Is Modi trying to win the election or buy it?

Published: May 2, 2014

Modi is still not the prime minister of India but the kind of politics he will usher in is evident from the way he exercises control over the media and information. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

A few days ago, the Indian English daily DNA published a piece on Narendra Modi giving details of what happened in 2002 after the train burning incident in Godhra.

The write-up presented nine documented truths in an attempt to nail the prime ministerial candidate of the right-wing Hindu party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

But the article, titled ‘Mamata Banerjee Calls Narendra Modi ‘butcher of Gujarat’: Here are Nine Myth busters on 2002 post-Godhra Riots’, was deleted from the web page of the newspaper within a few hours of its publication, without giving any reason.

However, Modi’s team and his followers forgot that once something is published on the internet, it becomes immortal. And hence, the article survives on a different page but in the same bold letter as it was published on April 29, 2014 and asks the same questions which Modi has avoided answering so far in the entire campaign.

But the bigger question is why was the piece deleted? What compelled the newspaper to remove the piece?

Modi is still not the prime minister of India and whether the country will have to face this stark reality is still very uncertain but the way he has run his campaign so far makes it seem as if he has actually become the ruler of the country. Media and many so called educated columnists pander to his illusion and indulge in genuflection not witnessed before.

Today, the impression goes that the election is just a passé and that the anointment of Gujarat’s chief minister as India’s supreme leader is a mere formality. Take any newspaper, TV station or website and you cannot escape the face of this bearded man, who enjoys a very dubious ignominy of being the first sitting chief minister of an Indian state to be denied visa to travel to the US and the European Union (EU). The EU has decided to reconsider its position after keeping Modi blacklisted for almost a decade.

The amount of money spent on Modi’s campaign is staggering and it seems the BJP is trying to buy the election rather than win it. Senior journalist, Siddharth Varadarajan writes that Modi’s camp is spending a staggering Rs5,000 crore in its campaign this year which is very close to the Rs6,000 crore or roughly US$1 billion that President Obama spent in his elections in 2012. In the 2009 polls the BJP had spent Rs448.66 crore.

Varadarajan raised a very pertinent question,

“What impact will the deployment of money on this scale have, not just on the election outcome and the policies of the next government, but on the future course of Indian democracy?”

However, the media is not bothered about this question. The corporates who hold large stakes in Indian media do not allow the press to ask probing questions. Team Modi’s aggressive push has frightened many media houses into dancing on his tune. And there are many who hope to be rewarded once the controversial politician comes to power.

Therefore, Modi is running his campaign on subterfuge. His supporters suffocate you on social media. His corporate backers saturate the TV and print space with his news and views. Majority of the columnists who find prominent space in print are those who write pro-Modi pieces while opposing voices get submerged in the overwhelming presence of pieces eulogising the BJP leader.

Therefore, the narrative that emerges from this cacophony is that it is Modi who is the de-facto ruler and very soon he is going to be the de jure prime minister of India.

There are very few who question this narrative and even fewer who ask Modi the real questions.

And thus, a man who is fighting to become the premiere of India is escaping from real questions. In all his media interactions, Modi has chosen only pliable journalists and conforming media houses for interviews. The questions are fixed, the interview is fixed and the answers are also fixed – this is the campaign strategy of a man who is the prime ministerial candidate of plural democracy.

Modi is running a proxy campaign and the corporate houses and a large section of media is helping him.

Gujarat’s chief minister needs to answer why he didn’t act on time to stop the violence in 2002, why he didn’t allow the police to act and why he punished or victimised those police officers who came to rescue the victims.

He needs to answer why he promoted Maya Kodnani, a BJP legislator, to the post of a minister when there were serious allegations against her for killing more than 90 Muslims. People need to know what he has to say about the expose done by Tehelka magazine where all the accused accepted their guilt and thanked him for helping and protecting them.

They need to know why he has not visited the houses of Muslims who lost their near and dear ones in the last ten years.

In a recent book published by a senior journalist, Manoj Mitta, questions have been raised about the credibility of the chief of the Special Investigating Team (SIT) that exonerated Modi of his wrong doing in 2002.

There are so many questions but Modi continues to escape from them. Through aggressive advertising and campaigning he is doing his best to dodge the questions. Perhaps, the right-wing leader thinks that aggressive advertising will bring good dividends but such a marketing strategy does not ensure the quality of the product.

The ground reality is that Modi is still very far from the throne of Delhi.

One can understand Modi’s moral ambivalence and his attempt to escape from questioning. But why has the media decided to forgo its moral responsibility? Why should we mortgage our conscience and morality for a man who does not have one?

Modi is still not the prime minister of India but the kind of politics he will usher in is evident from the way he exercises control over the media and information.

DNA deleted the article from its page but the questions it raised refuse to die. And unless the BJP leader answers those questions, he will not be accepted by the country even if he becomes the prime minister.

Modi is a challenge to India’s conscience.


Sanjay Kumar

The author is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asian and international politics. He tweets as @destinydefier (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.