Democracy is a form of government wherein the leaders are elected from a pool of potential candidates through the securing of votes. Although the forms of democracy and the methods used to choose candidates are illustrated extensively, no code of conduct is prescribed in order to secure those votes. Through the functioning of our democracy, it is evident that the burgeoning of the masses to rally behind one political head is done through the showcasing of laurels of achievement earned by the candidate. In this light, the candidacy of Narendra Modi was an obvious move. Through this, the BJP secured a candidate that could boast of his long tenure as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, an apt successor to LK Advani.
The country, however, was aware of the candidate’s checkered past, the primary opinion being of his Anti-Muslim image. He had a brand of ‘Hindutva’ as is clear from his long reign as CM of Gujarat, being hailed as a ‘savior of the Hindus’. Modi was not seen as a man worthy of being the Prime Minister of the nation. Thus, the BJP sought to re-brand the man to be one seen as the ‘Only Candidate’.
The branding started with the publishing of a black and white image of Modi holding a broom and cleaning the floor (an RTI filed by an activist group later found that the picture was photoshopped), branding him as a self-made man, rising from a humble background, a man that the people of India could relate to as he had brought himself up to the steps of success through hard work and perseverance. The BJP also moved to tackle the taint of the 2002 riots through the focus of the publicity team on the development of Gujarat. The Modi Era was turned into a narrative through the use of the Vibrant Gujarat Campaign to showcase the developments made thought Modi’s tenure.
The final nail on the coffin was to show the Congress in bad light by digging up past scams and deficiencies in the government, showing them as corrupt and feeble as compared to the banded image of Modi being incorruptible, self-made and the only candidate that could be capable of bringing development and prosperity to India.
During his address to the of students at Sri Ram College of Commerce, he said, “This nation is being ruined by vote bank politics. This nation requires development politics. If we switch to politics of development, we will soon be in a position to bring about lasting change and progress”. Ironically, vote bank politics under the Modi government has assumed new dimensions.
In the 2014 elections, India voted for a mere image created by the BJP government to rally votes in their favour, and not for Narendra Modi. Through the use of Social Media, the party as sought to change the narrative, bending, and often breaking, the rules of ethics in the creation of an image of a stalwart and incorruptible Modi, misrepresenting to the masses of his true image and thereby rallying mass support.
The promotion of fake messages by the government and the desperate attempts to control the narrative and hide real facts shows just how far the party is willing to go to remain in power. The BJP Official Twitter handle had tweeted pictures of different countries (like the most recent pictures of the Poland motorways), showing them as achievements made by PM Modi.
Researchers have found that political parties have been using bots to retweet, like and share their content, allowing them to reach more audiences and generate trends. Through a purge of the fake accounts, 300,000 followers of Narendra Modi and 17,000 followers of Rahul Gandhi were lost, showing the widespread nature of the political parties trying to control the narratives.
The BJP, according to a survey published on the National Herald, is accused to have spent over 600 Crore Rupees on elections and propaganda in the year 2016-2017. They have also been accused of using the ‘Accidental Prime Minister’ as propaganda promoting their own interests as a party as it shows Manmohan Singh as a victim of the Congress’ internal politics. Although this is clearly not an exhaustive list of all the efforts made by the Modi government and barely touches upon the instances of the unethical political strategies of this Congress, one thing is painfully clear, this election year will be a turbulent one, filled with fake news and a race to rally masses. It is not clear from our vantage point as to who has the lead in the race, but we can only hope that this time, when India moves to vote, we will be voting for an individual that will actually attempt to make good on the promises made to the country, and not for a mere image created to win the race.
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