Ever since Godhra happened, BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has been at the receiving end of the mainstream media. It is extremely difficult to launch a national campaign when a major chunk of the media is against you.
He had been interviewed by prominent journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai, Karan Thapar and Arnab Goswami, but it all came to naught. In fact when the Congress managed to snatch 11/26 Lok Sabha seats from right under Modi’s nose in Gujarat in 2009, it seemed curtains for him.
However in the last couple of years, Modi has been using various forms of media and events with spectacular success. It is the first time a prominent national leader has bypassed the media like this...
1. Twitter: Social networking merely reflects the mood of the nation. The biggest wave after all the scams tumbled out of the Centre was anti-Congressism. Modi has been most effective in cashing on that mainly thanks to Twitter.
He has been steadily building up his Twitter base and today has 3.37 million followers, which might not be much by Bollywood standards, but stellar for an Indian politician and especially one who is 60+.
So Modi fans get regular nuggets from Modi and as Lok Sabha elections are around the corner, BJP leaders know what the official campaign line is. Another masterstroke was to have various accounts in different regional languages.
Modi’s Facebook page has got 10 million likes and a YouTube video of people chanting "Modi Modi" when Rahul Gandhi entered a cricket stadium has got 1.5 million views.
In cyberspace Modi has already won the elections for Prime Minister.
2. Sadbhavana fast: This was one "event" which was termed a gimmick by opponents, but paid rich dividends for Modi in 2011. He observed 36 fasts in 26 districts across the State and the media was forced to cover it.
When the main event happened on the stage, many national journalists interviewed him one by one on the sidelines and this was his first major reaching out. This and his re-election in 2012 for the third time in Gujarat virtually launched his personal journey to the PM candidature.
3. Speeches: When Modi went to address his first major speech outside Gujarat at the Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi, it was a big challenge for him and he was out of his comfort zone for the first time.
However, Modi immediately connected with the youth sitting in the hall and from that moment on there was no looking back. Ferguson College, the CII etc followed and the antagonistic media channels had no choice but to cover all of them so much so that they were even accused of being his PR agents!
The pinnacle was when Modi’s I-Day speech overshadowed that of the PM. The Information & Ministry even sent a warning letter after that!
4. Google Hangout/3D: Nobody took Google+ that seriously but it all changed when Modi conducted a Goggle+ Hangout. It was watched live by approximately 82,000 people across 116 countries.
The "common man" got the chance to ask Modi questions directly and that proved more productive than conducting a press conference. His 3D holographic speech was even more innovative and Modi always finds ways to do things differently.
5. Rallies: This is something that finally established Modi as the Numero Uno politician in India today. Wherever Modi goes, packed and cheering audiences greet him. The North. The South. The West. The East. The Northeast.
Millions have watched Modi give a speech live at some ground or the other and many more on television. Modi’s ideas connect with the masses and his attack on his enemies gets thunderous applause. In a way he is a rock star at these rallies.
6. Chai Pe Charcha: Just when you think he has no more tricks up his sleeve, he throws down another trump card. Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar made fun of Modi’s chaiwallah (tea seller) background and said he was welcome to serve tea at a Congress meet.
With enemies like Aiyar, who needs a PR agency on a multi-crore budget? Not only was there a backlash, but NaMo tea stalls received a huge fillip thanks to that remark. All that ultimately culminated into a unique Chai Pe Charcha initiative.
The BJP claimed that they would set up tea stalls at 1000 locations in 300 cities. People could come and drink tea and ask questions to Modi via video conferencing. The first edition was a big hit judging from the enthusiasm of the crowds.
With Modi promising more Chai Pe Charchas to come, Opposition leaders must be wondering what they have to do to topple the Modi bandwagon!
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.