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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 10, February 28, 2015

General Amit Shah’s Black Tuesday

Sunday 1 March 2015, by Kumar Ketkar

Till February 10, most of the print media published stories with headlines declaring a neck-and-neck fight in Delhi. The elite English TV channels also echoed that line, forecasting a “photo finish” or predicting that the BJP would score between 38 and 41 of a possible 70 seats.

Even the bookies (safe to assume these were Gujarati satta operators) said a day before results were counted that after “carefully studying” the opinion polls, they believed the BJP had “recovered immensely”.

Over 100 MPs, nearly 2000 so-called foot-soldiers of the RSS, and all the shakhas’ outfits were mobilised. All the seven BJP MPs and all BJP corporators were summoned to join the “Hate Jihad” like the Army issues orders to ex-Army-men at the time of war. The “embedded” media men and women understood the “hukum” from the chieftain Amit Shah and began to circulate stories that there would be a last-minute swing, and there would be a surge in voting after 3 pm and all those votes would go to the BJP because of the fantastic but invisible networking by the Sangh Parivar cadres.

Each member of the Modi Brigade, some of them even flown in from the US, was given booth-wise responsibilities. Social media, which was the main vehicle of the Sangh Parivar in the Lok Sabha election, was re-orchestrated by the Sangh apparatchiks, as they had realised that it was dominated by the AAP volunteers. US-trained management experts, who had choreographed the Tea Party campaign and Romney propaganda machine in America in 2012, were positioned to coordinate the Delhi cyberspace.

The print media was flooded with full-page colour advertisements. Almost every hundred yards, there was a huge hoarding with the image of the messiah Modi. A quick visual estimate of the cost of campaign suggests no corners were cut. All the moralists, who had written columns after columns about paid news and had rushed to the Election Commission earlier, were quiet over this obscene expenditure which included buying a substantial section of the media.

Indian diplomats from nearly 120 countries were specially invited to Delhi, presuming a glorious victory in the election, so that they could go back to their missions abroad, impressed and inspired by the miracle called Modi. But like in Stalingrad in 1941-42, every household joined the electoral war to defeat Modi-Shah’s Panzer divisions.

Even the “Best and the Brightest” in the media were awestruck by the blitzkrieg. Their faith in the BJP’s organisational capacity, their trust in the grand strategy of Amit Shah who was on a winning spree for the past nine months, their confidence in the so-called Modi Magic was so much that they had announced victory much before the morning of their Black Tuesday, when the leads started pouring in and getting flashed on the TV screens, resulting in an eerie silence in their intellectual and corporate drawing rooms.

The celebrated columnist, Surjit Bhalla, as my keen media-watcher friend noted, put the AAP victory down to social disharmony last month though (on January 24) he had written a profound analytical piece saying that a loss for the BJP was impossible. The AAP was not going to win more than 21 seats. Did social disharmony really set in over the last two weeks? Tavleen Singh purred that nothing much has really changed. Astonishing, no? What happened to the huge aspirational class, and the vast upwardly mobile urban community which Shekhar Gupta used to see in the BJP victory? The middle and higher middle class joined the ranks of the jhuggi jhopriwalas to throw out the invading saffron armies. Their simple aspiration was to call the Modi bluff. And they did. Chetan Bhagat was eloquent in his post-facto wisdom.

Then there emerged the theory that Shah, the great strategist, had planned the defeat all along in a systematic manner. Some referred to a news article in the Gulf News in January in which it was stated that the tacticians had worked out a plan to lose the election. But it was clear to anyone who followed that thread, that it was actually a planned camouflage for an excuse, in case the election is lost. So if the BJP wins, it would be because of the magnificent war strategy and if it loses, it was part of the game-plan!

This was a loss, pure and simple. The General and his strategy failed. Let it rest at that.

(Courtesy: NDTV)

Kumar Ketkar is a senior journalist, political commentator, globe trotter and author. He has covered all Indian elections since 1971 and significant international events. He is a frequent participant on TV debates.