Nothing succeeds like excess. This appears to be the guiding principle behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi's communication strategy. As minister after minister went about giving glowing accounts of their performance led by the prime minister himself at the celebration to mark the completion of the government’s two years in office, one got the feeling that the leaders were trying to impress too much. Modesty was never a virtue with the government to begin with. But it seems to have outdone itself this time. The ministers were more tentative at the end of the first year; last night the dash of overconfidence was unmistakable.
Make it big, make it spectacular. Give people circuses; they never tire of these. This is another important aspect of the government’s communication game plan. Last night’s celebration — which lasted for five hours — was grand with film personalities adding glitter to it. There is a clear pattern to how the government advertises itself. There’s no subtlety involved here. Boisterous self-congratulation is part of the game. The only problem is the more the government gets into the game, the more jarring it becomes to ears. It appears it is trying to manipulate the public sentiment.
The obvious question that follows is this: what is there to be so excited about? Admitted, it’s a government in many years that has displayed the energy and the intent to transform India, but where’s the change on the ground? The agriculture sector is in dire straits, industrial growth has not gathered momentum and export growth remains sluggish. Worse, there are not enough jobs for the young. It’s the big promise that the government had made before it came to power. To the dispassionate observer, India remains where it was in the UPA days. Any big qualitative change is yet to be visible. The only area where the government has succeeded is perception-building. It would like us to believe that it has ushered in positivity to the India story. There are some buyers for it.
The three big achievements the government loves to talk about are Swachh Bharat, Jan Dhan and Skill India. All three are rehashed ideas of the UPA government. The first one is a revamped version of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan; in the second, the government has taken forward the core idea behind Aadhaar scheme; and the third is only the continuation of the National Skill Development Mission. The government has been typically clever to re-invent existing schemes with attention-grabbing names. It would not be a problem at all if the neighbourhood didn’t seem as dirty as during UPA days; or Jan Dhan bank accounts remained nearly as empty as earlier. It’s not without reason that people have started calling Narendra Modi’s government UPA 3 minus corruption.
Maybe two years are not enough to judge a government. Its skills at publicity have ensured that the schemes get the attention they require. It has shown the intent but governments are judged by results. We hear of green shoots everywhere but the full-fledged plants are still some way off. That certainly is no cause for boisterous celebration. Modi as a leader has ticked many right boxes so far, yet to say he has achieved something phenomenal is going too far.
Of course, all this won’t make any difference to the gung-ho mood in the BJP camp. However, one sees signs of the disastrous Shining India campaign of the party in 2004. Atal Behari Vajpayee's government was not short on performance but the campaign sought to overwhelm India with self-appreciative propaganda. The disconnect with reality on the ground was evident in the election result. The propaganda effectively buried all the good work done by Vajpayee.
Overkill could be the BJP’s undoing this time too. By allowing hyperbole to outshine reality, it could be causing damage to itself. Excess too should have its limits.
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Updated Date: May 29, 2016 11:42:17 IST