It is generally said that almost the entire electronic media (TV channels) in the country is busy building a personality cult around Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a scale not witnessed before.
The shrieking and ill-mannered anchors are leaving no stone unturned to make India a Leader State with North Korea as a model. Criticism of Modi is not banned for the sake of faux respect for freedom of speech but is sure to invite instant labeling as ‘anti-national’ or one of the many other words used as an alternative like the ‘tukde-tukde gang’.
The world associate’s personality cult with the podgy leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un. Before him were some other, including Adolf Hitler and Mao Dezong of China. India too has lived under the spell of personality cult for a brief period when Indira Gandhi’s name was used as a synonym for India. But she cannot be compared with Modi for the simple reason that a major tool for sowing the seeds of personality cult did not exist during her time—the now ubiquitous TV. Arguably, other media forms also did not conform to the dictates of the powerful the way being witnessed now.
The current torch bearers of personality cult found two recent events that took place in quick succession for unleashing their sycophantic adoration of Modi. First it was the cricket World Cup in the UK where even the Indian team was made to shed its blue ‘uniform’ in favor of a blue jersey with a generous splash of saffron color. Despite a few setbacks, the Indian team appeared to be doing well even though one of the two losses were suffered with the new saffron jersey at the semi-final stage of the tournament.
But a famous TV anchor with prescience had confidentially declared that that ‘Modi’ will beget the World Cup. When the Indian team lost to England in the semi-final it might have presented a difficult choice for some who did not quite understand who to blame for letting down the Indian team: the Great Leader or the players.
The loss of the Indian team was a befitting occasion for national sorrow. But the Great Leader was spared the blame. How could any fault be found with him when he had already established his superhuman credentials by teaching lessons to external enemies and subdued, if not eliminated, all internal adversaries.
Soon there was an opportunity for him to exhibit his Great Leader qualities beyond this planet. Swooning anchors were declaring that ‘Modi’ will conquer the Moon. This was a reference to the launching of a mission by the Indian space agency to land on the southern pole of the Moon—a feat not achieved by any Moon mission undertaken by the Big Three of space technology—the US, Russia and China.
The anchors and the government were one in suggesting that the Moon mission of India is identified with the personality of Modi. It was in line with the belief spread by Modi himself that India leapt into the 21st century only after Modi became the prime minister.
For some strange reason, both the TV channels and the government allowed a major lapse by calling the July 15 Moon mission as Chandrayan 2 which clearly meant that it was a follow up of a previous one that had taken place in 2008. Alas, the stars of the ancient Indian astrology lurking in the vicinity of the Moon were not suitably disposed; the Moon mission had to be aborted, delaying the conquest of the Moon by India’s Great Leader.
But that was no setback because by now the country—nay, the world—has seen how Modi transformed India within a span of five years. Nobody outside the country had heard of India; now they all have and, what is more, know who is the Leader. India continues to maintain the enviable record of being the world’s fastest growing economy among the major economies. Only the Modi detractors say that it is not enough to pull India out of poverty.
Such debates have become pointless after the Indian voter decisively reposed faith in Modi’s leadership with a bigger majority than in 2014. This, despite all the noise about faltering economy, unemployment, farmers’ distress, mob lynching, women’s insecurity, heavier losses due to terrorist attacks and the two unfriendly neighbors on either side of the country refusing to play ball. Now the Indian voter is about to see how Modi’s magic will help install his party in power in all the states. Generous corporate funds will have nothing to do with it.
The 2019 poll verdict has made the task of promoters of personality cult easier because it can be used to rebuff all the criticism of the Great Leader of India. It has legitimised Modi’s leadership like nothing else. The North Korean leader draws his legitimacy from his personality which is aided and abetted by indoctrination of the people who believe Kim is capable of performing miracles.
The government doesn’t have to make strenuous efforts at indoctrination when it has successfully outsourced the task to the ‘independent’ TV channels. Despite reports that the TRPs of TV channels is falling, the channels fiercely loyal to Modi continue to be watched by a large number of people. What they see—and apparently like–day in and day out is humiliation and intimidation of studio guests who dare challenge the Modi-worshipping anchors.
How effective indoctrination with (state) controlled media can be was on view in Mao’s China. Millions of Chinese—figures go up to 30 million or more—died of starvation in the mid-1950s when Mao’s Great Leap Forward failed due to faulty planning. In any other country the leader would have been removed at once; Mao stayed on as the Chairman though gradually his powers were curtailed.
What better proof of a leader with powers of performing miracles than the fact that the leader of still the world’s most powerful nation, the United States, famously declared that he was in ‘love’ with the North Korean leader—after hurling abuses and ridiculing him. For the US a nuclear-armed North Korea is not a threat, but Iran still far away from developing the bomb is.
While on Mao, let it be recalled that he was also the leader who said ‘Let a hundred flowers bloom’ though some say he had spoken of a ‘thousand’ flowers during his call for the Great Leap. His idea behind it was to hear different views from the intelligentsia. But ‘new’ India is being built without invitation to a ‘hundred’, much less’ thousand’, flowers because the TV channels and larger sections of the print media have declared that all the wisdom vests in one mind.―Asian Tribune