In Varanasi, Narendra Modi puts 'good-evil' binary to use, decimates his detractors

Besieged by a concerted Opposition’s attempt to corner him on the demonetisation issue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his fiercest attack on the Opposition without mincing his words and defined the issue in ethical and emotional binary — good versus evil.

Quite aware of the reality that Varanasi is a place where religious idioms evoke more response than banal political jargon, Modi dramatically coined a new phrase "kaala mann" (black-hearted) for those opposing demonetisation. In his characteristic style, he said, "The whole exercise has revealed not only black money but the black hearts of a few." Modi’s "kaala mann" jibe was intended to convey an imagery of the Opposition determined to derail his project of cleansing India of vices like corruption.

 In Varanasi, Narendra Modi puts good-evil binary to use, decimates his detractors

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the gathering in Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi on Thursday. PTI

In what appears to be touch of uncanny demagoguery, Modi sought to demolish the Opposition by choosing his targets that ranged from former prime minister Manmohan Singh, former finance minister P Chidambaram and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi (referring to him through innuendos only). His attack became politically lethal with a combination of religious symbolism and flourish of Hindi idioms largely prevalent in the eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh.

In Varanasi, the constituency he represents in the Lok Sabha, Modi knows all too well that the mere mention of Lord Shiva evokes an emotive chord. And that was the precise reason he began his speech by waxing eloquent on sacredness and glory of the city considered to be one of the holiest place by Hindus. He invoked the blessings of Lord Shiva to carry his task many a times much to the delight of the audience in the Banaras Hindu Univesrity (BHU).

The astute communicator that he is, Modi used the occasion to deftly focus his speech on the his recent political initiatives and effectively neutralised the criticism he has been facing from the Opposition. He carefully picked on Manmohan and explained to the audience that the former prime minister was a critical figure in India’s financial policy-making since 1972. “Is he reading his own report card or mine?” Modi asked, in order to establish direct connect with the audience while referring to Manmohan’s criticism of Modi’s drive at a 'less-cash' economy on account of the high poverty rate in India.

He attacked Chidambaram too but reserved his most potent weapon of talking through innuendos for Rahul. “He is learning to speak,” he said while referring to the belligerence that the Gandhi scion has acquired of late. He frequently referred to Rahul Gandhi’s threat of triggering "earthquake" after his speech, Modi mockingly said that he had a sigh of relief ever since Rahul had begun speaking. "Now we know what exactly lies in this package that so far mystified us,” he said in an apparently dismissive tone about Rahul Gandhi.

Modi effectively defined the issue in an emotive binary — good versus evil — by carefully picking up metaphors. For instance, he compared the Opposition’s attack on the government on the demonetisation issue as quite akin to the Pakistani Army providing covering fire to terrorists who sneak into Indian territories. “Our army gets engaged with Pakistani army while terrorists get a chance to sneak in,” he said.

If this was not enough, he picked up another metaphor of a gang of pickpockets who mislead the police to carry out their operations. These metaphors may sound harsh but carry with them explicit meaning in the art of communication. In one stroke, Modi bracketed the Opposition, particularly those opposed to demonestisation, as "the Pakistani Army or a gang of pickpockets". This is bound to raise the hackles of the Opposition.

Going by his 30-minute speech, Modi seemed to have deliberately chosen Varanasi to speak his mind on various issues. With the state Assembly election to be held shortly, Varanasi figures as a critical place in the politics of eastern Uttar Pradesh. The prime minister has launched a slew of projects that included a multi-speciality cancer hospital within the BHU to cater to patients of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. The fact that his eloquence got traction in the audience is reflective of Modi’s ability as an effective political communicator.

Updated Date: Dec 22, 2016 13:59:51 IST