The 2014 General Elections had undoubtedly taken not just India but also the world by storm. It was for the first time that a non-Congress party had swept the polls of the world’s biggest democracy with clear majority (It took 30 years for India to bring a stable Govt at the centre), taking even Modi’s staunch supporters by surprise.
Two years ago, when the Modi phenomenon was gaining ground, as a keen observer of the psychological aspects of politics, I was curious to find out if it was a propaganda or reality and as a result, presented a series of analysis articles in 2013:
Although I was able to decipher the Modi phenomenon due to his accomplishments in Gujarat, the way in which his election campaign unfolded in 2014 had taken everybody including me by surprise because never before had India witnessed such a well organized, strategic, innovative election campaign which was admittedly in the form of a US Presidential campaign. After elections, there were tons of articles throughout the cyberspace by political pundits who mostly based on hearsay tried to decipher how Modi (and Amit Shah) engineered the campaign to their advantage:
However, an authorized & detailed analysis (in the form of a case study or book) was still pending. Out of the blue, a few weeks ago, I came across the book “Modi Effect: Insider Narendra Modi’s campaign to transform India” authored by Lance Price (a popular political analyst who had covered several election campaigns throughout the world) which looked promising and a quick glance at its chapter titles suggested that it was the book I had been longing for the past few months.
As with most of the western authors, Lance Price unhesitatingly admits that he is a leftist and given a choice, he would never vote for Modi.
In a way, it is a good practice (I wish all authors follow such practice) to declare their prejudices & political leanings beforehand so that the reader can neutralize their writings accordingly during the course of the book.
For example, as with any other leftist, the author somehow manages to bring the narrative back to 2002 riots several times throughout the book. In fact, there are 35 references to the 2002 riots in the book.
However, despite his left leaning and the usual ranting of 2002 riots, I was surprised to find that he has given credit wherever it is due. It looks like he has tried very hard to look at things from a neutral perspective and mainly go by what has been said by “party insiders” & news anchors. Since the party insider would be inclined towards Modi and the news anchors hostile towards Modi, as a result the author might have exercised sufficient scrutiny to present it from a practically neutral stand.
One part which might really surprise the reader (especially those who are active in social media) is that the English news journalists & anchors who have always been harsh towards Modi & RSS seem to be very candid with the author, contradicting their own public stand over several organizations & issues. Here is an example of how a senior journalist gives a completely different picture of RSS.
Coming to the actual content of the book, the author has put a lot of effort in analyzing the entire spectrum of the election campaign, starting from the ground level workers to all the way upto the top level organizers, covering everything from social media, chai pe charcha campaigns, Mission 272+, Niti Digital, 3D holograms, NaMo merchandise and many more. It was nice to find a mention of my friend Tajinder Singh Bagga in the book for his initiatives under “Modi-fying India”.
Coming to the narrative style of the book, it is simple, straightforward and feels like a running commentary, with several anecdotes not just from “campaign insiders” but also from Modi himself. Following is an interesting revelation by Modi and his take on Arvind Kejriwal which explains why he had never bothered to respond to any of the questions or debates raised by the AAP leader and his unwillingness to even meet Kejriwal when he had visited Gujarat for a 3 day tour to evaluate the “Gujarat development model”.
A significant part of the book is dedicated to the strategy used by Modi to handle mainstream media which was usually hostile, but was desperate for TRPs. Modi was the kind of leader who “forgives but never forgets” and that is very much evident in his relationship with NDTV.
Although this book is about the 2014 election campaign, the author manages to seamlessly present Modi’s personal life as well, including his daily habits, controversies surrounding his marital life, addiction to internet/technology etc, albeit in a very professional tone without much prejudice.
The most exciting parts of the book is undoubtedly about Modi’s organizational abilities, his persistence & strength throughout the rallies (437 rallies), his encouragement to use technology wherever possible and his political acumen in not only taking on the Congress party, but also cleverly handling rebels within his own party (including LK Advani), while carefully treading on a fragile path, managing the Sangh Parivar & BJP, along with the aspirations of millions of young Indians at the same time.
This is a highly recommended read, not only for those with political tastes but also for those who are interested in convergence of concepts & ideas. The 2014 General Elections (Modi’s campaign in particular) epitomizes the convergence of technologies (social media, holograms, GPS fitted vehicles), marketing (ads, slogans), branding (masks, merchandise for brand Modi) and hard work (rallies, door to door campaigns, backroom strategies).