Modi’s Lucknow Passage Below Expectations

With Modi’s Lucknow rally turning out to be a damp squib, his hype machinery needs to undergo more scrutiny
Hardnews Bureau, Delhi  

The irony of the situation was lost on BJP prime minister candidate Narendra Modi when he invoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s famous words on the importance of the UP electorate: “The road to Delhi passes through Lucknow”. Before Modi’s rally in the state capital, held on March 2, the BJP had claimed that over 15 lakh people would be attending the event. In reality though, they couldn’t manage even a tenth of that. But Modi’s arsenal had enough rhetoric to make up for that. All his crowd-pleasing card tricks were on display: the theatrical mockery of rivals, the half-baked statistics, the immature taunts, the pretentious pandering, etc. But what does this prove anyway, that Modi is a better orator than say, the indecipherable Mulayam Singh Yadav, or a mawkish Rahul Gandhi, or a righteous Nitish Kumar? Politicians are known for their glib, snake-oil salesman charm; that’s how they bore their way into unsuspecting people’s minds and hearts like a parasitic worm. Are we so utterly brainless to not see that in Modi’s rhetorical flourishes?

Going by some accounts, the BJP has spent an estimated Rs 300 crore on its electioneering campaign in UP. This bodes well for the crowds, who after having their transportation and food taken care of on a Sunday afternoon, also get to hear an entertaining politician. Only the Congress has spent more amount on the campaign, as Rahul Gandhi occupies all the real estate in the hoardings of the country now.

Win-win for everyone, except maybe the Election Commission, which is likely to sit and watch the drama till the code of conduct is announced. In fact, all the political parties have completed their hefty and expensive campaign before the EC gets into the picture with their auditors and tries to keep tabs over election expenses.

In an earlier era, our leaders were less subtle with their vote-mongering habits. The smarter set of today has picked up sophisticated ways to pull the wool over the masses. Modi seems to wield an arsenal of such dubious tricks. The farce of the Gujarat model of development has been summarily exposed so many times, it is Modi’s grip on an enthralled media and a frustrated population that keeps the myth still alive.

But the turnout of the rally has raised some unsettling questions for the BJP. Both the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) and opposition Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) have been able to draw much bigger crowds at relatively insignificant occasions. The low turnout in Modi’s Lucknow rally – unlike what the telescopic lenses of the feed provided by the parties themselves would have us believe – suggests that the hype-building machinery of Modi’s PR managers is working on a war footing. This cell has to be the hardest working IT cell in the entire country, since they have managed to create so much value out of nothing. This, in other words, is propaganda.