First book probes Modi in office

Book: Image and Substance: Modi’s First Year in Office
Author: Nilofar Suhrawardy
Publisher: Pharos Media & Publishing Pvt Ltd, New Delhi
Pages: 141 p/b
Year: 2015
Price: Rs 150
ISBN: 81-7221-070-1
(to order please refer to page 19)

Since he assumed office as Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has displayed quite a lot of importance to his own communication strategy to hit the headlines. In this book, the first of its kind since Modi became prime minister, the writer draws attention to the importance accorded by Modi to communication at various levels from the very beginning of his association with Sangh Parivar to roughly his first year in office as the country’s premier. Had perhaps Modi not displayed unusual command over using communication technology in his favour, during his electoral campaign, the Lok Sabha elections may not have resulted in his party’s victory.

The writer, a veteran journalist and commentator, has taken note of the difference in his communication approach from the one that he had earlier engaged in as Sangh Parivar activist, BJP member, Gujarat chief minister and to his stepping on the national stage.

There stands out markedly an apparent diplomatic change in Modi’s approach towards Pakistan and China, from what it was when he was not the prime minister to what it appeared like soon after his assuming this office.   

The importance accorded by Modi to his image, marked by his hair style, beard, glasses and ever-changing dress-designs as well as colour, stands out from the beginning of his becoming prime minister.

The writer has also taken note of Modi’s association with the Indian media. While he has given utmost importance to image-building and also manufactured “news” favouring him being carried by the media, Modi has refrained from entertaining close ties with the media at home and aboard.

Though Modi has tried projecting his “secular” approach, the book draws  attention to his maintaining in public a practically silent approach towards communal behaviour of several extremists linked with Sangh Parivar who instigate violence and make hate speeches day and night. Modi’s silent approach may also be assumed to be symbol of his approving the current saffron-drive, including saffronisation of history and the educational syllabus by members associated with Sangh Parivar. His silence regarding several areas being subject to communal tension, incited deliberately by his co-traveller right-winged, extremist elements has also been pointed out at home and abroad.

Attention has also been drawn to difference in Modi’s approach towards his communication strategy and apparent attitude displayed by the people towards the same.

Since his assuming office as the prime minister, while Modi appears to be giving greater and greater importance to promoting his physical and political “image,” people seem to be assuming stronger criticism of the same.

In the context of the promises made by Modi regarding his economic approach, the same have been analysed in this book in the context of whether at the end of his first year in office they were near the realistic stage or not.

The book also studies Modi’s “secular” approach probing into whether it has been indulged in to improve his global image and acceptance as a world leader or may be viewed as his “genuine” concern regarding Indian Muslims and Christians.

The writer probes into apparently “secular” moves of Modi, including his sending a chaadar to Ajmer Sharif, and their possible impact on Indian Muslims socio-political support for him.  

The book concludes by taking note of certain key flaws in Modi’s communication strategy. The writer points to it being essential for Modi to take due note of the saffron brigade’s communal agenda, which otherwise may have a negative impact on political attempts being made by him to promote his own “secular” image at the cost of his Parivar’s dreams.

The book takes a balanced approach towards nature and degree of significance accorded by Modi to his communication approach, diplomatically, politically, socially and economically. The limitation and also negative points linked with the same are taken note of by studying Modi’s approach towards communal and saffron drive of those linked with Sangh Parivar.

 The book has been written by Nilofar Suhrawardy, a veteran journalist and commentator on South Asian issues. It has been published by Delhi’s Pharos Media which also publishes The Milli Gazette. The book is a must to understand the mind, substance and image of India’s new leader who for the first time rules on behalf of the ultra right Hindu nationalism spearheaded by the RSS. It remains to be seen how much India and world’s realities will allow him to pursue the Sangh agenda in India and the South Asian region.   

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 september 2015 on page no. 21

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