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Congress is quite worried about the Modi effect: Aakar Patel

IBNLive.com
Jul 18, 2013 at 03:53pm IST

Is the political discourse in India, till the 2014 general elections, going to be dictated by the actions, words and interpretations of Narendra Modi? And will this necessarily benefit him and the BJP? Columnist Aakar Patel joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the issue.

Q. Is it not true that Mr Modi is being hyped by the electronic media for sensational debates...left alone the masses would not care so much for any politician, leave alone Mr Modi....do we really have to waste time seeing how he gets out of a airport or such petty things on TV. Asked by: dhananjay kashyap

Congress is quite worried about the Modi effect: Aakar Patel

Has Narendra Modi come to dictate the Indian political discourse?

A. Not true. He is India's most popular leader in the middle class. So far as coverage of his minor actions go, that is the nature of media, you are right.

Q. Is all out attack of Congress, BSP, SP, Lalu and JDU making Modi more stronger? Asked by: rajesh

A. Good point. I would say yes.

Q. Why does the media wait for that one liner in the whole speech and continue debating on for the whole day rather than raising the relevant issues which he raises? Asked by: Ankit

A. That is the nature of the media. It seeks a headline to draw the reader/viewer in. I accept your point that we in the media should look at things deeper than just the one line. The media's coverage of Modi's "Kutte ke bacche" line was disgraceful.

Q. Hi Aakar, Modi is the perhaps the most effective opposition mass leader who can communicate the mis governance of UPA to the public across classes. But in doing so, he is also trying polarize the electorate using subtle references to Muslims. My questions to you. 1. Will this attempt at polarization benefit BJP? 2. Can the Congress just get away by just diverting the attention to Secular vs Communal debate and thus avoid the focus on governance? (I believe congress will try to do so even if Modi hadn't used any of those references). Your take? Asked by: kartheek

A. 1) Polarisation always helps in elections whether for the Congress (1969 Gujarat and 1984 Delhi) or BJP (Ayodhya and then 2002). 2) Congress will not benefit from a secular vs communal debate because it's not really a debate. But you are quite right, it is desperate to move the debate away from performance.

Q. Will Nitish apologise for what has happened under his able governance which is inclusive? Asked by: NotModiFan

A. Do you mean the deaths of the schoolchildren? If so, he should. Isn't it appalling that kids should die in this way? He should be ashamed. We all should.

Q. Will shifting the debate from mis-governance to secular vs communal help congress in 2014? Asked by: Jay

A. I don't think so. Secular vs communal isn't really a debate in India.

Q. NaMo is kind of Indra. Congress always fears about coalition and loss of power and never been good to people. Sure, NaMo will take BJP as single largest party and bring everything that enhance people life. Asked by: Sri Kumar

A. There is a possibility that NaMo/Indra will lead his party to single largest party status. Will he enhance our lives? I hope so!

Q. Hi can Congress afford to take a royal ignore policy towards NaMo. Asked by: Puneet Gaur

A. They cannot ignore him, and I don't think they have.

Q. Don't you think Media is conspiring with Congress and Sonia against Modi. Modi is coming up with fresh ideas and challenging the status quo and also the definition of secular mentality. Asked by: Seetharaman

A. I think media in India and the world over tends to be liberal. By saying this, I mean that journalists tend not to like confrontational or religion-based politics. Their wariness of Mr Modi comes from this rather than any love of the Congress or Ms Gandhi.

Q. Hi Aakar ji, Why everyone wants to talk about Modi and without Modi there is no news in India, Is it everyone seeing him as potential PM of India? Asked by: Jagannath Pujar

A. He's a very attractive figure to cover. Excellent speaker, divisive in his politics and very clever in his managing of issues. In comparison most other politicians are boring. This is one reason why the media is seen as being obsessed with Mr Modi.

Q. Incidents needs immediate attention and visionary prevention policies such as (Ramdev Baba crackdown, Delhi gangrape, Anna Hazare movement, farmer suicide, naxalism, many more.....countless); After public outcry of weeks there is no response from Congress led UPA govt. When Modi speaks all the so-called seculars are ready for media address within hours. I think it itself speaks in volume, that Modi is defining and will define Indian political discourse. At the same time this is in the interest of this country. Asked by: Satya

A. Great point. I think the Congress/seculars are quite worried about Modi's popularity and that explains why they rush to offer a response to anything he says within hours.

Q. Don't you think the media is capitalizing on the Modi bandwagon? I mean be it on a positive note or a negative note, there is something about Modi that will make the news always? Asked by: Chrishelle Ballelakha

A. Not sure how the media is capitalising on it, if by capitalising you mean making money. It is true that Modi is the story on more days than any other leader, but that is because he offers us (media) the material, and also because the media is convinced that readers/viewers like news about him. Doesn't make the media any extra money though.

Q. The ruling party is out of ideas to lead. So they are only policy is to counter Modi. Modi deserved to define Indian political discourse and is in the interest of this country. Asked by: Satya

A. I would accept that partially. It is true that at the moment it appears that the Congress believes this will be a Modi election. However I think this will change as the new year approaches.

Q. Hi Aakar, Is the BJP in an election pitch too early. I felt they had made the same mistake with the "India Shining" as well. Are they expecting Nov elections. If not don't they need to concentrate on retaining MP, C'Gad, and Winning Rajasthan and Delhi Asked by: Narayan

A. Two things. I think it's not too early. Mr Modi's style is to micro-manage and to ensure everything is done right. This requires time. India Shining was a campaign aimed at the middle class. We will have to wait to see what the slogans Mr Modi unfurls are. Secondly, I think we will see a specific campaign for the states you referred to shortly and these will be based on local issues.

Q. When will media start questioning the secular status of parties like MIM and AIMIM? Asked by: Ankit

A. I don't think they will. The media doesn't look at parties like Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen, or Muslim League which are by definition communal, as being not-secular mainly because they are small and make little difference. But I think that is the wrong approach and I agree with you.

Q. Don't you think media is too much obsessed with 2002, riots have happened everywhere. since it is sub-judice you must wait for court verdict. secondly my experience of doing business and Gujarat is amazing. I have lived in village near Ahmadabad and experience. I feel media is doing vendetta journalism. Asked by: venkatesh

A. I think any incident where 1000 Indians are killed deserves to be obsessed with. If someone says, well what about 1984 then? I say we should obsess about that too.

Q. I am Gujarati but living in Mumbai.I found gujarati Muslims are much better stranded of living then other places in India.So don't you think we should give Modi chance at center? Asked by: Harshit

A. Harshit, the condition of Gujaratis, whether Muslim or Hindu, has been better than other Indians for a century. If you look at the Muslim businessmen of India - whether Premji of Wipro or Khorakiwala of Wockhardt, they are Gujaratis. We cannot say that Modi made them, because he did not.

Q. With all the scams and scandals involving UPA 2 and TMC and DMK out of alliance,how does the congress still believe that the next term at office is theirs? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Unfortunately, Indian voters do not consider corruption an issue. If we did, we would not have voted back Laloo, Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi and all the rest. Congress understands this and hopes it can get away with its corruption and misgovernance.

Q. BJP has already allowed NaMo to lead the campaign. Has he instilled fear in the UPA 2,who have gone to NaMo phobia? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. I think the Congress is quite worried about what the effect of Modi will be. That explains why they rush to respond to every thing he says.

Q. Hypothetical, is Modi capable to get 250 seats for BJP? Asked by: Ramesh

A. No.

Q. Hi Aakar, Do you think Modi will be able to get some seats in South and WB? Asked by: ashutosh

A. I think he will patch up (unofficially) with Yedyurappa and get a few in Karnataka. Andhra Pradesh will depend very much on how Congress resolves the Telengana problem. The BJP has a good chance of picking up a few seats there. Tamil Nadu and Kerala will be blank of course. The interesting one is Bengal. I think the BJP will do better in the local body elections, but the Lok Sabha polls need too much mobilisation which the party does not have at the moment, so I will give them at the most 1 seat from Calcutta.

Q. Will the reluctant prince Rahul get into act and help congress get some semblance of respectability amongst voters? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. He is quite reluctant, isn't he? I hope he gets into the act, but I don't think he will. Both mother and son think that their job is advice and direction rather than execution.

Q. Why media criticize Modi so much, it looks almost biased criticism even if true. we don't see that much for other possible PM candidates like Mulayam or Rahul Gandhi.This is actually making him more popular. Asked by: sourabh

A. Increasingly we are also seeing pro-Modi media. This is new because the BJP almost never got good press as a "communal" party. Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan are boring in comparison to Modi and that explains the lack of coverage about them. If you never appear in public, you will not be written about.

Q. NaMo's success as CM of Gujarat makes him more acceptable than Rahul who has not shouldered any responsibility so far. Does this not make NaMo ahead in leading BJP to the POLLS? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Rahul does have the vice-presidentship (inherited) of India's biggest party. That is a responsibility. I don't think this will be a Rahul vs Modi election.

Q. Performance, Personality, Presentation - Do you find anyone else measuring up to NaMo's level? Does this give him a chance to lead the nation's discourse on who should get to position in 2014 LS GE? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. I don't see anyone else. NaMo is an outstanding politician and really world class in the way that he reaches out and touches his audience. Having said that, his politics are narrow and many people are wary of him. He needs to resolve their issues to be able to lead the discourse.

Q. Why has Congress allowed NaMo to take a lead to direct the political dialogues? Will this backfire on Congress, with their thinking that he is the only opponent to be attacked? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. If they think they will win the election purely by attacking Modi (and I do not know if they think this), they will lose. You are right.

Q. Is it true that Narendra Modi is polarising the Indian voters in his own terms and the so called pseudo secularist parties are falling in his trap? Will it be a fight of Modi versus all pseudo secularists? Asked by: Manas

A. I don't think he has polarised Indian voters. He has polarised Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat. The fight will not be between Modi and the rest but between many many parties. In large parts of India the BJP and Modi are irrelevant. In many parts of India even the Congress is not relevant.

Q. Narendra Modi has proved himself as an able administrator and a powerful orator. But he is considered as dictatorial and divisive by many.Do you think that projecting Modi as the face of the BJP for upcoming Lok sabha polls and his branding as a Hindu Nationalist will hurt BJP's fortunes and give congress a lifeline? Also the recent sacking of BJP's Delhi unit's vice president for his anti-Modi remarks,will it hurt the BJP, as it always takes the moral high ground in being democratic and taking along everyone? Asked by: Suhas

A. Don't think it will hurt the BJP's chances. He is their best bet.

Q. The questions being put up by Mr Modi are pertinent. Naturally the ruling party does not have answers. Instead they try to pick their own meanings for Modi's questions: Either way it will benefit BJP, what's your take sir. Asked by: Sivakumar Iyer

A. Either way, Mr Modi gets the space (in papers) and time (on TV) to ask his probing questions. Good for him!

Q. Isn't the Congress erring in trying to dissect each and every word of Modi's speech. People who have read the interview would know surely that he had not called a community as puppy (or in the words of Congress leaders Kutte ka baccha). This is bound to create more awareness among people of Congress tactics. Your thoughts. Asked by: EM

A. I thought the picking of this one phrase by Congress and some parts of the media was not in good taste. Mr Modi did not mean it in the sense it was made out to be.

Q. How many seats would you think Modi will be able to get for BJP Asked by: ashutosh

A. Min 110, Max 150.

Q. Do you think BJP can cross 200 if Modi projected as PM candidate? Asked by: Ankur

A. No.

Q. The political discourse in India for the past couple of years has been on Modi. Even when there were scam related news, a news byte on Modi would have shifted the focus of the public to the happenings around Modi. I believe this was a tactic on the part of the govt and the Congress party. Now that Modi has been named as the chief election campaign for the BJP, this is bound to increase. A look at the recent happenings around Modi is itself a statement. Your thoughts. Asked by: EM

A. I agree. Too much coverage of him. But it is because he is a charismatic and attractive figure to cover. But you must remember that in India we have issue-less and caste-based and language-based elections.

Q. Can Modi consolidate the Hindu vote? Will happen in secular India? Asked by: Gaurav

A. Yes he will. His best chance is to repeat what happened with the BJP in the early 1990s and consolidate the Hindu vote.

Q. Media persons are enjoying this election because its ones in a life opportunity for u people to cover such noisy election, your take on that Asked by: pritesh

A. True!

Q. Having read your articles so far in various magazines and your answers today, I find lot of change in your approach to NaMo. Is it so? PS Asked by: PS

A. No change. I know him personally and am fond of him. I don't like some of the things he has done, and I have never liked them.

Q. Is there any way BJP can cross 200? Asked by: ashutosh

A. Sorry, but no.

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