Mann Ki Baat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s immensely popular monthly radio address, is headed towards a remarkable milestone: the 100th episode of the programme will air on April 30, the last Sunday of the month at 11:00 AM.
Mann Ki Baat has since its inception, carved out a unique niche. It leverages a ubiquitously available medium of mass communication, radio, and uses it to engage (not merely communicate) each and every citizen of India as they express their Mann Ki Baat to the elder of their nation – PM Modi. Hence, it is a subliminally motivating two-way dialogue between the nation and its beloved leader.
In the programme, PM Modi covers innumerable themes, from encouraging public participation for national growth, to a warm endorsement of socially motivated gestures, to lauding the myriad achievements of Indians across the spectrum – no feat is small, no stone is left unturned.
There are several ways in which these 99 episodes so far (soon to be 100) can be analysed. Given its vast expanse breadth, Mann ki Baat may not be easily describable in one cover-all framework. Let us look at the two frameworks to analyse the impact over these more than eight and a half years of continuous dialogue.
The Framework PM Modi’s Personal Imprint
Mann ki Baat can broadly be summarised into five broad personal imprints of Prime Minister himself that these trends would not have been possible had any other leader attempted Mann ki Baat.
First, Mann ki Baat became the broadcaster of collective goodness. It established the paradigm, a first not just in India but perhaps in the entire world, that if a person or group is undertaking any voluntary effort for societal good then the broadcaster of that goodness to the entire nation is the platform of Mann ki Baat and their champion is the Prime Minister himself. And that too not just any normal Prime Minister, but a Prime Minister who is so widely popular. He is investing his personal political capital to become the champion of collective goodness in the nation.
In an age of cheap data, where video content is the king, PM has enjoyed near rapt attention, month after month, every month, only because of the content that went into his messages
Second, Prime Minister, through the topics he picked – like Statue cleaning or water conservation or promoting the beauty of the myriad food and culture of our nation – established that the essence of a healthy society is how healthy is its day-to-day conversations. That even in these factious political times, a healthy society should and must find time to engage in conversations ion day to day topics and not be all consumed by the debates that so animate political activists and politicians.
Third, across the episodes over these eight plus years, a constant running theme has been to reignite the spirit of volunteerism or ‘Swayam Sevak’ across the length and the breadth of the country. From encouraging voluntary adoption of Khadi to requesting our youth to become champions of ‘Vocal for Local’ or from igniting the trend to buy local Diwali diays instead of imported ones to the entire mass movement of Swachh Bharat, the one unmistakable imprint of Mann ki Baat has been reigniting the spirit of volunteerism that so well served our nation during the freedom movement. That this spirit was for fighting for independence, now that same spirit is being channelised for nation building.
Fourth, Prime Minister Modi firmly disabused the concept of ‘limited topics’. He has demonstrated over these 99 episodes that it is possible for a social conversation to take place for decades without ever indulging in a ‘limited topic’ that had an appeal limited only to a particular region, or creed or religion or group. Every topic that PM Modi picked had pan-national appeal – whether it was talking to board students before their exams or championing the rights and dignity of women.
Fifth, and finally PM has again established, rather unequivocally, that the quality of the message is supreme and not the method through which it is disseminated. In an age of cheap data, where video content is the king, Prime Minister has enjoyed near rapt attention, month after month, every month, only because of the content that went into his messages and not the style with which they were produced.
Apart from these macro trends, there is, however, a micro-framework as well through which one can analyse the Mann ki Baat phenomenon.
The Framework of Macro Trends of Mann ki Baat
While Mann Ki Baat has covered so much ground, including public health and behaviour, attitudinal change, social justice and empowerment, and non-conventional approaches to development, it can be delineated in five broad macro trends at the concept level of the programme itself and which can be further refined into related approaches:
First, The one-to-one two-way dialogue with the people of the nation
In all episodes of Mann Ki Baat, an underlying theme has been to create a connection between people. The PM has been known for creating an atmosphere where people can communicate with him freely. Mann Ki Baat is a similar platform. He has created with relative ease a platform where people and the PM can speak candidly what they feel. PM Modi talks to people and talks about people but never about himself.
Second, Character Building to Nation Building
Episode after episode is aimed at character-building with the eventual aim of Nation building. A campaign to promote the dignity of girl child through the “SelfieWithDaughter” campaign, or to pay homage to our heroes through #StatueCleaning campaign or to promote the value of fitness through “FitIndia” campaign were all aimed at character building.
Third, Together we stand
Whether through those trying days of the COVID-19 phase or any other tragedy faced by the country, PM Modi has always shown a ray of hope in times like these. His comforting words have been encouraging and comforting. On multiple occasions, he has inspired our people to overcome adversity through unity and every time we have succeeded. Whether it was the adversity that led to the triumph of Operation Ganga or the adversity of a once-in-a-century pandemic that led to the triumph of world’s largest vaccination campaign, the unity that PM Modi inspired has always made us stand apart a shining beacon.
Fourth, Every corner becomes centre
The places of India, which were considered so-called non-mainland India, are now as much integrated into the mainland as any other part of the country. PM Modi has effectively used the platform to speak about the culture, the people, the language, the stories, and the festivals of the people who were not previously included in the mainstream. He has included the people and those areas as an intrinsic part of the story of India. The polity of India is no more Delhi Centric; it covers all of India in the real sense. The geographical connection always existed, but PM Modi has established an emotional connection where everyone is now at the centre, and no one is at the periphery.
Fifth, rediscovering our true culture and its heroes
Occasionally, PM Modi spoke about our culture, stories, and traditions. He has successfully created a bridge between generations and has tried to bring them all on one centre stage. It is the conversations and the ideas from Mann ki Baat that have flown into larger national resurgence. Take a look at the recently released documentary “Dharohar Bharat ki – Punruthaan ki Kahaani“. All the topics covered in this very well-made documentary in Hindi have been a regular feature in the conversations of Mann ki Baat. Mann ki Baat has developed the attitude of Mannan and Chintan; we listen, we debate and we think. As we look forward to the completion of the 100th episode of Mann Ki Baat, it bears testimony to the fact that one voice, one emotion, and one call is enough to create a revolution and bring a transformation to our thinking. Through Mann ki Baat, PM Modi has established a relationship which has moved from monologue to dialogue, from Pradhan Mantri to Pradhan Sevak, and from speeches to Mann ki Baat.
The 100th episode will not be different from the previous 99 episodes; it will weave a story and give a moral, a dialogue, a persuasive speaker and an ardent audience.
The pinnacle of its achievement however is that Mann Ki Baat continues to stay non-partisan and wholly non-political in the choice of subjects that PM Modi delves into. The latter is dictated largely by contemporary social issues and audience feedback. It is indeed our Mann Ki Baat more than it is PM Modi’s, in form, in delivery and crucially, in content.