The bursting bubble

There is a striking link between blowing political bubbles by turning to media for coverage and attaining considerable success.

By Nilofar Suhrawardy (Geopolitics)

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Published: Tue 21 Aug 2012, 10:58 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 3:30 PM

It is one communication tactic at which Indian leaders are at par with their American colleagues. The only difference is that while Indians have command over this in their domestic political terrain, Americans use the same ploy while taking decisions on strategic external issues.

So, there is nothing astonishing about Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi being prepared to be hung, if he is held guilty for 2002 Gujarat carnage. This ‘news’ may not have had the same impact, he had issued a press release or said it at some press conference. Modi has deftly used media for spreading this ‘message’ and has succeeded in gaining considerable coverage.

Modi has succeeded in letting others know that he considers himself as “not guilty” of the 2002-carnage. If others have doubt about his “innocence” and he is proven guilty, the politician is prepared to face death penalty. While the politically motivated media campaign gives the message that Modi wants to reach out to the rest of the country, its impact has been limited. Clearly, it has taken around a decade for Modi to learn that so far his communal-card has helped him politically only in his own state. There is no denying that he and wants to be considered as a prime ministerial candidate by his party and its allies. Verbally absolving himself from any blame in the Gujarat carnage is equivalent to donning a secular mask, so that he is considered for the Delhi office.

But here lies a major communication lapse that Modi apparently is not ready to give considerable importance. True, Modi’s words have created significant waves in the media world and politics. But these do not suggest that his assertions of innocence have been accepted as the ultimate truth. Members of his own party and alliance are not willing to be guided by what Modi has declared through media. They still cannot ignore the hard fact that had the 2002 carnage not tarnished BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA)’s image, the alliance may not have lost the subsequent parliamentary elections. The Indian voters did not want the Gujarat carnage to be repeated elsewhere. Defeat of the NDA actually favoured the return of Congress to the centre.

This reality has now dawned on Modi. The manner in which anti-Muslim communal politicking was played in Gujarat restricted BJP’s continuance in power at the centre. Against this backdrop, Modi’s own party and alliance members are apprehensive of pushing him forward as a national leader and their prime ministerial candidate. They are literally scared that this may only prove politically damaging for their prospects in Lok Sabha. Not surprisingly, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has already announced his opposition to supporting Modi as NDA’s prime ministerial candidate.

Earlier, Nitish did not allow Modi to campaign for NDA in Bihar for assembly elections. The message was simple: Nitish did not want his political credentials to be damaged by Modi stepping in Bihar and antagonizing his secular and Muslim supporters. Nitish’s opposition is just a mild indicator of the fact that Modi’s bubble is beginning to burst.

In this age of communication revolution, it is an easy job for politicians to attract attention by creating a media stir. This is what Modi has sought and has even succeeded in doing. He has, however, failed in making others believe in what he has said. When Gujarat was burning and Muslims were being targeted, Modi was the state chief minister. The phase, viewed as a dark chapter in India’s secular history, cannot be erased by whatever noise Modi makes. The degree to which his political image has been tarnished cannot be cleansed by his attempts to propagate manufactured “news” about his being “not guilty.”

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