The Role Of Modi's Cult In BJP's Victories

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's marketing teaches a lesson in personal branding
PM Narendra Modi
PM Narendra Modi

Anointing a specific leader as a perfect fit for the country in order to mobilize voters’ support is hardly a new tactic, especially when one has a history of doing so. Be it 2014’s general election when BJP gained a majority in lower house or 2019’s general election after which his administration revoked J&K special status, Narendra Modi is the guru of playing the cards.

Right before the elections, delving into humanitarian causes and progressive pursuits for the country can rightly pitch the voters’ support. Social media further facilitates the political, agenda-based mobilization. In essence, Modi's marketing strategy has been successful in construction of a strong personal brand. However, behind Modi's success lies a meticulously crafted and highly effective marketing strategy that has played a crucial role in shaping public opinion and swaying voters.

Every individual has a brand that influences how they are regarded and whether or not they are loved and respected, according to American marketing expert and author of several books on branding David Aaker. According to Aaker, successful portrayal of the brand requires consistent and disciplined effort without which a brand withers over time. Modi has been at it for a long time now.

From his humble beginnings as a tea-seller to his charismatic speeches and bold leadership, Modi has successfully projected an image of a strong, decisive, and relatable leader. His "chai pe charcha" (discussion over tea) campaign during the 2014 elections was a masterstroke in connecting with the masses at a grassroots level.

One of the defining moments of Modi's tenure was the controversial decision to demonetize high-value currency notes in 2016. While the move had significant economic implications, it was also a brilliant messaging triumph. Modi skillfully marketed demonetization as a step towards curbing corruption and black money, resonating with the public's desire for a cleaner and more transparent governance system.

Also, Modi's government has placed a strong emphasis on infrastructure development, launching ambitious initiatives such as "Make in India," "Digital India," and "Smart Cities." These campaigns have not only aimed at boosting economic growth but also contributed to shaping a narrative of progress and a vision of a "New India." By highlighting infrastructure achievements and promising a brighter future, Modi's marketing machinery has successfully created a sense of hope and aspiration among voters.

Moreover, he has actively sought to cultivate an image as a statesman on the international stage, undertaking numerous foreign visits and engaging with world leaders. India’s G-20 presidency from December 1, 2022 to November 30th, 2023 with the motto of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “One Earth · One Family · One Future”, has been a great opportunity for BJP’s tenure. India has held 100 G-20 meetings, three ministerial meetings, as of now, and further meetings are being scheduled and planned.

PM Narendra Modi says “India's G20 Presidency will work to promote this universal sense of one-ness. Hence our theme - 'One Earth, One Family, One Future'”. Mr. Modi has shrewdly used this golden opportunity to grow its clout through non-stop G-20 advertisement. Although a no small feat, PM Modi is regarding India’s G-20 presidency as his own hard-earned achievement meanwhile dismissing the fact that it’s cyclic and continuous.

The impact has been great, and commentators have regarded it as “India’s most prestigious feat” since 1983’s non-alignment movement summit. Moreover, there is unprecedented public involvement. Government’s marketing campaign has successfully highlighted the government’s effort to educate public regarding India’s presidency. Additionally, the government has promoted how it encouraged college students to participate in order to serve as facilitators for international delegates while events were being hosted in the individual cities.

Showcasing himself as the only potential steward for a rising India, Modi and his marketing team has been busy for the purpose of securing maximum election ballots as the election 2024 come to a near. Notwithstanding, this marketing strategy has been hitting the right spots. Public has regarded Modi as someone who is capable of upping India at the world stage.

Moreover, there is hope budding that India will normalize the ties between Moscow and other G-20 capitals thus mediating major international relationships. Modi's marketing team recognized early on the potential of social media as a tool for political mobilization. Under his leadership, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) created a robust digital infrastructure that enabled direct communication between Modi and the citizens.

With millions of followers on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, Modi effectively utilized these channels to disseminate his message, engage with supporters, and counter opposition narratives. His team's adept use of data analytics and targeted advertising helped them disseminate their message to specific demographics, ensuring maximum impact.

Through initiatives like the "Narendra Modi Mobile App" and "Mann Ki Baat" radio program, Modi built a strong online presence, further enhancing his image as a tech-savvy and accessible leader. Modi's marketing strategy also includes the art of narrative framing. By skillfully framing political debates and issues, he has been able to shape public perception in his favor.

His focus on national security, economic development, and cultural nationalism has resonated with many voters. Modi has successfully positioned himself as the harbinger of change, emphasizing the need for a strong, stable government and promising transformative policies.

Modi's brand has transcended political boundaries, becoming an influential force in Indian society. His image as a no-nonsense, hardworking leader has helped him establish a strong connect with the masses. Modi's marketing juggernaut has undoubtedly left a lasting impact on voters.

The carefully curated image of a decisive leader and the promises of progress and development have struck a chord with many. Modi's ability to connect with the masses through his speeches, social media presence, and outreach programs has won him a dedicated following. His marketing strategies have successfully tapped into the aspirations and hopes of millions, particularly the younger generation, who view him as a symbol of change and a catalyst for a new India.

While Modi's marketing strategies have been effective in garnering support, they have also faced criticism and controversy. Detractors argue that his marketing machinery has created a personality cult that stifles dissent and promotes a one-sided narrative. Moreover, critics claim that the hyper-focus on marketing has overshadowed real policy debates and hindered constructive criticism, leading to a lack of transparency and accountability.

The saga of Modi marketing has revolutionized political campaigning in India. From his humble beginnings to becoming a global political figure, Narendra Modi's rise to power can be attributed in large part to his effective marketing strategies.

By building a strong personal brand, harnessing the power of social media, and promoting a narrative of progress and development, and the presidency of G-20 as a cherry on top, Modi has successfully captured the imagination of voters. However, while his marketing prowess cannot be denied, it is important to critically evaluate the impact of his policies and actions beyond the realm of marketing. Moreover, there needs to be a stringent debate on how well has he delivered on the previous heightened expectations.

(Akshat Jain is a Research Scholar at Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. Views expressed here are personal)

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