By Connecting With the Young, Chacha Modi Could Create an India of His DreamsModi is a message. Even his sworn enemies concede that. But he is also au courant with the medium to disseminate his message in real time. His colleagues are surviving by flirting with fair-weather opinion-makers and media mavens. On the other hand, the PM is thriving by setting up his own mechanism for connecting with India. In the past 100 days, Modi has proved that he can reach out to maximum people with minimum interaction with the media. He doesn’t miss any opportunity to convert his gestures into a publicised event. From Independence Day to Teachers’ Day, every date provides him an excuse to reach out to target audiences all over the country—schoolchildren, bank officers, jawans, youth and government employees. His obsession with technology and social media has made him the only world leader who connects with people directly, making conventional media redundant. It may sound like a coincidence, but there is a method in his methodology.
Last week, he was back on stage with another out-of-the box idea. His eyes are set on future voters as well—India’s children. India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru’s birthday on November 14 was declared as Children’s Day so that he could speak to the young. He would ask the Delhi government to gather over 1,000 school kids at the national stadium and interact with them at teatime, thus earning him the sobriquet ‘Chacha Nehru’. But Modi isn’t bothered about projecting his birthday. Instead, he had a recent epiphany about how to reach both children and teachers simultaneously. HRD Minister Smriti Irani has directed her ministry to convert Teachers’ Day on September 5 into a ‘Charcha with Chacha Modi’. A planned dialogue with 100 handpicked students from Delhi schools will last for over 100 minutes, to be telecast throughout. States have been directed to provide not only TV sets in chosen schools but also Internet connections in remote areas so that all schoolchildren can watch the PM answering questions from kids. Though states are yet to provide the total number of the children audience, the HRD ministry is confident that it would set a world record in which a PM would be watched by over 1,900 million schoolchildren.
All these are not just attempts to reach out to future voters and to mesmerise adolescents with the Modi Mantra. The idea is to force states to connect every school with the rest of the country and the world. It will also help the PM to interact with the most active section of the population. For Modi, connectivity is a matter of faith. Creating records is his mission. Like a star athlete, he takes pride in hanging medals on his 56-inch chest. Last week, his administration created history again. It is perhaps for the first time that any Indian government has implemented a scheme within two weeks of its announcement by the PM—the Jan Dhan Yojna. Calling it an attempt to ensure financial inclusion, the finance ministry launched the scheme on August 28 by opening over 1.8 crore bank accounts for over 60 per cent of Indians who have no access to banking facilities. He also announced 1.5 crore free insurance policies. This means massive business for banks, insurance companies and mobile operators. Earlier, Modi sent out emails to senior bank officials, asking them to take active interest in opening accounts under the scheme. Never before had any official received a personal communication from the PM. A senior banker confided that but for the PM’s personal intervention, the banking system wouldn’t have come together to successfully conduct such a massive exercise in a single day.
Modi’s passion for connectivity was evident when he launched the government portal mygov.nic.in on July 26. It is meant to encourage people to write to him directly about various issues and propose solutions. Since talkative and argumentative Indians have opinions on everything, Modi saw an opportunity to be exploited in this predilection. Any ordinary citizen in any remote part of India now has direct access to the PM. Later, he issued a directive to all government employees to provide their email ids to their ministries in case he wished to get in touch directly. On the face of it, all these exercises appear to be just about the government communicating through a new technology-driven medium. But actually they involve creating a massive data bank, which Modi is putting together to access without government help in the future. According to his techie aides, the PM himself has access to over four crore mobile numbers, email ids and personal details of ministers—both at the Centre and in the states—as well as of party workers. This info-treasury is a powerful instrument in his hands to keep track of the performance of party office-bearers and ministerial colleagues. Modi would also be able to do course corrections. It is intriguing that he hasn’t junked the practice of placing the PM’s picture on every Central government advertisement, an exercise started by the all-powerful Indira Gandhi, who, too, was equally aggressive in establishing direct contact with the people.
A loner by lifestyle and a workaholic by nature, Modi is perhaps the first CM who fought as a PM candidate and won an unprecedented mandate. He earned it by being a frequent flier and maximum talker. According to websites, Modi addressed about 425 rallies in 28 states, covering 5,800 locations from September 2013 to May 2014. He flew and drove for 300,000 km and spoke to over four crore people. He conceived an unusual interactive programme by organising Chai Pe Charcha, which was distributed live through 3D projectors at 400 locations. As if connectivity with domestic audiences wasn’t enough, he set yet another precedent on the day of his swearing-in. For the first time, leaders from SAARC countries, including a hostile Pakistan, were invited to participate in the function of installing India’s PM. As Modi completes 100 days in office this week, he would be known as the most formidable human data bank connected to the most powerful and fastest server with unlimited memory. For Modi, it is not a chair in South Block but information which is power. Will he use it to create the India of his dreams or demolish those who stand as roadblocks in his way to become the most powerful PM the country has ever had? Over to Chacha Modi.
Prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla