M vs. M
Big Chest or Big Heart
Modi, the Campaigner
Matter of IQ
H G Wells – does the name ring a bell? – was a novelist as well as a prominent Labourite socialist, famous in the first half of the twentieth century. He authored a science fiction novella entitled The Invisible Man. It is about a scientist who devotes himself to research into optics and invents a way to change a body's refractive index to that of air so that it absorbs and reflects no light and thus becomes invisible.
Even Wells couldn’t, in his wildest dreams, imagine Rahul Gandhi going miles ahead of him to create invisible development projects –schools and colleges and hospitals and – and hold your breath! – Metal-surfaced roads that cannot be seen by the naked eye. No wonder the Congress Party is distributing specially designed pairs of glasses – Wonder Glass, which allows people to see development work done by Rahul Gandhi in his constituency. They had to do it because locals as well as visitors complained that they were unable to see any development in Amethi. So, the need to develop this high-tech visionary device Wonder Glass – which will help Congress voters to look beyond Modi-spun mayajaal.
Wonder Glass allows a person to see even at night. However, Congress Party stoutly denies that they used night vision technology in the glass. “It actually lets people to see that we have electricity in Amethi, and thus they can see things even when it’s dark,” explained a local Congress veteran.
The most notable feature of the Wonder Glass is that once a person wears it, he or she cannot see any potholes on road. That’s not all. Semi-naked malnourished children look healthily well-fed.
Credit for the invention goes, it is said, to Kapil Sibal under whose active supervision the Science & Technology division of the Congress party had been working day and night on the project. Of course, the budgetary outlay of the project is a top State Secret.
M vs. M
Never known for restrained speech, unleashing a vicious attack on Modi after he dared question the “big money” fetched by her mediocre water color paintings, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee labelled her Gujarat counterpart “devil and a blood thirsty rioter”. The country would be “ruined” if he comes to power and the “architect” of Gujarat riots would drench Bengal in an “ocean of blood”, she thundered in Kolkata.
Her Trinamool Congress demanded a public apology from Modi for doubting the integrity of Banerjee. Regarding Modi’s allegation that she was indulging in vote-bank politics by ignoring non-Bengalis and laying the red carpet for Bangladeshis, Banerjee said he did not know history.
“He is polarizing Bengalis and non-Bengalis. After shedding blood in Gujarat, does he want to unleash bloodbath in Bengal...” she said.
I’m afraid Didi is being extremely short-sighted by downplaying the issue of influx of Bangaleshis. Only the purblind cannot imagine what problems this influx will create.
Big Chest or Big Heart
“A 56-inch chest is not needed to run this country. One needs a big heart. To run this country one does not need to unleash the cruel force of the government but depend on one’s moral convictions,” shrieked Priyanka Gandhi campaigning for her mother and brother. Modi, you’ll recall, had boasted at his Gorakhpur rally that it would take someone with “a 56-inch chest” to convert Uttar Pradesh into Gujarat. Of course he was having a dig at Netaji of UP rather than prescribing chest sizes of future leaders.
The BJP retaliated by releasing a CD and a booklet titled “Damaad Shree”. The video shows a snazzily dressed Vadra riding a fancy bike and working out, contrasting it with poverty-struck farmers whose land had been taken by him. It accuses Robert Vadra of striking corrupt land deals in Haryana and Rajasthan, allegedly under the patronage of the Gandhis.
“Someone talks about a big heart. Whose big heart helped Robert Vadra establish his empire in such a short span with an initial investment of Rs 1 lakh?” party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad asked.
Priyanka brought down the level of debate by several notches. She reacted to the release of the booklet and video by comparing the BJP to “panicky rats” and saying she wouldn’t be scared. Speaking in Mahrajganj area of Rae Bareli, she said that she knew the BJP would resort to lies before polls. “Yeh baukhlaye hue choohon ki tarah bhag rahe hain… Jitna karna hai kar lein. Main kisi se nahi darti. Main inki vinashak, nakaratmak aur sharmnak rajniti pe bolti rahungi. Aur karein, chup nahin rahungi, bolti rahungi (They are running around like panicky mice… They can do as much as they want. I am not scared of anyone. I will keep on speaking about their destructive, negative and shameful politics. Let them do more. I will not sit quiet, I will continue to speak).”
Modi’s riposte was mature: “It is natural that a daughter would like to defend her mother. A sister would like to defend her brother. I do not have any problems with that.”
Asked how the charges against Vadra would be dealt with if he came to power, Modi said he didn’t believe in the politics of vendetta and that the law would take its course. “But that has to happen in an institutional manner as per due process without interference from any quarter. Such actions should never be guided by political considerations,” he said.
Modi, the Campaigner
It must be said to Modi’s credit that after 2002 he systematically launched initiatives to attract investment after the violence and an earthquake. This has been corroborated by impartial authorities.
“Under Modi’s regime, there has been significant improvement in infrastructure growth, significant improvement in industrialization, as well as agriculture,” said Jahangir Aziz, senior Asia economist at JPMorgan. That is one side of the BJP stalwart – the development-oriented Modi.
Give it to the credit of NaMo how he almost single-handedly turned the 2014 Lok Sabha polls into a presidential form of elections, pitching himself as the PM candidate. It is also for the first time that American-style product marketing principles have been used in our elections. Regardless of whether it created “a tsunami, a wave or a ripple”, there is indeed a lesson in this for the future.
How successful Modi’s singular campaign is, will be known in two weeks from now, but the contrast between his and the Congress’ campaign couldn’t be starker. Modi deftly revved up his campaign long before the election dates were announced. In the last six months, he’s addressed more than 400 rallies; the BJP’s advertising, all of it focusing sharply on one man, has been like a relentless series of carpet-bombings; there’s been copious use of hi-tech aids such as simulcasts of his campaigns using 3D holography and real-time feedback analysis from key constituencies; and, not to forget, an eager media has generously covered the blitz, particularly the TV news channels, which have lapped up feed from every meeting he’s addressed and telecast it live.
In contrast, the Congress’ campaign has been very tepid indeed. Its star campaigner and vice-president Rahul Gandhi can hardly match the demagogic yet arresting oratory of Modi, who skilfully customizes his messages for the audience he’s addressing with appropriate tweaks depending on the composition of his rally. Rahul Gandhi, comparatively, is a poor public speaker and even though he’s addressed nearly 100 rallies since March 1, his oratory isn’t impressive. He tends to shriek.
Questions have been asked about the BJP’s huge outlays – on rallies, advertising and merchandising, and the sources of election funding. The Congress’ promotional efforts have been low key, so much so that, at least in the beginning, it even opted for black and white print ads, which got lost in the clutter. Is it because, convinced that they are going to lose, why not save money for the rainy days ahead?
It is almost as if the two parties are fighting two different elections – one here and now and the other in the past. The BJP has been quick to adopt technology, modern marketing and new media tools to take things to a new level, while the Congress’ campaign has been retro-styled and old-fashioned. Should BJP win on May 16, its electioneering techniques will change the complexion of future elections in India.
One of the most traded words in current political debates is crony capitalism. It describes an economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials. It stands out for favoritism in the distribution of permits and grants by those in power to their cronies who, in turn, return the favors in all sorts of dubious ways.
India isn’t the only victim of this malaise of capitalism. The Japanese call it keiretsu; the Koreans say chaebol; the Russian word is semibankirshchina, and the Americans label the cozy arrangement among industrialists, bankers and Government officials.
Matter of IQ
Rahul Gandhi was going on a plane trip to New York. When the attendant came by and asked for his ticket, she told Rahul Gandhi, “I’m sorry. Your ticket isn’t for first class. Could you please move to your seat.”
Rahul Gandhi replied, “I’m a Gandhi, hailing from a very distinguished family of India. I’m young, and I’m going to New York on my way to India to become the country’s Prime Minister.”
The attendant said,” All this is fine, mister, but you’ll have to go to your seat.” Rahul Gandhi responded again: “I’m a Gandhi, hailing from a very distinguished family of India. I’m young, and I’m going to New York on my way to India to become the country’s Prime Minister.”
This conversation continued, always with the Rahul Gandhi’s same response. The attendant got so upset that she went to the captain of the craft and told him about the recalcitrant passenger. The captain went over and whispered something in Rahul Gandhi’s ear and he immediately got up and went to his allotted seat.
The perplexed attendant asked the captain how he got the stubborn Rahul Gandhi to move. He said, “I just told him that this part of the plane wasn’t going to New York.”