A biopic and a web series on Narendra Modi scheduled for release in middle of general elections are indeed new and innovative ways of spreading propaganda.
Whether it causes violation of model code of conduct in any ways is for Election commission to ascertain. With dates being announced it has the required apparatus at its disposal to enquire into the financing of a propaganda project this close to election.
But does it have the guts? Keeping in mind twice in less than two years it plied by the will of the highest echelons of power, first when it deferred and delayed Gujarat elections so that Narendra Modi could do away with his pre poll cameo, and second when it waited to announce the dates for general elections so that the Prime Minister had finished his Bharat bhraman past last month.
Regardless, the move to digitize a reincarnation of Modi’s past besides being abreast with times, also rebuffs the traditional idea that it’s easier to sway rural voters by acts in manipulation, or that the urban voter makes a more informed choice. Needless to say, the village folks have been traditionally considered intellectually malleable and morally ductile in that argument.
The above strategy that adds to the traditional canvassing methods has at its focus mainly the urban swing voters who frequent theaters for recreation and are habituated to the virtual world.
As against the popular perception, all such acts are never intended for the loyal support base, but to create confusion in the minds of the fence sitters.
Operation Balakot is one recent example, which underlines its potential. A compelling narrative that unraveled after the TV studios started flashing alleged visuals of the air strike, roused the nation’s passions in a sudden burst of patriotism and brought many a hard core opponent of the Prime Minister to sing praise for his stance, much before the truth of India’s claim could have been established.
The claim, which on the contrary, after the international media’s reporting, now borders a folklore.
The synchronized timing between the scheduled release and the impending election assumes greater import when it comes to attracting the young and impressionable minds.
It gets all the more important as a bulk of voters going to cast their votes are post Babri generation, out of which a significant number, around 15 million are those first timers who were born a year before Godhra.
Voters with birth dates around Babri assume importance because the political landscape of the country presents a sharp contrast to what it used to be earlier. Communalism after 1992 remained no more a trait to be ashamed of in many of Indian households.
As about the first time voters, their birth dates assume significance because they grew up in the world after Narendra Modi had achieved a formidable milestone at Godhra in the project launched with much fanfare way back in 1992 by his Margdasrhak Lal Krishna Advani.
Having lived in times where all through their lives they have been fed with Islamophobia it’s far more easier for politics to harness their vulnerability by communicating with them on platforms of their choice and encashing into votes their doubts and suspicions.
Also, the buzz before the release can be harnessed to tap into the volatility of youth in the rural settings as well. The strategy hence may lead to swings in yet unidentified territories.
As pointed by several Facebook users, the strategy of pursuing the electorate through the medium of cinema and television is not new. Before the final assault on Babri Masjid, the nation was galvanized to the Hindutva cause by running on prime time the holy epic Ramayana on the state run Doordarshan.
Digitization of events, like the video recording of hate speech and shooting of lynching incident have already proven to be effective tool in political communication and made redundant the use of large scale pogroms by forever keeping the communal pot on boil, thus avoiding major bloodshed, unnecessary media glare and tribulations of trial.
The strategy as is obvious is least cost incurring as the viewer at the end of the day willfully pays to view its leader on screen or resorts to buying data to stream online. The choice and freedom of listening reinforces a belief in whatever they have watched.
Precisely the outcome the propagandist wants to achieve.
As goes the Hindi proverb
Rang hua chokha
(To have gains without much effort)