How BJP Spun Speeches of Former PMs To Glorify Modi in New Social Media Campaign

BJP recently launched a campaign, ‘Desh ki badli soch’, which targeted Cong leaders who previously served as PMs.

6 min read
Hindi Female

Within hours of Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech, political adversaries and critics censured him for setting new goals before delivering on previously made promises from the same venue – the ramparts of the historic Red Fort.

A day later, instead of responding to the criticism, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did what it does best – sidestepped accusations of non-delivery of promises made over the years.

It almost appeared that these charges were neither levelled nor flagged when the party’s social media team released with fanfare a new social media campaign entitled ‘Desh ki badli soch’ (the country’s thinking has changed), which targeted the Congress party, especially the leaders who previously served as the prime minister of India.


Where Was the Research for the Campaign Drawn From?

It helped greatly that ‘research’ for this campaign was drawn to the last ‘dot’ from a ‘Special Programme’ – Lal Qiley Se Goonj, Alag-Alag Pradhan Mantriyon Ki Zubani – produced by who else but pro-BJP Bollywood actor Anupam Kher’s company for AETN18 Media Pvt Ltd, which operates and owns History TV18 and is part of the News18 group.

Kher also anchored the show while the shooting was done at the newly opened Prime Ministers’ Museum in Delhi’s Teen Murti Bhavan, which used to be Jawaharlal Nehru’s residence once. This programme was telecast on 16 August on the group’s channels and, reportedly, on other channels too.

Within hours of the programme’s telecast, the BJP flagged off its new social media campaign with a video that clipped and copy-pasted parts from the show, including a small bit of the actor’s opening lines.

In quick time, the video was followed by a series of tweets that juxtaposed Modi’s statements with that of previous Congress prime ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and Manmohan Singh. These statements were also picked up from the programme.

The purpose of Kher’s show was to belittle prime ministers prior to Modi while projecting him as a messiah that India required – the only one with the correct vision for the nation’s development.

Visually, the pictorial plates that were tweeted depicted Modi as a towering personality dwarfing the Congress premiers – the font size used for Modi’s statements was larger than that used for the other four, and the present PM’s pictures used were also much larger than his predecessors.


'Bhakts' Were the Intended Target Groups of Campaign

Before taking stock of the content of the video or the tweets, we need to examine the targeted groups of online political campaigns – by the BJP, as well as its adversaries.

In this particular BJP social media campaign, the cycle of contrasting reprise was started by the ruling party by first putting out select parts of Modi’s I-Day speech as pearls of wisdom.

These may have been read by all social media users cutting across affiliations, but the intended target groups were those universally identified as Bhakts. These tweets or small video clips were intended to boost reverence for Modi.

We know of the existence of a not-so-miniscule section of admirers for whom he is nothing short of an avatar of one of the Hindu gods.

Political parties critical of the BJP and Modi responded by tweeting and circulating on other SM platforms video clips of the prime minister’s previous speeches, in which he made promises that remain undelivered and are not mentioned by the BJP. This campaign was also for the faithful on the other side, or the Modi-baiters.

For the past five years at least, social media has become a relatively level playing field where Modi no longer has the first mover’s advantage as he once did. In the run-up to Gujarat Assembly elections in 2017, the state witnessed the Congress catching up with the BJP in launching social media broadsides lampooning the prime minister with the vikas gando thayo chhe (development has gone mad or out of control) social media trend.


Kher’s programme was unambiguously ‘motivated’ and was commissioned for telecast a day after Independence Day with the explicit agenda of glorifying Modi while putting down the memories of previous prime ministers.

A critical appraisal of the programme and the historical correctness of the claims, sweeping statements, and blanket accusations in the programme can be left for another day. But the portions picked up by the BJP for its social media campaign require an examination to assess if they pass the test of scrutiny.

Nehru's Statement on Hunger Twisted To Hail Modi

The video prepared by the BJP used a portion of Kher’s introduction to the first juxtaposition of Nehru and Modi. In his opening bit, Kher makes a blanket claim that for almost a decade, hunger and shortage of foodgrains resonated in speeches of India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru.

But the script, as read by the pro-BJP actor, further went on to say that Nehru’s ajeebo gareeb, or kind of peculiar, response to this dehumanising crisis stunned citizens.

The accusation was that instead of making efforts to boost agricultural production, Nehru asked people in 1949 to control consumption. While that is the claim, the truth that rings in the voice of Nehru is in total contrast.

“We face two big challenges,” Nehru stated. “The question of food and producing it. Not wasting food. Those people who waste food, those who are ostentatious and want to show off, and waste food, do gunah or crime against the nation.”


Nehru is clearly making a clarion call against food wastage, crude display of wealth, and uncalled-for grandiosity at a time when starvation was common in the country. By all counts, this call was absolutely legitimate as the nation was grappling with multiple problems.

The rest of Nehru’s quotation was more explicit: “What could be more useless than someone among you or among us organises a feast and wastes food at a time when some people are going hungry,” he said. But this obviously would show India’s first PM speaking in a voice of reason. How can this be shown as part of a campaign casting Nehru in a bad light and showcasing Modi as a great visionary?

The clip of Nehru’s speech is played with stock shots running on the screen – and these could well be from the Bengal famine, seven to eight years earlier. Maybe fact-checkers could have a dekko at these shots.

These shots, including that of a hungry child clutching onto a large (empty) vessel, are in stark contrast to Modi’s composed profile shot with a file in hand – showing him as getting down to business. The two contrasting visual backgrounds also carry mischievous captions beneath.

Woh sirf koste rahe (he merely cursed) is the text beneath the shots of hunger and squalor. The line beneath Modi’s shot is Hum sudhar karte rahe (we kept reforming).

The voiceover in the BJP social media campaign further asserted that even Indira Gandhi was clueless about food shortages and black marketers. Like Nehru, Indira also expressed narazgi, anger, or resentment against traders, the VO states.


Indira Gandhi Labelled as Being 'Distrustful of People'

Gandhi is heard imploring industrialists or rich traders not to have high profits in mind and give massive salaries to employees. She reminds people that the rich, too, have some responsibility. Prime ministers across the globe have appealed to the corporate sector to cut wages and reduce profit margins when the nation is on the brink.

Inexplicably, the voiceover contrasted this with Modi’s initiatives on women empowerment and claims that prior to him, no one had given thought to these issues. The campaign video thereafter played a video clip of Modi from his 2016 Independence Day speech when he talked of LPG cylinders and how these helped women. Further women-oriented initiatives were played out.

The VO is completely lopsided and makes sweeping subjective judgements. Peculiarly, a part of his speech is played when he speaks highly of industry, where he called them wealth creators and eulogised them.

The entire social media is but a series of appositions wherein the statement of the previous premiers are either twisted or used out of context. For instance – and one should suffice to demonstrate the intent and method used by the BJP – when Indira Gandhi is labelled as being ‘distrustful of people’ because she says that hoarders and black marketers thrive because “there are people who purchase” such products.

In contrast, Modi’s quote is played up: “Those who have looted the nation and looted the people are not able to sleep peacefully today.” Anyone would be able to make out that the contexts are different, but still, Modi gets the certification of a person with ‘unwavering faith’ in the people.

(The writer is an NCR-based author and journalist. His latest book is The Demolition and the Verdict: Ayodhya and the Project to Reconfigure India. He has also written The RSS: Icons of the Indian Right and Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times. He tweets at @NilanjanUdwin)

(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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Topics:  BJP   Jawaharlal Nehru   Indira Gandhi 

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