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New narrative is being shaped up as Uttar Pradesh elections are nearing

Ray Bradbury, the famous American novelist, once said “I was not predicting the future, I was trying to prevent it”. Closer to home in India, driven by the hate for the man who broke Delhi’s Omerta code, media shops have taken this Bradbury maxim quite literally.

Traumatized with Modi’s astounding victory in the 2014 general elections and wounded further by the assembly results in Maharashtra and Haryana, where BJP tasted unprecedented success propelled by Modi Tsunami, media shops learned a key lesson nonetheless. The lesson was that if BJP was allowed to set the agenda (usually a potent mix of development and cultural nationalism) with the main opposition merely either trying to catch up or negate it, BJP will be unassailable. The media shops quickly recognised that an  agenda like this transcends all socio-economic barriers, appealing to a  much wider voter base. More importantly, it transforms the profile of a voter. A caste conscious voter becomes an aspirational voter.  Such a change causes a wide disruption on a predictable political canvass since pressure groups, nurtured for years by establishment forces to control social bases, cannot deliver anymore. They do not have the answers  sought by this new voter base looking beyond their immediate identity. A simple idea when associated with a doer like Narendra Modi could yield rich dividends.

Having decoded the success of BJP, the media shops along with their masters and sympathisers converged to devise strategies to arrest this growing tide of BJP.  Consequently, they concluded that the following must be done a) find ways to dismember the BJP´s new avatar as a development party, pinning it back as a Hindu party b) instead of viewing BJP´s victory as one big behemoth event, break it down to the incremental voters it added in the 2014 election in each state and try to wean them away c) change the political narrative for egs. development, clean government, etc where the BJP has somewhat good track record to showcase and replace it with a narrative where the BJP could be targeted much more easily d) strike like a guerrilla i.e. swoop down from all sides and then disappear quickly, leaving the BJP puzzled whom to respond.

The benefits of this strategy were obvious; if implemented correctly, this could arrest the tectonic but so far only temporal shift of voters from identity based to development based politics, sap the BJP’s positive momentum generated by victory in 2014 and help escape the wrath of government in any one particular direction enabling them to live to fight another day (read election).

First it started with Delhi, petty news of theft in Churches were given wide coverage, creating a perception that Christians are under siege in the National capital. In no time, a non issue became a matter of life and death in the TV studios of media shops for every secularist worth his/her salt –  in a classical case of agenda setting. Overnight, BJP was bracketed as a communal party for no rhyme or reason. A political “hawa” was created by journalists, some of whom who were recently exposed, by fanning fires over Ghar Wapsi which involved a bunch of fanatics who had nothing to do with the BJP whatsoever. Result? A strong consolidation of minorities, particularly Muslims and Sikhs behind AAP. The entire narrative was shifted largely from development to secularism and somewhat to AAP´s freebies, whose morality in a free economy and need basis in a reasonably wealthy state like Delhi escaped any scrutiny. Moreover, media shops completely suppressed the massive infighting going in AAP (which came to fore almost immediately after the Delhi elections) in order to not weaken the crusader of their choice i.e Kejriwal. 

The strategy succeeded with AAP getting a massive mandate and media shops, their sweet revenge. The liberal troops were ordered back to barracks and no one heard a whimper over attacks on Christians thereafter. Suddenly, everyone was safe under the same dispensation and same police.

Predictably, the Delhi results emboldened the media shops and the next stage was set in Bihar. Earlier during the general elections, the BJP had made big strides in Bihar owing to the incremental vote from a large section of EBC as well Yadav voters i.e traditional voters of Nitish and Lalu. If Bihar was to be redeemed, then this vote base must be snatched back from the BJP. Therefore, as the Bihar elections approached besides usual secular rhetoric over Dadri beef tragedy and Award Wapsi, a narrative was spun portraying the BJP as anti-poor and anti-reservation. Media shops cleverly primed the voters by fronting Lalu as a champion of the downtrodden while projecting Nitish as the face of development pandering to the urban voters. One obscure statement after the other from Lalu and people close to him about how BJP was planning to get rid of reservations was pitched systematically as the election campaign proceeded, lending a sense of credibility to this utter falsehood.

BJP was found licking its wound and by the time it could get itself sorted out, the narrative has already changed from Vikaaswaad to Jaatiwaad. It was left defending reservation on one hand and disowning Dadri incident on the other. Consequence? Incremental voters that came with NDA forces during 2014 deserted it and along with Muslims, consolidated behind Lalu and Nitish, who were effectively projected as their messiahs.

The world has neither heard a whisper ever since about BJP´s plan to get rid of reservation nor about the Award Wapsi gang, who seem to be happy again with how things are in India, that is until the next elections. Perception won, reality lost.

Two out of two, media shops have now trained their eyes now on Uttar Pradesh. The strategy has been activated; scare away the incremental voters i.e. Dalits, change the narrative and frustrate BJP´s plans to build a grand coalition of castes and ability to set UP´s election agenda. When the time is ripe, other forces will be unleashed too. We should just get prepared for a huge propaganda onslaught.

Indeed, when every report becomes report worthy just because media shops can bring in the Dalit identity, then make no mistake that elections in UP are just round the corner!

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Prashant
A Dilliwala, first and last and always !!

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