How PM Modi Found a Saviour in Superstar Akshay Kumar
Video Editor: Mohd Ibrahim
Video Producer: Sonal Gupta
Cameraperson: Abhishek Ranjan
I am still reeling from Prime Minister Modi’s iconic, monumental (no, HE is not going to be happy with only two bombastic adjectives, so here goes a third), and “path-breaking” interview to Twinkle’s hubby.
Dial back to the Pulwama tragedy and Balakot air strikes, which had come as a life-saving bolt from the blue. Modi’s sagging approval ratings soared by over 15 percentage points. He quickly realised that he must junk all talk of his non-existent economic achievements, which were failing to cut ice with people, and amp up the Jingoism to lethal levels.
The Bold Congress Manifesto
For a while, it seemed that Modi had shoved his opposition into a nuclear winter. But then, just as some of the tough talk was wearying out, Rahul Gandhi’s Congress sprang its manifesto surprise. Unlike the tired clichés of yore, here was a document sprinkled with fresh, bold, liberal and politically risky ideas.
Many well-wishers warned that this had recklessly exposed Congress’s flanks to an aggressive Modi, who called it a dhakosala (tissue of lies) manifesto. Others said it would “balkanise” India; some went over the top, saying “it’s written in Pakistan”; the ultimate jibe was a “manifesto celebrated by terrorists”.
Such an exaggerated criticism only betrayed the BJP’s panic. Every liberal in the land (sorry BJP, however much you may wish it otherwise, over 60 percent of India had rejected your majoritarian, illiberal politics, even in the 2014 Modi wave) applauded and the buzz was growing louder.
PM Modi’s Counter-Move
Prime Minister Modi was now scratching around for a counter-move. This time, perhaps he saw a couple of Ramsay brothers’ horror films (Sholay is a pleasant walk in the park, by comparison).
And before you could say Purani Haveli (old mansion), Prime Minister Modi had crafted his scariest dialogue to date. Speaking in Gujarat (where else would he do that), he said, menacingly, that the Americans had warned Pakistan - if Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was not returned to India, Modi would unleash a “qatl ki raat” (night of murder, mayhem and/or bloodshed)
PM Modi’s Frankenstein-ian Blunder
It’s exactly at this time that Modi also made a Frankenstein-ian blunder. He trotted out a terrorism-charged Pragya Singh Thakur as the BJP’s parliamentary candidate from Bhopal. She neither had a “prime ministerial boundary” to confine her, nor any sense of political propriety. She was a loose WMD (weapon of mass destruction).
Pragya Thakur demolished Modi’s carefully honed pro-martyr image by saying “my curse killed Hemant Karkare in the 26/11 Mumbai attack”. Modi and the BJP were too dumbstruck to respond to their darling favourite’s hate-speech. They had barely recovered, when the “righteous” lady let go again, claiming she had climbed the Babri Masjid dome to demolish it in 1992.
Akshay Kumar: The Perfect Choice
Suddenly, it was open season all around. One guy said ‘I will cut off Rahul Gandhi’s hands’; another said ‘strap him on bombs’; yet another said, ‘not any bomb but the one which struck Balakot’. The furore was so deafening that, unthinkably, the prime minister was pushed off the front pages of dailies and the primetime shows of screaming television channels.
Modi had the political smarts to understand that he was losing control of Frankenstein(s); he had to re-pivot the national narrative back on himself and away from the loonies … And, there he was, the perfect neutraliser. A bhakt (religious-political fan), superstar, heartthrob of young women and macho men in the 18-45 age bracket. Akshay Kumar was just perfect!
Have you noticed how, after the choreographed Akshay interview, Prime Minister Modi has rapidly done many more photo-ops where he is smiling, genially guffawing, touching feet, showing off his soft side, coming across as your regular cool/good guy?