India’s politics has truly changed under Narendra Modi’s BJP. The deepening roots of Democracy are being uprooted and are being smeared with a pesticide of superficiality.
As the dust settles on the Karnataka Elections and the dramatic turns of events thereafter, I wondered ‘What is it in the BJP’s narrative, which makes them win? The Congress party might have clinched the Karnataka cliffhanger, but there are deeper questions which need to be answered. Since, I am student of Communication; the ‘Narrative’ part of it made me introspect. ‘Messaging’- is the key and how has the BJP been able to convince people through it?
The answer lies in a short personal story.
I may not come from a political family or lineage, but whenever we had any dining table conversations on current affairs and politics, my elders always made a point that never believe anything unless you apply your own mind, especially when you have certain doubts about it. Like all educated middle class homes, we were also taught to question and debate.
At our joint family bungalow in Kanpur, near the driveway, my great grandfather had built a temple with small marble idols; six of them- A Shivalinga in black stone, placed in a square-shaped recessed space, which could facilitate the ‘Jal Abhishek’ on Lord Shiva; whose drain internally reached to a ‘Kele Ka Ped’ (Banana Tree); Marble idols of – Lord Ganesha, Goddess Parvati, Lord Kartikeya, Lord Hanuman & Nandi.
Nobody can forget that day of 21st September, 1995, when the stone idols of Lord Ganesha started ‘drinking’ milk out of the spoon. 23 years ago, I was in Class fourth, coming back from school, I still remember it very clearly, I saw a long queue at our driveway; of people coming from outside with milk packets and glasses to offer milk to the idols in our temple and I could not believe my eyes. Lord Ganesha was sipping in the milk, I was told.
Since childhood, my grandmother inculcated this habit in us to take care of the idols, I used to clean up the temple, remove the dried flowers and leaves, daily wash it, ‘make them wear their clothes’ and even lay the idols to rest by placing a small blanket on them, in winters. I used to love it this daily ritual. Also, I developed a special bond with the Bhagwan. Praying to the God and carrying out the rituals were not binding on me and nobody ever forced to do it. Also, I made it a point to celebrate all festivals of all religions- Be it decorating the Christmas tree and having a joint family fete with games and goodies to celebrating Eid with delicacies gifted by our neighbours- Khan Sa’ab’s family; or be it national occasions such as Gandhi Jayanti or even paying tribute to Munshi Prem Chand on his Birth Anniversary. Believe it or not, I made it a point to celebrate everything.
Coming back to ‘Ganesha idol drinking milk- mass hysteria’, on that very same day, I saw on news, scientists attributing this phenomenon to capillary action and presenting detail theories of how this happened. I was satisfied by the explanation and many years later, I found out that this predominantly urban hysteria was created by the RSS. It was their first successful attempt on mass rumuor mongering.
The present day socio-political landscape of India is now much more advanced than this lone experiment. The mediums have changed, but the modus operandi remains the same. A ‘Whats App University’ has successfully (sic) been created, photoshop images, using social media, concocted videos, fake news, using even mass media to plant wrong stories- everything trick is being used.
Thousands of factories of lies are being now opened daily to spread rumuors and advance the RSS-BJP agenda. The success of the ‘Ganesha drinking milk’ experiment have made them to scale up their agenda, a zillion more times, using sophisticated means and technology to spread lies. However, one common thread still forms the basis of this propaganda machinery- Emotive Issues.
Each and every propaganda has to be ‘Emotion driven- Nationalistic emotion, Religious Emotion, Political Emotion, Societal Emotion….’ It has to touch one simple emotive chord and your message is through. It does not matter, how non-scientific, irrational, superficial, bigoted, communal, false, fake, denigrated or divisive your ‘emotional theme’ is. It has to just bring out a ‘Call for action’ in favour of the BJP-RSS. That is it!
Narendra Modi’s politics is precisely based on this- Emotive issues. Issues that the BJP espouses do not have any deeper effect tangible effect in our lives, but our highly emotive in nature and are completely superficial and shallow in nature.
Sample some of these gems (sic), only used in Karnataka are:-
§ “Congress politicians (Rahul Gandhi) should learn patriotism through the Mudhol dog (hounds) of Karnataka”;
§ “Jawaharlal Nehru and V K Krishna Menon mistreated General Thimayya, after the 1948 war with Pakistan”;
§ “ Congress party insulted Field Marshal Cariappa”;
§ “When Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Batukeshwar Dutt, Veer Savarkar, greats like them were jailed fighting for the country's independence, did any Congress leader go to meet them?”
§ Referring to a popular vector graphic made by a young artist from Kerala, PM Modi said “The Congress’ ecosystem doesn’t even tolerate the magnificent art of Karan Acharya whose Hanuman captured the imagination of the entire country. Unable to digest its success, the Congress tried miring it in a controversy. There is no iota of democracy in the minds of Congress members";
§ “For 15 minutes, without taking a paper in your hand, can you please talk about the achievements of your government in Karnataka. You can speak in any language as you please- English, Hindi or your Mother tongue (Italian)"
All these are full of vitriol, no real substance and are plain distortion of history. But Modi’s admirers’ love it. Many political commentators shower praises on Modi and call these as ‘intimidating’, ‘high voltage’, ‘passionate’ and what not. But the simple fact remains that Narendra Modi’s ‘messaging’ is purely based on the RSS brand of rumour mongering and spreading lies- camouflaged in an ‘emotive theme’.
BJP has made India’s political discourse utterly shallow and superbly superficial. If we carefully check the number of debates that happen on our television channels, most happen on emotive issues – Hindu-Muslim, India-Pakistan, Caste division, Communal Conundrums and so on. A deliberate design to feed India’s young minds into such superficial trappings is being fostered by the RSS-BJP.
Since attention spans are less, knowledge is trigger driven, books are becoming increasingly redundant and there is no sense of history left- this phenomenon is now at its peak. ‘Headlines Management’ is the key and ‘Spins’ attributed to ‘Sources’ fill up the news-cycle! Who cares about issues of women safety, when you have ‘Triple Talaq Bill’ as the greatest BJP achievement to showcase? *
No wonder, in a letter dated 7th December, 1947- India’s First Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru wrote this about the RSS to his Chief Ministers:-
“Some provincial governments have taken against periodicals for promoting hatred between communities. Probably the newspapers of the R.S.S. are more to blame in this matter than any other newspapers or periodicals outside Pakistan. It is amazing how they carry on this communal propaganda in its extremist form”
“I have some knowledge of the way the Nazi Movement developed in Germany. It attracted by its superficial trappings and strict discipline considerable number of lower middle class young men and women who are normally not too intelligent and for whom life appeared to offer little to attract them. And so they drifted towards the Nazi party because its policy and programme, such as they were, were simple, negative and did not require an active effort of the mind. The Nazi party brought Germany to ruin and I have little doubt that if these tendencies are allowed to spread and increase in India, they would do enormous injury to India. No doubt India would survive. But she would be grievously wounded and would take a long time to recover.”
Unfortunately, Pandit Nehru’s prophecy about ‘Superficial Trappings’ is soon coming true in BJP ruled India!
*Aside: Do you know that No BJP Government has ever brought a single reformative bill when it comes to Women Safety or Rights, ever? All Women Reforms Laws in this country are brought by the Congress! But no one cares about that!