Narendra Modi

Topics: Narendra Modi, Bharatiya Janata Party, Gujarat Pages: 5 (1625 words) Published: August 25, 2013
Narendra Modi: The Grand Illusion?

There may be general consensus that the election in Gujarat is a no contest but the jury is still out on whether to credit Narendra Modi's performance as Chief Minister or credit his massive and expensive propaganda machine, which his critics say has vastly inflated his rather limited successes. The Modi PR machine never sleeps, but in election time, goes into overdrive. There are his surreal, and much publicised 3D speeches, 29 Vikas Raths equipped with projectors, and 10 LED Raths, each with a 110" screen, which roam interior villages. His personal website has been given a spanking new election upgrade. As has his other social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook page and Youtube channel. The frequency of advertisements on TV, print and online have multiplied. And he also has his own TV channel: NaMo Gujarat, which was launched just before the elections. But who runs this for Mr Modi, and who pays for it? As with most things related to Mr Modi, the answers are not easy to come by. The Modi spin machine appears to use a mix of official, quasi-official and private players, with fragmented responsibilities, a structure that allows for grey areas of accounting and accountability. One such hub is run in a corporate tower in Ahmedabad at the offices of Maulik Bhagat, who runs a software and media firm. Mr Bhagat is only 27 years old, but his father is a BJP party headquarter fixture. Also part of this firm is Modi confidante Parindu Bhagat. He's a new, but integral part of the Modi spin team, creating the concept for a series of popular 'kabbadi' ads, meant to highlight the leaderless state of the Gujarat Congress. Mr Bhagat says he is also coordinating the chief minister's mammoth online and social media campaign. But at the BJP headquarters, Rajeeka Kacheeria, who heads the party's IT cell, seems to suggest that she is coordinating a similar effort. The confusion over who runs Mr Modi's online operations extends to questions about the costs as well. Mr Bhagat admits that while social media is low cost, running websites and producing ads and buying ad space comes at a cost. He says he doesn't have any idea of budgets. There is equal secrecy about the other big expense: the 3D projections. The opposition claims they were quoted figures of R 5-6 crore per projection. If that were true, by the end of the election Mr Modi would have spent R 20 crore on the 3D visuals alone. But Mr Mani Shankar, the director of the projections says that his lips are sealed and he cannot talk about the deal. The same opaqueness surrounds the running of NaMo TV. All that is visible is its content: a mix of speeches, talk shows and promotional features on the government. NaMo TV and the 3D projections are run by Parag Shah, an ex-member of the chief minister's office. Mr Shah refused to come on camera. But then details of government spending have always been hard to come by. The publicity department of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, which Mr Modi controls, in its annual budget for 2011-12 has set aside R 1 crore for hiring a PR firm in Delhi to showcase the Gujarat growth story. But expenses of different campaigns are spread out amongst different ministries, making it impossible to pinpoint ownership or a complete figure. 1/3


Narendra Modi: The Grand Illusion? |

RTI activists like Trupti Shah and Rohit Prajapati describe how they were repeatedly stonewalled when they tried to get details of spending on some of Mr Modi's pet schemes. Their RTI application was also about the government's claim of providing employment to 65,000 people during the Swami Vivekananda Employment Week. She said in reality the figure was much less. They were also not provided with details on the travelling expenditure of the chief minister and other ministers. As an apparent bid to show transparency in election fundraising, Mr...
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