Modi’s strength is his ability to say exactly what the audience wants to hear.

This occasionally leads to laughable incidents like telling a group of traders that they have better risk taking abilities than soldiers, making fun in Japan of people suffering from demonetisation for an NRI audience and crying the next day for a local audience, quoting Dylan in music concerts, Star Wars in America, and relocating Taxila from Pakistan to Bihar.

But make no mistake, it gives him a direct connection with the masses that no other leader in India can match in scale, and this allows him to make other leaders in Gujarat, within the BJP, and indeed in India…. irrelevant.

This mandate from the public allows him to concentrate power within his own being and this has allowed him to make quick decisions for corporates trying to do business, further enhancing his credibility in that stakeholder group (environment, etc. be damned).

He gets more money and that is invested in PR that connects with the masses. It’s a virtuous (?) cycle of power reinforcement and all other politicians are playing catch up.

There are a few problems that come along with these strengths.

One is he says different things to different people and they might figure out he’s not trustworthy.

But only fact checkers catch him on this as the rest of the groups he speaks to are remarkably insulated from one another. He could easily speak about meritocracy in some Business India conclave that is uploaded on YouTube for bschool (business school) kids to watch while speaking in front of a poster of the Ram mandir (temple) in some UP rally the next day. He could just as easily give lectures on the importance of press freedom while his government is forcing TV channels off air.

narendra-modi-in-mathura5_pti
Modi uses a lot of emotional Rhetoric

Most people will not catch on to just how duplicitous he is. They’re too busy with life to audit his promises.

So he’s getting away with it.

The other problem is that he has no coherent vision or ideas past national and cultural pride. Everything else is a mish-mash of self contradictory nonsense.

He can set rules on how much money we can withdraw of our own money after having wowed the corporate crowd with his ‘vision’ of minimum governance. He can talk about black money and transparency after his party has blocked every effort to make its cash based funding and expenditure visible.

Sooner or later, as a result of this incoherence of strategy, we were going to see a train-wreck.

It’s here

It’s called demonetization.

We’re seeing the impact of centralized decision making of a man not intelligent or secure enough psychologically to surround himself with smart people who can say no.

It was a harebrained idea that was shambolically implemented by someone who would be excellent at organising the logistics of the local fair in a town.

But nothing bigger.

And as the initiative fails to clamp on black money, counterfeiters, terrorists, etc. while killing lives, businesses, GDP growth, and trust, the question we can ask is…. how will he worm his way out of this hole?

Easily.

He will simply tell the business crowd that it is the first of many steps to clamp down on black money and also present them with yet another Ponzi promise – this time the vision of a cashless utopia.

And the bschool crowd will fall for it because they have no clue about black money and cashless utopia sounds even more exciting than bullet trains. And of course because their universe revolves around themselves they will conclude that the cashless economy has been achieved in all parts and pop strata of India if they themselves occasionally pay an outlet or kaali peeli in South Mumbai with paytm.

The poor will be told that rich black marketers were hurt very badly and shown repeated footage of one or two success stories till they believe that something actually happened.

Belief in karma allows the poor to put up with any level of suffering. It also allows the rich to remorselessly celebrate their entitlement since they believe they deserve everything they get.

Is there anything the opposition can do?

Yes.

They’ve got to segment the market and deliver differentiated messages to each group using the medium most suited to that segment just the way that Modi does.

Marketing 101.

With the rich crowd they just need to keep using international Nobel prize winning economists to express horror at the idea, let alone the execution of demonetization. Also magazines like Economist, etc. The MBA crowd don’t want to sound dumb so if every foreign reputed news source is down on demonetization, they will speak less loudly. You can’t influence them by telling them babies and pensioners died. They really don’t care and think it’s all worth it for ‘development’. And they will wait as long for acche din as Christians have been waiting for the second coming of Christ. They will let as many people die in the civilizing of Bharat as Christians were willing to kill while civilizing the savages of the Americas and other Imperial conquests.

With the poor crowd, the message just needs to be driven in that all the rich black marketers got away and in fact it was all a scam by the fat cats. There is little to be gained by telling them they should feel upset at the totalitarian implementation or in reminding them of the ‘inconvenience’ they faced. They are used to taking orders and suffering.

With the liberal crowd you’ve got to keep using stories of babies and pensioners dying. Liberals are horrified by harm to the voiceless.

And tell the Hindu traders there are rumours that Modi is going to take the money he made from their suffering and put it in bank accounts of Muslims and Dalits.

Then watch them lose their shit!

Opposition politicians are too coherent.

Kejriwal is just as likely to criticize Ambani at a crowd of slum dwellers as he is in front of a crowd of capitalism loving MBAs. This is why the bschool crowd love Modi and hate Kejriwal.

And Nitish and Mamta and Mayawati, etc are all similarly one trick ponies who say the same thing in all forums.

Modi is not a one trick pony.

He’s the entire circus.

Opposition politicians need to use several different narratives for different audiences.

If they are to ever beat Modi…

They first need to learn from him.

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