|How Modi Won It: Notes from the 2014 Election, Harish Khare, Hachette Book Publishing India Pvt Ltd, Pp 242, Rs 599.00
Intro: The book provides an insight into the brilliant campaign strategy adopted by the BJP in comparison to the jaded and lusterless Congress rhetoric.
Every five years, the watchman – the Election Commission in India – oversees the election of a new party and a new ruler who would safeguard and promote the interests of the country. Every five years the prospective leader and his/her party are judged by the citizens who give expression to their many aspirations, dreams, frustrations, anxieties, anger and anguish through their vote in their desire to ensure creation of a just State by just means.
With the advent of the year 2014, the Indian citizens were presented with three different faces – of Rahul Gandhi (as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had outlived his utility and with the UPA establishment’s “old habits of dithering, dithering and more dithering), of Arvind Kejriwal (with the shattering of the myth of him being a “noble centaur” and his antics as Chief Minister of Delhi) and of Narendra Modi, who seemed to represent a “change”. The electorate desired a meaningful and purposive stability along with change. But the question that arose was what kind of change was desired? From what to what change and why for? Narendra Modi understood this yearning for change as the need for aggressive nationalism, while the Indian middle class, sick of Congress party’s mismanagement and corrupt rule, saw in Modi a decisive helmsman capable of steering the country from the deep morass it had fallen in.
In a meticulous, comprehensive and chronological account, Harish Khare (journalist, columnist, scholar and former media advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) reproduces in his book all that he sees, hears and reads during the run up to the elections and how the different political stakeholders adopt into their day-to-day campaign the latent cultural angst, economic anxieties and political expectations of a nation that has changed inexorably over the past decade. The people seemed ready to cast a decisive vote in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a political party that received a majority in the Lok Sabha for the first time in three decades.
To give an example or two of how Khare discussed extensively with both intellectuals as also laymen to find their views, a few lines are quoted from the Indian Express of March 26, 2014, in which he himself wrote: “If money could buy an election, then the BJP is home and dry. If Corporate India could help purchase a mandate, then Narendra Modi has already been sworn in…”
On the March 27 rally of Modi in Jammu & Kashmir, Khare says that Modi’s favourable response to Atal Behari Vajpayee’s pursuance of three pillars of insaaniyat, jamburiyat Kashmiriyat– to unite, develop and rewrite the fate (of Kashmir) wins the crowd to his side.”
On April 10, the voting day, in an advertisement blitz, every newspaper featured Modi exhorting the public, “Your one vote can make a majority – vote for a stable government, vote for good governance. It’s time for change, time for Modi.” Khare’s words on the campaign were that it “invited each voter to become an agent of change – a change for the better, for stability.”
In short, the book provides an insight into the brilliant campaign strategy adopted by the BJP in comparison to the jaded and lusterless Congress rhetoric; into the middle-class aspirations as against rural India’s resurgent hopes; into the communal polarisation and shifting caste equations; and into Modi’s loud and clear chorus for ‘development’ in one of the most memorable elections that the country had ever seen.
Naveen Kumar (The reviewer is a senior political analyst and VP of Viplav Communications Pvt Ltd.)