By Aishwarya Mukhopadhyay
73 percent Indians trust the Modi government according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). While the average is 42 percent around the globe, the ratings have gone up for India after the UPA II government’s tenure ended and the BJP rose to power. Though there has been much reporting done on the rising intolerance in India under the NDA government, the popularity of the BJP seems to be just rising. In such a scenario, it becomes important to evaluate the strength of the BJP which is in sharp contrast to the dwindling opposition.
Looking beyond national borders
Modi’s foreign relations signify India’s coming of age in the world – it is a showcase of political clout and glamour, which arguably no Indian PM has achieved in the last five decades. The images of Modi hugging world leaders, shaking their hands, having dinner with them are all part of the PM’s aam admi (common man) motto. More importantly, his frequent visits and warm reception in Western countries also appeases India’s colonial hangover.
He is the most followed world leader on Twitter, beating Donald Trump and this speaks volumes of his ever-increasing popularity. Besides these, the international nuclear and arms deals, oil agreements, trade and energy deals have increased India’s ratings worldwide. Furthermore, Modi’s personal visits to these nations presents a certain gravitas and convinces the people of his involvement.
Making democracy accessible
The launch of programmes like the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ involving local participation for cleanliness has resulted in the constant involvement and awareness of the masses, adding to Modi’s popularity. More importantly, prior to this, no Indian leader has been able to connect to the masses in the way PM Modi has. The use of the radio and having his own show, Mann Ki Baat, to talk to people and inform them of the government’s doing is nothing short of genius. There are over 100 million radio sets in India and in the poorest of the poor villages, where there are no televisions, it is this community radio which is their bridge to the world.
This accessibility is not just limited to PM Modi. There are numerous cases wherein a tweet to Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs or Suresh Prabhu, Railways Minister, reporting an emergency crisis requiring official help, is responded to. This reaffirms the believe in people that indeed the government is ready to listen to their problems and is constantly trying to be of service.
The BJP-RSS confluence
The BJP and RSS’ affiliation is no secret. As RSS grows as an organisation to all corners of the country, they are able to spread the word of BJP’s deeds and help the BJP do a lot of groundwork in remote areas. The BJP’s penetration in the North-East has seen a general rise in the RSS activities there also. A prime example of this is Assam. Assam was being led by a Congress coalition government and it was only in 2016 that the BJP won its first state assembly election there.
The BJP’s brand of nationalism held little importance in Assam but it was the pro-poor work by the RSS which turned out to be game-changer. There has been a gradual rise in RSS sponsored schools and medical centres in rural Assam, which are used by the poor, irrespective of religion. This led to the BJP generating a lot of clout in the region.
Significantly, the RSS and BJP’s idea of integrative humanism, wherein human life needs to be integrated to form a nation, has played in their favour for an increased RSS network in the remote areas means an increased awareness of the problems of the area, and success in projects like rural electrification.
Gujarat leading the way
Modi’s tenure as Gujarat CM from 2001 to 2014 had resulted in the state’s financial, industrial and developmental surge. He had become an icon for development, signifying strong leadership and decisive governance resulting in a series of measures for his people. His pro-industry outlook, better healthcare facilities and provision for drinking and agricultural water makes him the symbol of a man who can bring about efficacy in the bleakest of affairs. Modi’s tenure as CM is seen as a success, in spite of ongoing communal tension, and the people are convinced of his competence as a leader.
The Gujarat example held the BJP in good stead but it was the power of the narrative that they created during the 2014 elections, that led to their victory. The UPA government was riddled and bogged down by the strain of coalitions, scam allegations and lack of a decisive leadership. It was here that BJP struck a chord with the masses. The campaign focused on a “no-corruption” government and promised economic development, more jobs for the youth and more transparency. Three years down the line, the economic development is debatable and the jobs are still expected to come.
However, even in this situation, the BJP seems to be headed for further growth. This is because the BJP keeps on harping on the lost glory of India- and a need for restoring it. According to Happymon Jacob, Associate Professor of Disarmament Studies at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, the BJP works on the triad of glory, achievement and revenge. Use of phrases like “acche din” by Modi communicate that the new government will be a beacon of hope for India. Phrases like “surgical strikes” are also interesting as the word “surgical” denotes a certain degree of expertise. Whether the days after Modi’s victory are truly good or not or the strikes against Pakistan truly beneficial or not is something that only time will tell but the positive message which the terms signify also have an impact on people.
Modi’s success in gaining the trust of the average Indian lies in his ability to create and sustain a narrative which has the entire country on the belief that the Modi sarkar will usher a new era of greatness, marked by strong leadership and efficiency on part of the government.
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