Echo effect has the potential to blur the gap between the actual and the imaginary and give a flawed sense of the real.
Narendra Modi’s presumed popularity in urban areas is largely a product of e
cho effect – no wonder, surveys involving the similar set of people confronted with similar set of questions end up throwing up similar responses.
The actual challenge for Modi is in rural areas, where the existential reality is too diverse to make the echo effect work. Modi’s picked-off-the-shelf economic ideas might impress a section of the urban electorate, but the tougher job is breaking these down for the consumption the rural masses. For example, it is easy to sell the idea of growth through industrialization to the urban populace, but how do you convince their rural counterpart to part with their land for industrial plants?
After all, these are the people who would be at the receiving end of such economic ideas. There have been tension and conflicts in the far-off corners of the country over such issues. We have not heard anything on that from Modi so far. There’s, thus, no reason to believe that his ideas will find support in rural areas.
Narendra Modi's relevance has been stronger in urban areas than in rural areas, thanks to his business-friendly image and stress on governance. The rural areas are concerned with narrower things such
as support prices for grain and fertiliser and power subsidies - where the Congress scores. Or so goes the assumption.
However, this is a limited reading of Modi's potential appeal beyond urban areas.. Issues of governance may seem to appeal only to urban audiences, but rural areas are not any less aspirational. The rigid wall segregating urban and rural voter behaviour is now porous. Urban India is hosting millions of rural migrants who have entered the consuming class. And schemes like MGNREGA have brought urban workers back to rural bases too. In the TV age, aspirations grown in the urban areas reach the rural areas of India quickly.
Let's also remember that Modi has managed to create a rural base in Gujarat even without giving too much subsidised power. He has rightly gambled that people want assured power rather than just free or low-cost power. Governance is key, both for the rural and urban vote.
But going beyond Modi, it is presumed that the BJP is an urban party, while the Congress is believed to have a larger stake in the rural vote. But this assumption too needs to be stood on the head. The truth is in all the states where the BJP is - or was - in power (Gujarat, MP, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Himachal), it has been fairly successful in creating a rural base. In fact, the tribal vote has become a major constituency for the BJP in Chhatisgarh and even Gujarat.
Modi is relevant to the aspirational classes - and these classes exist everywhere, both in urban and rural areas.