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Modi 2.014

15 Jan

The Modi Effect: Inside Narendra Modi’s Campaign To Transform India , Lance Price, Hodder & Stroughton, 2015 

The Indian election of 2014 will long be remembered as a turning point in Indian politics and society. I have written about a previous book on the election The Indian Election of 2014 so was wondering whether Lance Price’s book would make me think any differently. Price a journalist and ex Number 10 communications manager is given access to Modi but provides at times a critical assessment of the man. More critical than the 45 page comic Bal Narendra which painted the childhood of Modi as a heroic saint saving drowning boys, wrestling crocodiles and folding his clothes neatly. It comes across as an Indian Enid Blyton.

Modi is a populist and a fairly odd one at that. He kept his wedding a secret for 40 odd years, though is still ambiguous about the status of it and his wife. His Government it seems is intent on replacing Mahatma Gandhi with Narendra Modi and the election campaign illustrated some of that thinking. Modi is marketed as being the outsider, or rather one of you not one of them. So long as you are okay with militant Hindu nationalism, and they are Congress,muslims and catholics. The cloud hovering over Modi and his role in the Gujurati riots never seems to be removed. He seems to have re-invented himself though and risen above the disaster of the 2004 national election.

The election took the BJP into Government on its own, a remarkable achievement in Inidan politics. The BJP though is its own coalition, made up of various sized cell groups. The cow protection cell, the naturopathy cell and the weavers cell being just 3 of them. Price looks at the rather more sinister support role of the Rashhtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which is like a 1970s TUC to the Labour Government of the day. A massive interest/lobby/control group behind the BJP. It operated a ground campaign for Modi that was unlikely to have been disinterested.

Modis cult of the strongman was perhaps the major theme of the election. (56 inch chest ) His leadership vs Rahul Gandhi. Gandhi the non-existant captain. Modi the man. Modi the t-shirt image, the plastic doll, the alarm spray superman. Modi the crocodile whisperer and chai wallah. Gandhi the disapointment to his mother. Modi used disparaging Muslim terms against Gandhi at some points. You dont need to be an expert in Indian politics to see the negative attack stance of this. Modi rides off criticism and scandal like, well like Donald Trump. The ” snoopgate” affair being just one example. The Gujurati police were undertaking surveillance on a young student in great detail at his behest. Her father was worried about her ? Oh ok. But then criminal activity is no bar to success in Indian politics. 13 of Modi’s 45 ministers were facing pre-existing criminal charges including rape,attempted murder and intimidation. If only Super Modi could sort it out.

img_5239Theres a great story of one of his Ministers Smriti Irani, she was something of a media personality and had in 2004 decided to fast to death in protest at Modi. Now he describes her as his younger sister and that the whole fasting to death thing was a faux pas. As faux pas go, thats not insignificant. I presume she has stopped the fast ? In her new role she has added six new yoga departments to Indian universities. Long live Irani.

Much has been made of Modi in 3D. Price details many of the technical problems that this raised and also the juxtaposition that at the same time as his virtual appearances he was also big box office in the flesh. Crowds of people came to see him in the flesh, often at risk to life. And while the election was at times run on a social media agenda, perhaps unlike any other in the world before it, this aspect was more self-fulfilling than transformative. A great example being the selfie with Modi, it was more Pokemon go than a new way of doing political narrative. The selfie is the selfie, rather than the embarrassing off the cuff snap it is a processed often formal event. Though Price tells us it isn’t really in the use of technology that Modi connects to the youth, it is in his ability to express optimism and hope. Indeed his campaign slogan was “ Good Days are Coming “ ( though he seems to have stolen this off his predecessor.

Never forget that the Modi who electrified his province stood to end open defecation. India may have gone hi-tech but its as consistent as any other political future we are offered!

The Indian Election of 2014

20 Apr

Chai Wallah – that’s an insult right , well yes but it was turned into a great political advantage by the recipient. Suddenly you could have a cup of tea and a chat with the Man himself. Tea that symbol of the great British need to sell things, rather like the FPP electoral system bequeathed to India.

The 2014 Indian election was something else. Virtual

in 3d. Here, there, everywhere.

yet at the same time as running one of the most tech savvy targeted campaigns of all time the BJP also ran the most basic stereotypical cricket ads. The character look like pre World Series cricketers. The messages are anti-congress but using the World T20 cricket buzz to make some points a captain that doesn’t turn up , bribing officials etc. You get the message. The voters certainly did.

But here’s some interesting things. The BJP trounced everyone and everything. This was a landslide. I don’t mind telling you that I fear Modi and the BJP. Theres an undercurrent there, its confusing but also clear. e-government and price controls? An anti-immigration, anti gay Pro Hindu party. If ever an Indian Government were to invade Pakistan one fancies it would have BJP written across it. In a country where access to cooking gas cylinders was an issue, Modi lead the charge for satellite technology.

A party leader was found to have suggested Nurses were ugly,while a BJP candidate was filmed handing out money. One model posed semi-nude to support Modi whilst another completely nude for Gandhi. A nation of 800 million voters wondered why. It lead to the wonderful statement ” The BJP has decided to take legal action against models who try to make a name by defaming the party”.

A fifth of the candidates were facing some form of legal action. 186 of the 541 elected were facing charges 9 of murder and 17 of attempted murder.

The campaign though may change international politics a huge concentrated set of micro campaigns, yet at the same time Trumps roller brush seems to have made everyone think again. A strong Government among dodgy politicians, who laugh at not with you, Don’t be gay or nude…but have cup of tea.

Khaki Election 1900

18 Jan

The British General Election of 1900 was something of a watershed. The last election held in Victorian Britain. The last election where the sitting Prime Minister did not campaign. The first election to elect Winston Churchill. The first “Khaki” election. The last Election that saw Liberal Unionism as a force. The first election for the Labour Party.The election that cashed in on a military victory that then bounced.

The Conservative and Unionist Coalition were defending a strong position. Having seen a marked upturn in economic production due to the boer war , and seen a marked upturn in military fortune Lord Salisbury decided , after “only” 5 years that Parliament should be dissolved. He was cashing in , going early, cutting and running. Turning the enthusiasm for chocolate tins with the Queen on, into votes. Voting took place over a month in September / October 1900. The Government had suffered a number of by-election losses prior to the war , but in the early stages of the war its popularity rose. Then as military action took its toll and Britain seemed , well at risk of defeat, its fortunes dipped. By the time Mafeking was relieved the Government was ascending.

Politically the war was the issue above all others, and the Liberals were not even clearly opposed to it. The Government appeared united , the opposition less so. Joseph Chamberlain, the main architect of the war in Government, was keen to capitalise on the coming military victory and drive a wedge through the opposition. Salisbury though was less enthusiastic about a “snap” election – Parliament ran for 7 years back then.

The Liberals couldn’t contest 163 constituencies, while the unionists contested all bar 22. This was a remarkable start for the Government. Salisbury  was a declining star and played little role in the campaign ( and nor should he as someone who couldn’t vote or wasn’t a candidate ). Chamberlain though did. He portrayed factions of the Liberal party as being pro-boer. Every seat lost was one for the boer. Quite how he said this is still the subject of some debate, but the message was heard. The Liberals though were clearly split between those who supported the war, those opposed to it and those who couldn’t really figure it out at all.

For the Liberals  Chamberlain was a good target. The man who had divided the party and alleged corruption in the last Liberal Government was someone whose family manufactured munitions. As Lloyd George remarked ” as the empire expands, the Chamberlains contract”.

The Unionists increased their majority from dissolution, the first time this had happened in 35 years. The dominance over the political scene of the coalition was remarkable.They received over 50% of the vote and over 60% of the seats.

The interesting aspects of the 1900 election are that it was a purely political affair. No great issue divided the parties or required a mandate, unlike many 19th century elections. The dissolution was focussed on capitalising on the Governments position and portraying the opposition as being anti-empire and pro-boer, simply because they weren’t the Government.

By 1906 the Unionists were in disarray, split by the ever probing Chamberlain over tariff reform. The Liberals were back in Government, winning a landslide, Queen Victoria had died, the Labour Party were here to stay and Salisbury had long gone too.