OPINION | Media Conveniently Ignored the Modi Wave that We All Saw Coming
The ability of a villager near Firozabad to connect the dots all the way from a house, a hand pump to the Prime Minister's doorstep tells you the story of faith and hope that people had in Modi.
As the election race heats up, all political parties are coming up with unique ways to grab voter attention. The latest sensation is a vending machine named ‘NaMo Rath’ that is grabbing eyeballs. Merchandise like T-shirts, pens, badges and masks -- embellished with Narendra Modi's catchy messages -- are on sale. Wherever the Prime Minister goes, Namo Raths follow him with all election-related materials. (Image: AP)
Another election has just nearly concluded. We may as well be getting ready to immerse ourselves into the next one. Before you realize, Maharashtra elections will be upon us and so will Haryana. But first, we need to make sense of what has happened in the 2019 battle.
As always, I chose to turn agricultural lands, roadside tea stalls, and state highways into our TV studio. It's only when you start looking at Delhi from outside, do you realise how wide the gap is between perceived reality and reality on the ground. It was during my trip to Firozabad that I had the first hunch: We were perhaps about to witness the emergence of a Modi wave 2.0 across the Hindi heartland. A small town just on the outskirts of Agra, it's about 3 hours away from the capital city Delhi.
Once known as the “bangle capital“, in 2019 it was the akhara for uncle Shivpal Yadav and nephew Akshay Yadav. After being repeatedly told that the cycle, the election symbol of the Samajwadi party, was the only thing that mattered here, an interesting incident happened. Towards the evening, as my producers were scouting for a location to set up our mobile studio for our evening broadcast, a middle-aged man handed me a pouch of local country liquor. I declined. But I could see that he had had his shots for the evening. Without batting an eyelid, he told me, “Ya to aap andhe ho gaye hain, ya aap behre ho gaye hain (Either you have gone blind or you are deaf)."
I was predictably shocked. But he didn't stop. He asked me "Are you not being able to see what's happening here?" I responded, "What's happening?" After taking a sip from his pouch, he retorted, “Ye jo sab ghar dekh rahe ho, ye kidhar se aaya hai (All these houses you see here, where has it come from?)"
I responded saying it was Netaji who built them. It was only fair to credit Mulayam Singh Yadav for the infrastructure of his territory. However, his reply stumped me. "No, Modi ji made them," he declared. The man went on to say that the people from the Dalit community lived in that area. "Our three generations haven't been able to do what Modi ji has done," he said.
Pointing at a handpump, he said, it was a result of the Prime Minister pulling up Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, who in turn made the District Magistrate do the job that had been pending for years.
The conversation just stayed with me. The ability of a villager to connect the dots all the way from a house to a hand pump right to the Prime Minister's doorstep tells you the story of faith and hope that people had in Modi. But cynical hacks like me, trained to be contrarians, were unwilling to accept the scale of this faith. Whether it was Amethi or Hoshangabad or Kolkata, this story of faith and hope resonated everywhere. Why then were we unwilling to use the word “wave“ to describe what we were seeing on the ground?
Just like Firozabad, in Jayapur, PM Modi's adopted village, under 45 degrees sweltering heat, a Dalit man, while showing his small dwelling told me that he had never dreamed of having his own house. "Meri dada pardaada sab jhpodi mei rahte the. Ab mere teen bachche apne khud ke ghar mei bade honge (My grandparents and their parents lived in slums. But my children will grow up in their home)" he said. In Jayapur, concrete one bed room houses have been built for around 30 Dalit families. Rightly called “ Modi ka atal nagar “ the entire complex is neatly landscaped, powered by solar lamps.
"Why do you think we will vote for the community that we come from? Modi ji has shown us the future," the man's wife told me.
But what convinced me was that the national media will never be able to decipher Modi.
I had a conversation with a former colleague whom I ran into just before the last phase of polls in Uttar Pradesh. Over dinner, at a restaurant in Varanasi, my former colleague spent a long time in trying to convince me that Modi is a “fascist“. I told him that he was still stuck in Modi’s imagery during his stint in Gujarat and that people need to judge him on the basis of what he brought to the table during the last 4 years. He insisted that all this was mere media hype. This former colleague is someone whom I also happen to admire a lot, so I couldn’t resist taking the liberty to tell him, “As long as there are Modi opponents like you, he will continue to win. As long as there are those who call him divider in chief, anti-intellectualism, anti-women, anti-reform, he will continue to win." I told him that this sentiment of ideology had blinded him and he refused to see just how many houses for poor, toilets and the basic infrastructure facilities that the Modi government has managed to provide.
P.S: Just when I was writing this piece, a friend forwarded a video of a broadcast from a once very popular news channel. The anchor, another very dear friend of mine, was busy blaming the media for not focusing on The Congress' Nyay campaign and becoming a campaign manager for Modi. His exact words were that the media has played a “ khatarnak “ role. My friends, it appears, Media will end up being the biggest creators of the constant upsurge for Modi.
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