Brand Power : Gujarat Elections

Posted by Steven George
December 19, 2017

NOTE: This post has been self-published by the author. Anyone can write on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Elections in India are no less than a novel, covering a range of literary devices, from poetics, metaphors, alliteration, allusion, diction, epigraph, euphemism, foreshadowing, imagery, simile, personification, and rhetoric, for the best audience reach. The Indian Democracy can be envisaged as a tale of events which build up great novels, especially around the Prime Ministers. Analyzing Gujarat’s election result, one can probe into it like a best-selling novel.

The massive role of media agents and advertisements before publishing makes novels bestsellers these days. Viewed this way, the election result is not shocking. It is the entirely predictable – indeed, cliched – outcome of ubiquitous ideas and trends that should have been stopped long ago.

The Cover Page

Behemoths such as Nike and Apple stopped thinking of themselves primarily as companies that make physical products, and started thinking of themselves first and foremost as manufacturers of brands.” – Naomi Klein (“No is Not Enough: How Trump Won By Becoming the Ultimate Brand”)

The flaring Lion of Gujarat, three times Chief Minister and the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.

Kids buying a Nike sneaker aren’t exactly buying the sneakers; they are buying the idea of “Just Do It”. Similarly, anyone picking up the novel with PM Modi’s cover page is picking up the idea of ‘Vikas’ and ‘Nationalism’.

Epigraph

Darek Gujarati no che ek aj aavaj, hu vikaas chu, hu chu Gujarat”
(Every Gujarati says it in one voice, I am Development, I am Gujarat)

The epigraph was implanted as befitting reply to the Vikaas Gando Thayo Che (Development has gone crazy)” campaign run by social media critics as well as Congress.

Foreword

A hundred and fifty plus seat target was the objective for the BJP in the 2017 elections as per BJP National President Amit Shah. The boastful claim by Shah was based on the apparent extraordinary popularity and support among the masses for Modi. Also, an attempt to gain the confidence of the masses portraying Modi brand still a persisting image among the masses especially in his homeland.  However, Shah seems to blame Congress for having failed the mission.

Introduction

Mani Shankar Aiyar’s neech admi jibe at Modi gave a big opportunity to the BJP to not only forge a campaign amidst the backward castes, but also to link the campaign to Gujarat’s ‘Asmita’ and ‘Son of the Soil (Modi)’ pitches. In the time span of 15 days Modi addressed 34 rallies in Gujarat, making intense appeals to “protect Gujarat asmita”. The democratic politics of Gujarat has been characterized by the skillful and strategic use of caste, communal and religious consciousness consideration for electoral mobilization by political parties.

Content

Mythical imagery have proven to be one of the most creative and innovative derivations of the past to contextualize with the current period, a style famously adapted by story-tellers.

“Lord Krishna was born in Uttar Pradesh and made Gujarat his karmbhoomi (land of work). I was born in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh has adopted me … Uttar Pradesh is my mai baap. I am not the son who would betray his mai baap. You have adopted me and it is my duty to work for you” – Modi picks this speech in Uttar Pradesh’s election in 2017. Not only does claim himself according to the geographical locations but makes an inextricable relationship with the masses. One of the unforgettable image of Modi in the 2014 election was the soaring ‘Har Har Mahadev’ campaign.

One of the most popular Hindu deities and incorporated political hindu deity is Lord Rama (seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu). Rama is the image of courtesy and virtue, a man of values and morals, and also the supreme protector. Lord Rama is the Maryada Purushottam, meaning the perfect man or an ideal man. Evidently, for the election the word ‘RAM’ has been attached with names of Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Ramniklal Rupani, BJP President Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

While, at the same hand the image of HAJ stands for Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani. The three young leaders have successfully attempted to challenge the ruling party BJP in the state by forming grassroot associations with their particular communities and also gaining nationwide publicity and significance. Probing the word HAJ, reflects the persisting anti-Muslim feelings among the masses, also a means to polarize the mass into Hindu-Muslim binary.

BJP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the Gujarat Rally on December stimulated Ram Mandir and the spirit for a Hindu Nation. References to Afzal Guru, JNU, Anti-nationals have been alleged in BJP Leader Anurag Thakur and many posters have been circulated via whatsapp and have been pasted on the walls. Since BJP is in power it is constantly accused of its parent organisation RSS as murderers of Gandhi. Uma Bharti initiated an interesting narrative by stating  “Who benefited from Mahatma Gandhi’s death? It was the Congress. The Mahatma wanted to disperse the Congress. He had already made an announcement to this effect” The Gandhi-Godse debate and the dwindling position of BJP just got circumscribed to the ultimate beneficiary of the whole event, Congress – a political organization which was meant to be dispersed if Gandhi would have been alive.

Foreshadowing
Every novel of the same narrative may not have the major concerns similar. There was hardly any mentioning of ‘The Great Reform; Demonetisation’ which was the substantial merchandise for the UP Elections. Similarly GST Reform pushed aside by the Prime Minister’s statement “central government was only the 30th part” in the decision which was taken in consultation with 29 states.” The two issues at core of the Central Government’s anti-people policies were sidelined by Ram Mandir, Asmita and Congress’s anti-development narrative.

Antagonist

The significant rather insignificant rising of Rahul Gandhi as President of Congress hardly made any difference to the whole nation, except for an assurance of an incompetent opposition. Staunchly voiced agitation against BJP’s tenure, Vikas model, Demonetisation, GST, Hindutva. Visited temples in regard to gain Hindu votes, only sidelined with the Muslims in the last few days. Despite, an insufficient effort from the Congress it aided with young candidates Patel, Thakore and Mevani in some way or the other. Another gripping reason for Congress gaining 77 seats is the result not of a strong opposition from Congress but rather a growing mass agitation among the people.

Missing Link

Virtually every campaign speech was twined with obnoxious anti-Muslim rhetoric and also the Muslim community was highly disregarded in the whole scenario. Not only the BJP but even Congress betrayed them. Muslims were identified by many hate symbols – the Allauddin Khilji of the Padmawati controversy joining Aurangzeb and Pakistan. A conspiracy theory emerged by BJP alleging Pakistan having plans with the former PM and vice-president to defeat the BJP in Gujarat and install the Congress’ Ahmed Patel as chief minister. The questions apparent to the fake encounter killing of Sohrabuddin and Ishrat Jahan remain an untouched realm from the side of BJP. The tantamount silence on the recent murder of Afrazul in BJP led Rajasthan government is a clear indication of the current state of Muslims in the country. The persistent and systemic pitting of the Hindu against the Muslims has only helped in building a corporate dystopia for the rich and the capitalists.

Working Class Hero
A remarkable reduction of the public sphere has developed in underlying propaganda by the BJP which not only has its direct effects on students, activists, academicians, artists but have reduced the rights of the citizens. The great win bragged by Jignesh Mevani with a lead of 20000 votes with no resources in hand and no party to support, is a remarkable achievement of the Una Movement and people’s agitation. The only supporters to the Dalit Leader were people’s money, almost 18 lakhs was donated above which was the tremendous support by lawyers, journalists, academicians, activists, students, local leaders of various states. Like a scratch in the glory of the golden tiger, Mevani have constructed an alternative politics combining caste and class with religious identities. In a recent post to Huffington, Mevani states “Fascism is fascism. It will ruin our country if we stay silent any longer. The end should be concrete changes in the lives of people. Ultimately, in the final analysis, we have to construct a classless society. The idea of creating a classless society keeps putting enormous pressure on me every single day.” Not only do we see commitment to the struggles of people but a stand clear towards establishing a classless society.

Criticism
Literature students invest a huge amount of time in the criticism with the text they deal with. The novel itself is not a new or shocking story, it’s a precedent tale. The BJP maintained 99 seats, with 77 seats by Congress, NCP 1 seat and independent candidates 5 seats.

The content section of the BJP is largely supplemented by imagery only,depicting deeply problematic or sympathetic images. Because already, before Modi, “we had a culture that treats both people and planet like so much garbage. A system that extracts lifetimes of labor from workers and then discards them. That treat millions of people, excluded from economic opportunity, as refuse to be thrown away inside prisons. That treats government as a resource to be mined for private wealth, leaving wreckage behind. That treats the land, water, air that sustain all of life as little more than a bottomless sewer.” – ‘No is Not Enough – Naomi Klein’

The growing agitation among the masses is a ground reality but absence of an alternative is pushing the scene into a turmoil. The lack of this transformation from agitation to organizing is a crucial reason for the right wing cadre to spread its work in an easy and effective manner. People rising from movements like Jignesh Mevani are clear indication of the power of the people. However, a comprehensive coherent movement still lacks its pace. The Congress clearly doesn’t have the potentials to be the appropriate opposition as the nature of Congress is no different from the ruling party, except the fact they some how lack the figure who would emerge as a brand power in the likes of Modi.

The conduct of the Gujarat Election 2017 must clarify all doubts  regarding BJP’s policies for the upcoming election in 2018 and the General Assembly Lok Sabha Elections 2019. Even after high failures on ground with demonetisation, GST, tremendous fund cuts in Health and Educational sectors, unending and unacknowledged agrarian crisis, hollow practices of Gau raksha, Anti-romeo sqauds, BJP is still able to portray itself as the only Saviour of this nation must be the biggest concern today. The 2019 Elections is going to see an almost same reflection of the Gujarat Election, if a comprehensive alternative is not established which can reach the grassroots, the highest functioning area of BJP, due to a gigantic cadre working on Social Media, Internet, Whatsapp as well as regular ground performing actions.

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