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Understanding Narendra Modi’s media strategy for 2019 Lok Sabha elections

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Many media persons, especially group of 5-star journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt, Shekhar Gupta, Punyaprasun Bajpai, Nidhi Razdaan etc. have been critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi about ‘lack of access’. They say that Modi chooses to keep media away from him and he don’t like to be questioned on government policies like Demonetisation, GST, or speak on intolerance issue.

We shouldn’t forget that media is the 4th pillar of democracy. During the era of previous Congress governments, some media enjoyed the access to government officials or Ministers but they deliberately ignored to question the government. Now their approach has changed.

I think it is fair on part of media to expect access to government to question them on serious issues of the country. But Narendra Modi is not known to play by others’ rules. However, in last few days, we have seen that Prime Minister Modi appeared for Interviews on ‘Zee News’ first and then ‘Times Now’.

So what made him give gave back to back 2 media interviews within a couple of days? Why he decided to come forward and speak-up? Isn’t it something strange? Yes, it is.

There is complete tectonic shift in NaMo Strategy to encounter challenges he is expecting to pop up during 8 state assembly elections in 2018 and subsequently 2019 General Election. There will be no disagreement that the way Modi had used Social Media for 2014 election campaign nobody ever did. Because back then he did not expect much from the mainstream media.

The certain sections of mainstream media had put their all energy and resources to demonize Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minster of Gujrat for 2002 Gujarat riots. Then congress government used all of its channels in media to create the image of “Narendra Modi” as “Anti-Muslim”, “Mass Killer”, “Demons” in the minds of Muslims.

In 2004 generals elections, Congress emerged as largest party with 145 seats against 114 seats in 1999 general elections. BJP got 138 seats (only 7 less than congress) with a loss of 44 seats against 182 seats in 1999 general elections. If we observe closely, Congress had won 31 seats out of 44 seats lost by BJP.

Due to demonization of Narendra Modi for 2002 Gujarat riots, Congress benefited hugely and they returned to power in 2004. Nobody can deny that media had a big and vicious role in this mass propaganda. Although BJP was only 7 seats less than Congress, it couldn’t managed to get alliance partners.

Obviously, almost all the Indian political parties are angels of “secularism” and they didn’t want a “blot” on their image, so they find better to alliance with congress under UPA umbrella. During 2004-2014 Congress governments, many journalists and media group got huge rewards for their loyalties. Then, media lobby started getting stronger enough to play big role of Power-Brokers or negotiators in 2G spectrum case (as per Nira Radia tapes).

The previous governments were used to take media journalists on official foreign visits to different countries and their all the expenses were taken care by the government. Of course, then journalists would have much enjoyed it. Who wouldn’t like to visit different different countries free of charge?

Since Narendra Modi sworn in as Prime Minister on 26th May 2014, he stopped taking media delegation on official foreign visits. I’m sure many journalists have wouldn’t have liked it and found it step-motherly treatment by the Modi government. Many media group may have approached him for interviews but he didn’t entertained them. The only interview he had given was to Times Now’s Arnab Goswami in 2015. After that no interview for 3 years. So, why did he appear for 2 interview back to back within interval of couple of days?

Because, Narendra Modi decided to play on front-foot for upcoming elections. As per poll analysts, in first phase of Gujarat poll, Congress was ahead of BJP but when Narendra Modi started campaign. In second phase with 38 rallies, BJP came back to the track. In Gujarat elections, Congress also benefited by playing caste politics.

If we observe, Narendra Modi wasn’t happy after Gujarat victory while addressing BJP karyakartas at BJP Delhi HQ. He clearly mentioned that the some unsocial elements had tried to bring poison of casteism back to Gujarat and that these elements will continue to do so. The way he had closed his address with slogan of “Jitega bhai jitega Vikas hi jitega” energetically, it was clear that he won’t bow down to Congress’s dirty politics.

Rahul Gandhi has given full support to Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mewani to instigate ‘Dalits’ against BJP government and paint Narendra Modi as “Anti-Dalit”. The trailer of the same we have seen during violent protest in Pune & Mumbai during “Bheema-Koregaon” incidence. Then, “Yuva Hunkar Rally” by Jignesh Mewani in Delhi, but fortunately it got flopped.

Very recently, you might have heard about “different plate” controversy for vegetarians & non-vegetarians at IIT Bombay hostel. The media tried to use prestigious “IIT” institution to score a goal (to create tensions between vegetarians and non-vegetarians, and then dalits-upper castes) but couldn’t succeed. Have you ever thought why Gujarat MLA who won recently, is roaming all over India? Who is funding him? Republic TV has exposed that congress was arranging for Jignesh Mewani’s conferences and his visits. Why he is visiting important educational institutes of India instead if working for his own constituency? He is doing so, because his masters have instructed to do so.

In 2018, there are 8 state elections with 4 big states i.e. Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. 4 out of this 3 states are ruled by BJP. Now, if we closely analyse, 282 seats won by BJP in 2014 general elections, 204 seats were from Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chattisgarh and Bihar. Out of these 7 states, 3 are ready for assembly poll in next few months and then Maharashtra in 2019. It is very much important for BJP to secure their old forts i.e. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh if they want to enter 2019 battlefield confidently. If BJP loses any of these states, Congress and its affiliated media will leave no stone unturned to project it as “descending Modi popularity” or end of Modi wave.

Narendra Modi has sensed that he will have to play the same role as M. S. Dhoni played in 2011 Cricket World Cup final to make India win. He understands that he can’t just rely on spokesperson, karyakartas and netas. He will have to come forward now and counter the fake news spread by some media channels against his governments and fake numbers of unemployment projected by Rahul Gandhi. Many of the scheme started by Modi government is not possible to finish in 5 years and they need at least 10-15 years. Modi very well knows that if Congress returns to centre, very first job they will do is of scrapping of development initiatives stated by him, like they had done in 2004.

But, it will be interesting to see how Narendra Modi uses media platforms to counters fake propaganda against his government. Anyway, he had promised to give his report card of 5 years governance during 2014 campaign. And, Modi has started giving his report card.

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