Despite the presence in its highest echelons of Arun Jaitley, who is far and away the best spinmeister within Delhi’s power elite, the BJP appears to be at sea where policy towards the media is concerned.
This is especially so in the case of its Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Damodardas Modi. Although he is getting significant traction within the country and in the media, this is not because of any media management. It is only Modi’s immense popularity, based partly on his perceived strengths as an administrator as also because of the fact that he (and therefore his party) represent the only genuine anti-Congress alternative in an atmosphere where the ruling party is becoming as toxic as it was during 1977 and 1989. While the Left and the regional parties have, almost all of them barring a few such as the Biju Janata Dal, been allies of the Congress Party at some stage or the other, it is inconceivable that a Modi-led BJP will ever join hands with the Congress Party in the formation of a government at the Centre. This combination of positive and negative factors has worked to create a powerful tailwind for Narendra Modi as he chases the Lok Sabha seat tally of 200 and above, which will make it inevitable that he become the country’s next PM. That is, if his own party does not sink his chances. It is not Modi’s political rivals who may turn out to be his nemesis. Indeed, the more the likes of Digvijay Singh abuse the current CM of Gujarat, the faster his popularity graph rises.
What is termed in the media as Snoopgate — the tailing some years ago by police from Gujarat of a lady architect — illustrates the danger posed by his friends to his prospects. The two websites that broke the story did not name either the woman or Narendra Modi. In fact, the core of the alleged recordings were not sleaze of the sexual kind but an apparent abuse of state power, the use of the machinery of a state government to track the movements of a private citizen for reasons obscure. Almost as soon as the initial media reports came out about the Singhal revelations, the BJP produced and disseminated a statement by the father of the woman, claiming that the entire exercise was carried out on the basis of an oral request that he had made to his “good friend”, Chief Minister Modi. With that, both the identity of the lady architect as well as the name of the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate took centre stage. From that point onwards, the flame of public interest and media curiosity could only grow, and they did. Had the BJP not felt an uncontrollable impulse to jump in where wiser minds may have hesitated, the Tejpal revelations would by now have pushed Snoopgate completely off the map. Incidentally, the two websites now being excoriated as Congress stooges by a series of irate BJP spokespersons were clear that they would not — or could not — authenticate the veracity of the tapes. This gap in credibility was soon made up by the BJP, which by its interventions and justifications vouched for the benighted of the tapes. The only explanation given was that Operation Architect was carried out entirely because of the desperation of an anxious father out to safeguard his daughter from an unspecified but presumably terrible fate. While such patriarchy may sit well with the numerous khaps and their variants still dotting this country, those whose minds are in the 21st century find it not only strange but odious that a mature woman has to have her male parent do the talking on her behalf. Mr Soni would find Saudi Arabia a very congenial country to reside in, as there too only male members of a family are entitled to speak on behalf of the female.
Again, while the two websites gave the woman who was reportedly under surveillance the alias “Madhuri”, it was the BJP who revealed her identity and tore away the anonymity that she has a right to as a private citizen. Ultimately, it is not Papa or Party who can place a lid on the episode, but the lady herself. Should she come forward and say of her own volition that she was not in the slightest under threat from Amit Shah or those he allegedly deployed to keep her under observation, those whipping themselves into a frenzy over what was done to her will need to find other arrows in their quiver against Narendra Modi.
After all, it is not as a saint but as a man who can transform the economy of India that the BJP’ s Man on Horseback is gaining ground over his Congress rival.