Modi vs Gandhi Brand

2019 India elections have finished. Modi has decisively won, BJP party scored 300+ seats in Lok Sabha that is around 20 more than what BJP got in 2014.  Opposition parties are in shock. Gathbandhan in UP is able to get close to 20 seats and Congress is able to score fewer more than what it got in 2014 that is 50+ seats. Regional parties have also been marginalized in this election. The fire brand Mamta Banerjee’s Bengal fort has been invaded by BJP which won around 18 seats. Modi’s so called under-current has swept the elections. This election once again has been won under one name Modi.

Modi is not a candidate name anymore. The way BJP has projected Modi in last two elections, it is more of Brand than anything else. None of the candidates mattered in this elections. BJP workers openly went to voters in the name of Modi. As if Indian elections are not parliamentary but presidential elections.

As a result of that candidates even introduced just 10 days before the elections also won their seats in the name of Modi. BJP candidates such as Hans Raj Hans, Gautam Gambhir and Sunny Deol who dont have any background in politics also registered win in this elections. The credibility of these candidates can be judged from this mere fact that when they were asked about Balakot and 1971 war, two of them had no clue in spite of the fact BJP was running the campaign based on national security.

BJP replaced about 100 of his previous MPs with new faces in 2019 election. Most of them with either none or very less experience in politics but still they won the MP seat. So one can expect an autocratic rule by the Modi and Amit Shah this time too. If we set aside issue of incompetent MPs, the question still remains how come Modi has been able to convince people that contesting candidate doesn’t matter what matters is only Modi. I think the answer lies in Modi’s effective marketing and election campaign.

Immediately after winning 2014 elections, Modi started visiting foreign countries. He visited more than 55 countries in first 3 years of government. He addressed India diaspora in those foreign countries in majestic town halls such as Madison Square in Ney York. He gave a sense of identity to Indian diaspora whose identity till that point was based on their profession but not based on the country they belonged to. Indian diaspora started feeling proud when Modi came to power.

On the domestic front, in every state election, Modi bombarded people with his face and speeches. Mainstream media which gave him full coverage and made sure that only powerful image of Modi is presented. Media and Modi both ridiculed opposition. 4 years in to power Indian people were completely convinced that Modi is the ultimate leader they have and there is no one else out there who can challenge him. Keep in mind that in those 4 years Modi had visited 50+ countries and gave 200+ speeches in India. One might wonder when Modi had time to work for the country.

Well whatever time left to Modi after numerous foreign visits and speeches, he did spend in fulfilling the promises that he made in 2014. Hasty decisions such as demonetization to seize the black money, introduction of half-baked GST tax bill and many quick fix type policies such as Ujwala-Yogna, 6k money to farmers are result of not giving ample time and focus to real issues but focus only on building and maintaining the Modi brand so as to remain in power.

However everything was going smooth in first 4 years for Modi, suddenly in 5th year, Opposition started giving somewhat challenge to Mr. Modi. Rahul Gandhi which was discarded and forgotten as Pappu, suddenly started showing some muscle. After Congress won Madhya Pradesh and Rashasthan, BJP leaders stopped calling him Pappu. Modi and Amit shah realized that 2019 elections might not be as smooth of a ride as they thought it would be. In February 2019, it was widely accepted that BJP will be the single largest party but will not be able to score 272 on its own. Then Balakot happened and Modi used it to his advantage to build the lost momentum.

Before this point of time, there was nothing big about Modi and his achievements which could have won him 272 seats in Lok Sabha. On the contrary Rahul Gandhi had effectively turned his chowkidar campaign against him by relating him with Rafeal scam. Balakot gave Modi prefect cover. Rather than building on his 2014 campaign “ache din ayenge”. He started running the campaign on Balakot. Furthermore by giving ticket to Pragya Thakur, he deflected people’s attention on his failed policies effectively. Print and social media helped him tremendously by doing scripted interviews and giving him ample coverage.

Before last phase of 2019 election, when Modi appeared in press conference for the first time in last 5 years, he didn’t take up any direct questions from press. Amit shah replied on his behalf because Modi was afraid that he might be asked questions which he would not be able to answer on the spot and therefore might hurt his Modi macho brand image. To make that macho and Hindutva image ever stronger, he went to Kedarnath and Badrinath where he was covered continuously by media from all the angles.

2014 and 2019 elections have changed the Indian politics forever. It is no more a conventional politics. Modi and Amit shah have run an authoritative campaign and used all un-conventional and un-democratic means to hold on to power. 2019 election campaign has been run as if India is market of 1.3 billion people and Modi is a brand which could be sold to all these people.

Before 2014, Indian people had been voted for a Gandhi brand which originated after India’s independence. For 60 years, Indian people blindly voted for Gandhi brand irrespective of whatever candidates congress pitched in those years. After 2014, Gandhi brand started losing its value because Modi brand took its place.

In 2014 and 2019 elections, BJP candidates didn’t matter only Modi mattered. Looks like Indian people has gotten out of one trap and fallen in to another. Whether it is true or not, only time will tell but both the brands have similar theme in nature which is as long as the brand is maintained, politicians can easily fool the people.