Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Rise and Importance of Propaganda in Indian Election

The massive win of Narendra Modi even after disastrous handling of the economy has confounded most of the election experts. "It is the economy stupid" is no longer a valid political theory to explain election wins or defeats. Further the scale and breadth of the win despite not fulfilling any of the promises of the first term is even more bewildering. Looks like people have totally forgotten about "1000 smart cities", "2 crore jobs per year", "bringing back black money" etc.

The acute agrarian distress as evident from fall in agricultural prices, the lack of Govt support in procurement or in enhancing the MSP did not dent the prospect of the ruling Govt. The demonetization and GST that broke the back of MSMEs and the trader class did not hamper the ruling Govt in the urban constituencies. In fact it was a complete sweep over entire India barring three states.

What explains the dichotomy between the performance of this Govt and the resounding re-election? A number of theories have been put forward to explain it. Let us go through one by one:

1. Opposition did not offer anything: This is plain lie. Rahul Gandhi in various speeches did point out towards rural distress and alleviating them by much higher MSP, better procurement and on time payment from Govt. On these promises alone, Congress swept Chattisgarh and won two more states in December. They even procured paddy at Rs. 2500/- in Chattisgarh after coming to power and yet won just 2 seats out of 11.

2. There was no alternative: Clearly anyone who is slightly better than a school kid would do better than Modi in dealing with economy and social schemes. Demonetization was the most stupid decision ever taken with no gains to the Govt or the people but massive loss to the economy. The price crash of agricultural commodities due to demonetization has not recovered yet.

2. Govt schemes: Central Govt budget of 24 lakh crores is huge by any standards and every Govt spends money on existing and new schemes and will have beneficiaries. In fact most new social sector spending like "Ayushman Bharat", "Ujjwala Yojana", "Swachh Bharat" have no real budget outlays to be successful. They created hope but were largely unsuccessful. Govt transferred most of its budget to banks to cover the NPA deficit in banks that were anyway due to failed infra and power projects due to Govt actions and economic slowdown.

If you look at the election results, it is quite obvious that it was not an issue or candidate based election. People have voted only to put Modi in the PM seat. That can only be explained by the propaganda that was created in favour of Modi over the last 5 years by the mainstream media (read TV channels)  and the whatsapp BJP propaganda that keep ridiculing opposition leaders and never questioning those in power.

Opposition thinking that it will be able to bypass TV channels and Whatsapp to deliver its message to the voters was simply misplaced. Even Modi rallies were not well attended, but the MSM and WhatsApp were constantly delivering the messages to the voters that Opposition is not offering anything and that there was no real alternative to Modi or that every opposition leader is a muslim appeaser. The propaganda over 5 years has worked and the result is in front of us. Opposition can ignore it at their own peril!

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