There is a scene in The Lion King, where Scar tells little Simba where not to go. You bet little Simba went there and the consequences were almost fatal. Here is a little test for you. For the next one minute, try not to think of a pink hippopotamus. You can bet that you will not only think of a pink hippo but, if your imagination is active, you will probably see more than one pink hippo.
There are a lot of people who have managed the difficult feat of screwing up things in India after 2004, when the NDA left an economy bursting with activity and boasting of healthy indicators. To not only manage to damage the economy and the country but to virtually handover the Govt. on a platter to the NDA took some doing. There are several Match ke Mujrim or those who are guilty of having facilitated the ascent of Modi to the Prime Ministership. The media (no doubt funded by the Government directly or indirectly), various persona involved in scamming the country belonging to the Congress party and its allies, various NGOs, scribes, TV talking heads and so on.
My experiences have made me believe that negative affirmations result in bringing the opposite of what one desires. The negativity that has been spewing out of TV channels, the Press and assorted NGOs has helped drive Modi home to the head of Government in New Delhi. A caveat though, is that Modi could never have ridden to power without the backing of his performance, something which the talking heads of TV and the scribes tried very hard to deride and deny. Precisely though, all this only made NaMo stronger.
In my last post I tried to fathom what the rivals of Modi had to offer and found that it was virtually nothing. Modi’s rivals kept beating the drum of secularism, talked of Modi’s ‘divisive’ politics (unproved as Muslims in Gujarat have done very well economically in his state, Gujarat!). Their message in effect was ‘Don’t vote for Modi’. But negativity can only take you so far. What negativity does is to almost drive the idea of Modi in the minds of the voters. One of the principles I learnt in the course of my life is “What you resist persists.” The human mind, especially the subconscious mind is a literal minded creature. It does not register the negative part of any sentence. For instance, you tell a small child, “Don’t climb on the table!” What the child hears is “Climb on the table!” The consequences could be harmful for the child but communication occurs at two levels. The conscious level is “Don’t do this, don’t do that”. At a subconscious level the message that reaches is Do this and Do that.
I have a healthy respect for the people of my beautiful country, India. They have an abundance of brains and this is evidenced by the numerous discussions that occur at tea shops and street corner, village squares and drawing rooms. However, they are also influenced by the communication coming to them subconsciously. In the past twelve or so years, the media and the Press have been relentlessly painting Modi as a bogeyman. What they did was to provide mindspace to Modi in the collective consciousness. Modi himself has acknowledged this many times in the interviews he has given in the recent past to TV channels. He said that if the TV channels had ignored him, he would no doubt have been like any other Chief Minister of a state, working in anonymity. He is a smart man and has figured out what I say here!
Would just negative communication have sufficed to push Modi into collective consciousness? No! What Modi realized was that the entire media and the Congress was ranged against him and there was no way he could fight their negative perceptions. What he did therefore was to create a positive perception in the minds of the people of Gujarat, which he has served for the past 13 years. He is in any case a workaholic and a scrupulously honest man. So he set about providing good and clean governance to the people he served. During the past 13 years, Gujarat has seen enormous development. Some of the things that are conspicuous by their absence in the rest of India are good roads, perennial and quality electricity supply, good infrastructure, clean water available on tap, good public transport, personal security, and safety for women. Modi has ensured that the people have all this and also piped cooking gas for homes, easy processes for accessing Government services and a very good grievance redressal system. Gujarat is one state that has used Information Technology in many innovative ways to make life easier for people. This has spanned the entire economic spectrum, whether it is the farmer looking for the best price for his produce, the middle class person who needs to pay his taxes and prefers to do this online, public wifi for all, and broadband in almost the entire state. Modi has ensured that growth has created opportunities for employment and the growth of industry, agriculture etc. has been impressive.
Best communication, experts will tell you, is through word of mouth. Gujarat employs people from all over the country and these people are the ones who have spread the word far and wide. That Modi was like a rockstar when he campaigned across the country was because the people believed that he would transform their lives for the better, and they flocked to his rallies in great numbers. Modi’s communication was direct and to the point. He merely pointed out what people were missing and he mentioned what he had provided to Gujarat. This resonated in the minds of voters and they gave a massive mandate to the alliance led by his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party. Leading by example, putting in punishing hours of work during the elections, and sometimes addressing five rallies a day across the country was one more highlight of Modi’s campaign. This was Modi.
On the other hand Modi’s main rival, the Congress Party, led by a hapless mother and son team, were hamstrung by a series of scams and swindles that had resulted in a large flow of illegal money out of India. Fearing no doubt that an impartial investigation would not spare members of their party involved in the scam, the campaigners had only one main message to the electorate, Don’t vote for Modi as he will create a cleavage of religious groups. The riots of 2002, horrific as they were, did not recur due to excellent law and order in Gujarat. Further, attempts to link Modi directly with the riots have failed, with the Supreme Court of India having exonerated him after extensive and thorough investigation. As mentioned earlier, the effort expended in demonising Modi only helped to entrench him firmly in the public mind. The people also sense fear and lies. What the campaigners of the Congress party managed to convey to the people was that they were scared of Modi coming to power and they had something to hide. This is what negativity does. It creates a positive impression of the one you wish to negate.
One other rival of Modi was Arvind Kejriwal. His Aam Aadmi party (AAP), which was an offshoot of a movement called India Against Corruption or IAC, started off with the laudable idea of fighting endemic corruption in the body politic of India. This party won a large number of seats in the election for the Delhi assembly. Their premise was that the Congress and BJP were both corrupt and that their party was the only honest one. However, the party failed to cobble up a majority and ended up in second place to the BJP in Delhi. Nonetheless, Kejriwal managed to get the support of Congress party members and ran the State Government for a total period of seven weeks. It would appear that Kejriwal’s heart and mind were not in it, as he was perhaps eyeing greener pastures. This lead to him resigning on some specious grounds and pursuing the Parliamentary dream. He also chose to fight the Parliamentary election against Narendra Modi, the PM candidate himself. If Kejriwal had offered a clean alternative and a track record, he could have hoped to put up a bit of a fight. But his effort was in pandering to the lowest form of communalism and virtually begging for the Muslim vote. But Kejriwal’s efforts were ab initio to show Modi in bad light and to claim that there was no development in Gujarat. Never mind that one of his able lieutenants, Ms Meera Sanyal had been on a visit to Gujarat a year back and had been quite fulsome in her praise for the development in the state.
Kejriwal also tweeted that there was no development in Gujarat, using free wifi provided by the Gujarat Govt.
What happened with all the negative propaganda unleashed against Modi was cognitive dissonance in the minds of the voters. On the one hand they could see very positive signs of development in Gujarat, bolstered by the stories told by their relatives and friends based there, and on the other they were told that there was no development or that the development had not trickled down to the poorest. The message of the Congress and other opponents of Modi, who ganged up against him, was ‘Don’t vote for Modi’. If everyone else gangs up and tries to deride one person, it creates a credibility gap. This is precisely what happened and the people were convinced that Modi was being derided wrongly.
Modi knew that to counter these opponents, he had to use positive messages. Communicating across India with its varied terrain, different languages, culture etc. is a very difficult process. The strategies employed by Modi involved nonstop rallies taking him from one corner of India to another during a single day, addressing five rallies per day on most days. In addition he used a 3D hologram of himself to reach where he was unable to be physically present. He also communicated through Chai pe Charcha, a virtual teashop where people gathered around teashops across India and actively interacted with him. Brilliant though the communication methods were, only someone who had complete credibility could pull it off. People had total belief in Modi’s ability to take India forward. Conviction was evident in the fact that Modi spoke spontaneously without referring to notes.
In conclusion, one has to accept that there was strong performance behind Modi’s victory but the negativity of his opponents brought him a larger majority.