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Creating new Modi persona: Is CM bigger than BJP in Gujarat?

Paras K Jha, DNA   |  Nov 21, 2012, 00:54AM IST

Ahmedabad: The ‘Modi no maanas’ campaign of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) must be the first instance of a leader openly projecting himself rather than his party. This is true not only for the BJP but also for other political parties in the country.


In the ‘Modi no manas’ campaign message (as heard on the radio), a Modi acolyte gives a lengthy justification of why he supports the Gujarat chief minister. He ends his (or her) long eulogy with the statement: “Hun Modi no manas chhu” (“I am Modi’s man”). And as his voice fades, an anonymous voice takes over and exhorts the listener to vote for the BJP in the assembly elections.


What this creation of a brand out of Narendra Modi entails for Gujarat is an issue on which social scientists differ from most brand experts and state BJP leaders. While the experts and leaders see ‘brand Modi’ as helping the party, social scientists feel that identifying the party with Modi amounts to a ‘double lie’. Noted social scientist Shiv Visvanathan sees ‘brand Modi’ as promotion of a ‘double lie’ to create a new persona for the chief minister different from his current image.


“A brand is easier to communicate than a political party. You have to lie about Modi and also lie about the Congress to create the new Modi persona,” he said.


Visvanathan also indicated that creation of ‘brand Modi’ had further confirmed that the BJP had turned into a collection of regional parties. In this situation, the state BJP has no option but to promote its leader more than itself, he said.


The views of a city-based brand consultant differ radically from those of Visvanathan. Talking to DNA, the consultant said on the condition of anonymity that creation of ‘brand Modi’ should not be taken as an individual’s effort to overshadow the political party.


“The reason for this is very clear. Though the BJP has a cause and also a poll manifesto, the man on the street knows the party through the work of its leader. People’s identification is with the individual and not the political party,” the consultant said. He added that the BJP has made Modi the face of the party for the assembly elections because of people’s faith in him.


A senior professor of marketing at one of the leading management institutes of Ahmedabad differed from the brand consultant’s opinion. He said that the ‘Modi no Maanas’ campaign (as also other means adopted to project the chief minister) were all attempts to make Modi the focus of the poll campaign. This is yet another example of personalization of the party, he said.


 “This campaign is just an extension of what Modi has been doing all this while. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Gujarat CM runs the party as a one-man show. He is projecting himself at the cost of the BJP. However, this is not to say that every marketing product — for that is how Modi is being projected — is good for Gujarat’s future,” he said.


The state BJP is undoubtedly the biggest beneficiary of ‘brand Modi’. Yet the in-charge of BJP media cell, Jagadish Bhavsar, apparently had no knowledge of the campaign called ‘Modi no Manas’. “I don’t know about any such campaign because I am not looking after it. I haven’t heard it on the radio,” Bhavsar said.


However, IK Jadeja, state vice-president of BJP Gujarat, was much better informed. Talking about the ‘Modi no manas’ campaign, Jadeja claimed that in the last one decade, Gujarat had become a role model for the rest of the country.


“The party is definitely important for voters but who is leading the party is equally important. Hence, along with the party, a skillful and competent leadership also gets acceptance. The party and its leadership are like two sides of the same coin. Whenever one of them is talked about, the other is automatically counted in,” Jadeja said.


He further said that the BJP is the only party in the state which has decided its leader before the elections. “In the Congress, there is no leader to lead the party in the election,” he said.


However, some senior members of the BJP have doubts whether ‘Modi no manas’ and other campaigns that depend on ‘brand Modi’ for their effectiveness, would also be good for the party.


“There is no doubt that ‘Modi no manas’ campaign will be effective as it connects common people with Modi directly. However, it doesn’t connect them with the party. The role of party workers has now been reduced and they are no longer a link between voters and the party,” a senior BJP leader said.


 

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