outcomes? Is India slated to stay mired in feeble political leadership, slow-motion governance and tepid growth? Or is there a Plan B that can push the end of the world a little further away from May 16?
India’s unwashed masses cannot be trusted to produce the electoral outcome Nariman Point knows is the best for the country. They live in villages for the most part, cannot access the intellectual heights that English news channels climb every evening, are driven and riven by primordial loyalties of caste and community, swayed by lineage and hero worship, and drawn to handouts.
In contrast, urban Indians think of caste only matrimonially and incidentally, think India First except on those rare, riotous occasions, curl their lips at desi heroes on offer, never, never give or take bribes or have any other underhand dealings and hate government handouts, unless, naturally, these are subsidised cooking gas, subsidised diesel, subsidised suburban fares and an occasional plot of land for the noble cause of industrialising India.
Troublingly, rural India has prospered like never before over the last 10 years. Fewer of their women and children die premature deaths and some 150 million of them have scrambled out of that nether region below the poverty line. These people have been pampered with job guarantee schemes and health insurance, and fed cheap food. Their kids have been crammed into schools and midday meals crammed into them.
Rural India has been bribed continuously over the two terms of the UPA with new roads. Power lines now stretch to 5.9 lakh out of India’s 6.5 lakh villages. The UPA did not have the guts to scrap state monopoly in coal and fuel shortage ensures there is no power generation to feed these new lines laid to villages, even after adding 1,15,000 MW of power generation capacity to the 2004 installed capacity of 1,14,000 MW.
Would that be the end of the road for India? Hardly.
In the last quarter of fiscal 2013-14, the economy has improved. The external front has stabilised. The stock market has got back its mojo. A reformist RBI governor is preparing the ground for bond market to take off. Along with some action from asset reconstruction companies, which could buy off banks’ non-performing infrastructure debt, a bond market should revive financing of economic activity across the board.
The Cabinet Committee on Investment has broken the logjam in clearances. Central government approvals no longer hold up investment. State bureaucracies do. Here, the general elections’ obsession with development should do some good. Every state-level politician is now tuned to expectations that go beyond freebies to so-called “development.”
All parties have committed themselves to a goods and services tax (GST) that would subsume all indirect taxes. Such a tax regime will boost collections from the known tax base and will expand the tax base because GST opens up multiple audit trails, following up which the tax authorities can reach hidden incomes.
All this depends on the articulation of renewed political mandate and authority at the Centre, not on any particular saviour.
La fin du Monde is, of course, French for the end of the world. It is also the name of a fine beer from Quebec. It certainly chills, froths and gives you a high, but has many splendid alternatives.
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