Vance Packard wrote a classic book, The Hidden Persuaders, as far back as in 1957. He drew attention to the consumer research and the psychological techniques deployed by big corporate industries to manipulate an unthinking public in order to sell their products. He claimed that the techniques utilized by big business were so effective that people were compelled to respond positively. Even in those early years when the book was written the author speculated on how the manipulative techniques could be used to promote or destroy politicians. That was written half a century ago. The world has changed. The power and reach of the corporate world is far greater today. The nexus created between big business, politicians and big media is symbiotic today. All this bears recall in the current politics of India.
Consider the present turmoil related to corruption. Mr. Arvind Kejriwal has succeeded in focusing the nation’s attention on political corruption as nobody before him. Oddly enough, he has accomplished this through a soap opera enacted by demonstrators reviving corruption charges exposed by others earlier that are only now receiving the widest television coverage. Even the corruption charges revived thus far appear to be selective because the most lethal charges against the most powerful politicians have until now been ignored. The current corruption controversy relates to the conduct of BJP President Mr. Nitin Gadkari. In this case much new information unknown to the general public earlier has surfaced. But there is a curious aspect about this which merits attention.
Mr. Kejriwal made his allegations against Mr. Gadkari on October 17th. His allegations were not particularly serious. But then the media took up the issue. India’s most powerful media channel went to town and its reporters scoured the country to dig up evidence against Mr. Gadkari that was really damaging. Subsequently the TV channel in question has launched a blistering round-the-clock campaign against Mr. Gadkari. As for Mr. Robert Vadra, he is forgotten history! The curious fact is that while Mr. Kejriwal made his allegation in the third week of October, the media channel had started working on its probe as early as the 1st of August when it filed a Right to Information (RTI) application demanding information about Mr. Gadkari’s business dealings. So who is writing the script, Mr. Kejriwal or the media outlet? It may be neither of them of course. Consider the overall political context.
There is a strong move to make Mr. Narendra Modi the BJP prime ministerial candidate in the next general election in which going by current trends the Congress is not expected to do too well. The strongest impediment to Mr. Modi’s candidacy was Mr. Nitin Gadkari. After the corruption charges leveled against him Mr. Gadkari’s continuance as BJP President and possible future prime ministerial candidate have been irretrievably damaged. Elements within the BJP had earlier started an unprecedented overt campaign against Mr. Gadkari. Much more significantly the British government brazenly intervened in the current poll campaign in Gujarat to restore amiable relations with Mr. Modi after ten years of shunning him due to his alleged role in the Gujarat riots. China and Japan had earlier welcomed the BJP leader. Who, then, is the ultimate ghost writer of India’s current political script?
Lest I am misunderstood let me make clear that it matters not a jot to me who wins and who loses from among the current political leaders. Nor do I imply that if there are indeed any hidden persuaders manipulating our politics they necessarily have any evil intentions. They could well be India’s benefactors. It is just that I feel uncomfortable when plagued by doubt that I am not privy to the whole truth. I expect that most readers would share my feelings.