PM peps up team to do 'image control'

PM peps up team to do 'image control'

By: || Updated: 18 Dec 2014 05:03 AM
New Delhi: Narendra Modi told some of his senior ministers "we have done nothing wrong" in a pep talk that sources said was aimed at spurring them into action to counter the Opposition's "propaganda".

 

 

 

The meeting came in the wake of controversies over "reconversions", abusive comments about minorities and calls to declare the Bhagvad Gita a "national text" that, the sources said, had coalesced to foster a perception that the BJP-led regime had allowed sectarian issues to overwhelm governance.

 

The Rajya Sabha, where the ruling NDA is in a minority, remained paralysed as the Opposition insisted the Prime Minister make a statement that constitutional freedoms would be respected.

 

The morning meeting of the BJP and the Centre's core political group came in this backdrop.

 

"We have not committed a sin. We have done nothing wrong, so we need not worry," Modi was quoted as telling Arun Jaitley, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari - the ministers who heard him out.

 

BJP sources privy to the interaction - that routinely takes place every morning before Parliament starts - said they were "given to understand" that Modi appeared "concerned" about the potential damage to his image as well as that of his government's and, therefore, their political reflexes ought to kick in.

 

"The Opposition is making a concerted effort to project a picture that India is obscurantist, that communal forces have gained an upper hand after the regime change," a minister said.

 

The sub-text of the collective anxiety that a number of BJP seniors and ministers shared was that the international press, particularly the western media, would lap up such "negative" projections "to vindicate the half-truths and lies it had peddled about the BJP and Modi all these years".

 

Sources said what the government fears more is that the "soft power", disseminated through the "Left-Liberal" portrayals of the government, particularly in its ramped-up social media posts, might eventually revive the "biases" of western establishments against Modi after they had "just about warmed up" to him.

 

In the prelude to the summer elections, Modi's fans had created hash-tags on Twitter that pitched him as India's only hope to save the country from the Congress's "ruinous" clutches.

 

The tables have turned since. Modi's cheerleaders, such as author activist Madhu Kishwar, have become defensive and even combative over certain ministerial appointments while his foes have a field day on social media.

 

Coupled with the Hindutva themes, gingered up with disputed statements from saffron-clad "sadhus" and "sadhvis", Modi's neo-converts from a space that was anti-Congress but uncomfortable with the RSS-VHP's "extremism" have been getting increasingly restive with the government's "lethargy" on implementing big-ticket economic reforms. A recent in-camera meet of industry body CII heard many business leaders complain how their expectations weren't even close to being met.

 

With the insurance, GST and coal bills hanging in mid-air because of the Opposition's and the ruling party's intransigence over breaking the deadlock in the Rajya Sabha, the view of a go-slow on reforms could gain strength, sources said.

 

Among the government's first moves was persuading the RSS's Dharam Jagran Samanwaya Vibhag to call off its "reconversion" ceremony on December 25 when the Sangh offspring had planned to "reconvert" Aligarh's Christians to Hinduism.

 

Sources said the government asked senior RSS officials to prevail upon the Samanwaya Vibhag's organisers to cancel their show.

 

"We had no choice but to obey the orders from the top," Aligarh convenor Brajesh Kantak said. "We erred in not presenting our arguments properly. We are not people who trample over the Indian Constitution, we are patriots who hold the book on our heads."

 

On Monday night, the outfit decided to call off the programme.

 

-The Telegraph, Calcutta

 

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