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Mainstream, VOL LX No 19, New Delhi, April 30, 2022

BJP’s Propaganda Mechanism: A Serious Challenge to Indian Democracy | Nagender Madavaram

Friday 29 April 2022


by Dr. Nagender Madavaram *

Recently held Assembly Elections exposed the fragility of Indian democracy as well as obsolete strategies of opposition parties. There are serious concerns about the functioning of Election Commission of India (ECI). The way it declared seven-phase election schedule in Uttar Pradesh (UP) raised apprehensions about its independence and impartiality. It seems, ECI scheduled the elections to accommodate calendar of BJP star campaigners. BJP formed alliance with Apna Dal and Nishad Party in UP. Invisible allies also helped BJP in dividing the Samajwadi Party (SP) votes. Currently, UP leads the nation in crime against women. Nearly 31,000 complaints of crimes committed against women were received by the National Commission for Women (NCW) in 2021. Uttar Pradesh recorded more than half, 15,828 of complaints. According to the data, the highest number of complaints related to the right to live with dignity and domestic violence were received from Uttar Pradesh. [1] In Hathras rape case, the state government harassed the family members of victim and made them prisoners in their own home. Yogi allowed large rallies in support of the accused. [2] In UP, rapists have free ride and Yogi Adityanath is a star campaigner for BJP in other states with false impression. Convincingly, a perception was created that Akilesh Yadav led an anarchical government before 2017 and Modi restored the order.

Modi Government’s Performance

In comparison with UPA 2 government’s performance, Modi government’s track record is abysmal. There is a huge list of failures in all fronts. India is alienated in South Asia. Inhuman behavior of the government towards farmers, migrant workers, unorganized sector workers and poor people is dreadful. After 1947 partition mayhem, first time, Indians died on the roads while walking hundreds of kilo meters to their homes after sudden lockdown. The government had all the resources to save their lives but played spectator role. More than 750 farmers died in the cold weather for protesting against infamous farm laws. The Sikhs were branded as traitors and terrorists though they made immeasurable sacrifices in the freedom struggle and in various wars. Modi’s divisive policies created estrangements in the country. In any country, a ruler like Modi would have been overthrown through violent protests but Modi is continuing in the power and leading his party to victory in various states. He encouraged cow protection squads to harass Muslim farmers. Interestingly, India exported 284 crore pounds of beef in 2020. [3] Most of the factories are owned by BJP supporters. Of the 72 government-approved abattoirs across the country, 38 are in BJP ruled Uttar Pradesh. [4] Hardcore Hindutva elements are not ready to accept the fact.

Is Narendra Modi really an OBC? He beats his chest in the name of Neech Jaati, when someone questions his lies. Usually, a state government sends the caste list of OBCs to the central government and it notifies the same list in a gazette notification. Surprisingly, one month before Modi became Chief Minister, the government of Vajpayee included the Modi’s Modh Ghanchi community by notification in the extraordinary gazette no 246 dated September 6, 2001. The Gujarat government’s Social Justice and Empowerment Department approved the central OBC list on January 1, 2002, when Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat. He participated in BJP’s movement against caste-based reservations in early 1980s. [5] His workplace in railway station, Master’s Degree of Entire Political Science, OBC claim, commitment to protection of cows, honesty in Rafale deal, transferring of public properties to his cronies, morality in waiving of more than 9 lakh crores of loans to rich defaulters and performance in economic development are seriously questionable facts. In spite of despicable record, opposition parties have miserably failed to convert failures of Modi into votes. The reason is, they have been following outdated methods and failed to understand changes in international election strategies.

Micro Electioneering of Obama

Obama changed traditional election campaign by introducing micro electioneering in 2008. His campaign’s novel integration of e-mail, cell phones, and websites assembled formidable alliance. The Obama campaign used social networking features to form groups, raise money, and organize local events. The campaign converted online energy into offline action. Clinton’s election machine collapsed in the primaries as Obama built huge network by using digital media. [6] Remarkably, Obama identified individual groups on the basis of their food habits, preferable games, opinions, watching TV channels and other activities. He characterized Starbucks coffee drinkers are liberals, customers of Red Lobster restaurant are conservatives. He targeted those groups with customized messages. It was marvelous and innovative campaign with mining of bigdata. The Obama 2012-campaign incorporated unprecedented features of social media as majority of US adults were on Facebook. His team, consisting with Google techies, designed a software that drove many aspects of the campaign including messaging, fund-raising, canvassing, organizing, targeting resources to key districts and media management. The campaign team executed state-of-the-art analytic models that personalized social and e-mail messaging using data generated by social-media activity. The campaign took the political application of data science to unprecedented heights. [7]

Disastrous Role of Cambridge Analytica

Obama’s success in the US elections challenged psephologists to explore impact of social media and new technics of data mining. Inspiring from success of Obama, Nigel Oakes, Alexander Nix and Alexander Oakes established a British political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica Ltd (CA) in 2013. The founders were well connected with the Conservative Party (UK). The firm accessed the Facebook users’ data with assurance of using data for academic research purpose. The company combined misappropriation of digital assets, data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication during electoral processes. CA radicalized religious elements for electoral benefits. It has acquired capability of creating an electoral map with various influential attributes and sensitive points. In 2016 US presidential campaign, CA waded with the goal of giving conservatives big data tools to compete with Democrats. Its big promise: developing detailed psychological profiles of every American voter, so that campaigns could tailor their pitches from person to person. [8] Chief Executive, Alexander Nix confirmed that in the United States he created somewhere close to four or five thousand data points on every individual. In the traditional model where 50 million people receive the same blanket advertisement is being replaced by extremely individualistic and situational targeted message. CA was able to identify clusters of people who care about a particular issue like pro-life or gun rights or guy marriage and then to create a message on that issue according to their personalities. [9]

CA used Facebook data hoard to target voters with messages tailored to their personality traits, a strategy known as psychographic marketing. Psychographic marketing targets people on the basis of their personality traits. In 2013, psychologists David Stillwell and Michal Kosinski reported that that by examining which posts or pages a user ‘liked’ on Facebook, it is possible to accurately predict sensitive information such as personality traits and opinions. Further they proved that personality traits can be correlated by measuring people’s openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. [10] CA helped the Leave.EU campaign and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) ahead of the 2016 referendum on European Union (EU) membership of Britain. [11] It exaggerated the impact of Turkey’s membership in EU which has inflamed the debate, injecting divisive issues of race, religion and intolerance openly into the campaign. Supporters of a British exit from the EU were swayed that membership of Turkey in EU would leave Britain exposed to a new wave of Muslim immigration and more vulnerable to Islamic radicals.

 [12] CA succeeded in breaking the EU. The firm used religion, racism and anti-Muslim sentiments to achieve success in its campaign. Mountain of fictious news exploded the political flames and broken the impeccable EU. The controversial CA went bankrupt after its role was exposed in 2018. The Facebook was also fined $5 billion by US for allowing CA to use Facebook data and violating privacy of individuals. [13]

Rebirth of Cambridge Analytica in India

CA closed its operation after many legal cases were filed against it. There is a strong belief in international community that some of these most nefarious professionals joined BJP’s information technology team as consultants. Unlike Western countries, Modi has access to Facebook and Twitter data. The recent history shows that BJP also using CA’s framework of religion, racism and anti-Muslim sentiments to achieve success in its campaign. BJP’s IT cell is equipped with design of psychographic map at micro level. BJP has modern tools, equipment, systems and resources to analyze the emotions and sentiments of the people. It was proved in Bihar and UP elections that psychographic marketing professionals are guiding the party. The party did run various models with combination of political parties, social groups and alliances. In 2020 Bihar Assembly elections, BJP lured Lak Jana Shakthi Party (LJP) to contest against Janata Dal (United) (JD) candidates to weaken Nitish Kumar leadership. Hanuman of Modi, Chirag Paswan impacted JD in 27 Assembly constituencies and made Nitish Kumar to depend on BJP support for Chief Ministership. [14]] In a traditional election campaign it was impossible to take such a risky step but BJP has taken a chance after thoroughly running various dynamic poll models. The party was completely aware and confident of the result when LJP contested against JD. BJP used data science, gained the power as it expected and weakened its allies conspicuously.

Serious allegations were raised about the functioning of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) in UP and Bihar. BJP does not hesitate to exploit weakness in EVMs. The party runs election campaign continuously from of declaration of results to next election. Modi is in election mode all the time with unlimited resources at his disposal. Astonishingly, BJP acquired human, financial and material resources to run the campaign nationwide at the same time which is not possible to any political party. Opposition parties initiate campaign couple of months before elections. Most of them are dysfunctional. They don’t have any idea of BJP’s immaculate election machine and ruthless execution methods.

Generally, opposition parties set election campaign agenda and ruling party answers the allegations. Fascinatingly, Modi is setting agenda for the last seven years and other parties are discussing the same. BJP is playing offensive game in opponents’ field and the opposition is ending up defending its stand on various issues. Comprehensively, BJP is setting up election agenda and opposition parties respond to those issues in a defensive mode. Opposition parties are failing to highlight their issues because the ruling party is successfully forcing other parties to discuss its issues. The parties are forgetting basic strategy that fight should be in enemy’s land so that enemy bears collateral damage. The best example is by-election to Assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh (MP).

Incompetent Opposition

On January 31, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern and advised governments to take necessary actions. [15]] The world took it very serious, partial and complete lockdowns were implemented by several countries immediately. The US government declared national emergency on March 10, 2020 and closed borders. [16]] Modi had different plans in India when pandemic was killing people. He designed a plan for toppling of Congress Party government in MP. He engaged people to clap hands and lit the lights until Congress Party government was toppled on March 20, 2020. [17]] Modi declared lockdown on March 24, 2020. [18]] The inaction of Modi engulfed Covid pandemic and caused death of thousands of people. It is heinous crime against humanity. ECI conducted by-elections for 28 MLA seats in November 2020. Regretfully, at the height of Covid pandemic, Congress Party ignored role of Modi in postponement of lockdown. It was not made an election issue. Instead, the party raised the stereotype issues of farm distress, unemployment and corruption. BJP bulldozed the campaign with Hindutva and development slogans and won 19 out of 28 seats. It bothered many people that does Congress Party has any logically thinking central command to guide state units?

Taxing the Poor and Enriching Few

Modi is collecting more taxes from poor people. The government collected 25 lakh crore taxes on petroleum products, [19]] and banks collected 10,000 crores in three years for not having minimum balance. [20]] He is taking all the steps to collect money from people and give it to his cronies. He is distributing money to few people and enraging religious sentiments in many. Currently, poor people are paying more taxes and rich people are paying less taxes in comparison with 2014 financial year. Debt of India was Rs. 770 lakh crores before 2014 after building several irrigation projects, educational institutions and PSUs. Modi government took Rs. 1,592 lakh crores of loans in the last seven years, even after selling PSUs and cutting budget for welfare schemes. Modi continuously misguiding people on many issues. Washington Post counted 30,573 lies of Trump in fours years. [21]] Indian media is not daring to count the lies of Modi.

Personal Branding of Modi

Failures of Modi is not stopping the BJP from winning the elections in crucial states. The party will win elections in future also in current scenario. Opposition’s 20th century mindset and strategies are failing to challenge the BJP’s 22nd century machinery. Simulated image of Modi is a problem. Regional parties are busy in fighting against local BJP units at the state level while Modi’s personal branding agency is flattering him as an ambassador of God. His beard style, cloths, appearance, style of walking, body language and facial expressions are guided by a professional personal branding agency. It created a phony image that he is honest, noncorrupt as he has no family, working 24 hours a day, left wife to service the nation, poor OBC, worked in railway station, challenging Pak, brought honor to the nation and many untrue notions. All these attributes are correlate to feedback of psychographic marketing team. Modi is avoiding press conferences but inviting designated journalists with selected questions. Profited cronies are running the show and Modi is playing a character in their well scripted political series. It will be fruitless to fight in the election without unmasking and dissecting phony character of Modi.

Spreading Cult and Lies

A cult is spreading across the nation. Regrettably, people are losing logical thinking, becoming blindfolded and braindead. Considerable number of people stopped seeing things through realistic approach. They do not want to believe corruption of Modi government and erosion of constitutional institutions. Undercurrent, lot of unimaginable fallacies are in circulation. Significant number of people are under impression that India is number one in GDP growth, first time India attacked Pak, Indian army defeated Chinese army at the border, Hindus got self-respect in Modi regime, petrol price is increased to pay loans of UPA government and Modi sacrificed life for the nation. The question is, how India is going to deal with huge number of moronic ignorant people. Hitler created same level of chuckleheaded people through promotional uproar.

Building of World Class Institutions

All political parties should invest and build world class institutions to educate, engage and energize the people. Institutions, consisting with experts in various fields, should analyze local politics, evaluate performance of their legislators periodically, asses social dynamics, and generate reports on the impact of government schemes. They should study the flaws of BJP ruled states, create documentation on Hindutva elements and disseminate the information to all the stakeholders. No government understands ground realities as long as it exclusively depends upon on the feedback of government officials. Political parties in Western countries heavily invest on institutions for managing the information and getting reports on various issues. They organize seminars, workshops, round table conferences, townhall meetings, podcast and discussions with media. BJP has well-structured institution in underground and working very effectively. It maintains gigantic information on innumerable groups and dynamics.

Electioneering is a Continuous Process 

The parties hire psephologists before the elections and dispose after polls. It is an interim setup. It is worth to invest on a permanent mechanism to meet the new challenges. Irrespective of elections, the institutions should collect the empirical data on various fields. For example; people need to know, how much Ambani gets if Reliance increase a rupee on a liter petrol? How the price increase effects multiple sectors and a common man? How Adani is getting rich when whole nation is suffering from economic crisis? Why Adani’s Mundra Port is getting attention recently in drug trafficking? How safe is India when the same group is managing several seaports and airports? Ambani and Adani are influencing the formulation of political alliances with their enormous financial resources. Election manifestoes of parties need to discuss about growing money power of crony capitalists. Earlier, media produced tons of material on alleged Rs. 64 crore Bofors scam but the same media is tightlipped on Rs. 38,7000 crore Rafale scam. It is not even ready to investigate and discuss. The fourth estate and constitutional institutions are under pressure from Modi government. Political parties should do their investigation with credible team.

The parties may have political differences but at least they should exchange information on dishonest propaganda. Some regional parties have false assumption that welfare schemes will elect them to power. The US experience proved that the majority of Obama healthcare beneficiaries in white race are not voting for Democratic Party. [22]] Network of pastors in Southern states are influencing the behavior of the white people. In the same way, flood of misinformation with psychographic marketing technics from BJP’s social media unit change outcome of the election result. Amit Shah is raising forgotten issue of Chandigarh status to get benefit in Haryana election. BJP unpopular in Haryana farmers. He made very calculated move after thorough research of the psychographic marketing team to overcome dissatisfaction of farmers. Another issue, ‘one nation and one language’ is brewing for next election in North India. Hind chauvinism clubbed with religious narrow-mindedness may influence the elections. BJP leadership don’t give slogans without proper research of scientific analysis team.

Dangerously, BJP is persuading people that welfare schemes are damaging the nation but corporate looting is helping the economy. Misinterpreting economic troubles in Sri Lanka that freebies drained the economy and made people lazy. In the US, big corporations successfully implanted this theory very successfully in the society. The BJP propaganda team sensed the anger of people and started marketing Modi as savior of India for not facing the same troubles of Sri Lanka. Primarily, main parties should come to gather to work on common minimum program of dissemination of information. They may fight in the elections but people will elect alternative government when they are aware of the facts. Modi is disabling young generation with delusional myths. Questioning of Modi is no more a political objective but a patriotic duty in the best interest of the nation.

* (Author: Dr. Nagender Rao Madavaram, worked in the Department of Political Science, Osmania University, Hyderabad. Currently, he is based in the US.)

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