Head of PM’s 2014 campaign team inks Time Magazine’s Modi eulogy
Time introduces the author of the pro-Modi piece saying: “...In 2014, he led the Research Analysis & Messaging division of the Narendra Modi for Prime Minister campaign.”
When writer Aaatish Taseer wrote an article in Time Magazine calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi Divider-In-Chief, his Wikipedia page was vandalised to describe him as “PR manager of the Indian National Congress”.
Just after election results, a writer who indeed headed a division of the Modi for PM campaign in 2014 – or the Modi PR exercise – has penned an article for the same magazine titled: “Modi has united India like no Prime Minister in decades.”
Indian media reports flooded the internet on Wednesday that Time has changed its assessment of Modi after the results.
However, many of these reports did not even make a passing mention of the affiliation of the writer to the PM’s PR machinery in the past.
Read the author before reading the piece: this is a mantra good academics offer their research students. If one were to follow it, the latest article can be put in perspective in a sharper way.
Just below the title of the latest piece published by Time comes the description of the author Manoj Ladwa.
This is what it says: “Manoj is founder and chief executive of the India Inc. Group. In 2014, he led the Research Analysis & Messaging division of the Narendra Modi for Prime Minister campaign.”
The conflict of interest is amply clear. To be fair, it is clearly stated.
However, quite a few Indian media outlets did not mention it to their readers.
The article is, thus, not meant to be seen as an independent appraisal of Modi. It is by someone close to him and his team, and seeks to invert the impression Taseer’s piece created.
Contrary to Ladwa, Taseer is a writer who has written on the 2014 elections for The Open Magazine and recently penned a book, ‘Twice Born’, on Banaras.
Ladwa says that Modi’s stupendous electoral success shows that he could “transcend India’s greatest faultline: the class divide”.
“Narendra Modi was born into one of India’s most disadvantaged social groups. In reaching the very top, he personifies the aspirational working classes and can self-identify with his country’s poorest citizens in a way that the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty who have led India for most of 72 years since independence simply cannot,” the writer says.
The line is clearly taken from a key theme of the Modi campaign pitch against Rahul Gandhi: the latter is a “shahzaada” (prince) while Modi is a poor person. Naamdaar and Kaamdaar, as Modi would say in speech after speech.
It is an extension of the Khan Market gang argument of the PM, where an entrenched elite that established itself under the patronage of the Nehru-Gandhi family ruled India for decades.
The writer credits Modi with stabilising the economy, without even discussing either the leaked NSSO unemployment data showing highest unemployment in 45 years or the critiques of the government’s economic policies by many eminent economists. He simply recounts instances of praise from the World Bank and the IMF.
The piece praises demonetisation despite the “short-term pain”, saying “it has led to long-term gain”.
“Modi has been criticised for remaining silent during incidents of social unrest,” the writer concludes. “But his work has been given the thumbs up at the ballot box by the Indian voters for addressing the root causes of some of India’s divisions. For them, the Modi dream of a New India remains very much intact.”
In other words, while telling us that voters still have faith in the government for addressing the “root causes” – which are not clearly specified – of divisions, the writer treats the verdict as an apt justification for the PM’s silence on social unrest.