Book Review – 2019 How Modi Won India!

In this 201st post of mine for this blog, I thought of doing a review of the book ‘2019 How Modi Won India’, written by ace newsman Rajdeep Sardesai which hit the shelves a few days ago. This book is almost like a sequel to Rajdeep’s very first book, which he wrote after 2014 General elections. Titled ‘2014: The Election That Changed India’, it was engrossing from start to finish, peppered with personal anecdotes not just about that election but around events that happened right from the time he started his journalistic career way back in the 90’s. So, it is with heightened expectations that one sat down to read this new book to gain insights into the 2019 elections, hitherto not seen in public domain. At the onset, after finishing the book, I must say that I was not disappointed.

As introduction, Rajdeep gives an overview of how Modi managed to win India in 2019. He attributes the victory to 13 Ms (Modi, Machine, Media, Money, Messaging, Marketing, Mobile, Middle Class, Millennials, Majoritarianism, Muscular Nationalism, Masood Azhar and Mahagathbandhan), 2 Ws (Welfarism and WhatsApp) and a GK (Gharib Kisan). Frankly, I think that many of the factors here are double counted and one can actually put it down to set of fewer unique Ms.  For example, Messaging is part of Marketing. Welfarism is linked to Gharib Kisan. Muscular Nationalism can be clubbed with Masood Azhar. Mobile and WhatsApp are basically the same.

Having setting the context, the usual method is to go about detailing all these factors one by one. Thankfully, Rajdeep avoids that route as that would have been less interesting and by now, we have read quite a bit about most of these factors. Instead, Rajdeep chronicles in detail, with back stories, the key events right from the swearing in ceremony in 2014 leading up to the last day of polling in 2019, which had some impact on how Modi eventually won India in 2019.  I liked the way Rajdeep segues from one chapter to another with a hook to end the chapter to the upcoming topic, a style which he used very well in his first book as well!

In his 2014 book, Rajdeep had shared many conversations which he had with political leaders including Narendra Modi when he was the Gujarat Chief Minister throughout his career, to drive home his points. However, this book is less anecdotal and more of research and reportage. It has very few references of conversations with leaders from the current political regime except for late Arun Jaitley with whom the author enjoyed good chemistry. Rajdeep makes it a point to inform us that in spite of being a leading prime time anchor, he still spends the mornings often at the Parliament and so one did hope to read more personal anecdotes and conversations with key players. But that is not to be.

The author himself admits with a tinge of regret that he has not been able to speak to the Prime Minister since May 2014 and probably he is now become a persona non grata in the current regime. This sort of re-affirms the now touted model of media management of the Modi regime.  That of cultivating its own set of favourites and maintaining a report card on “positive” and “negative” journalists. Rajdeep says this is very much akin to the “Big Boss” TV Serial style where everything and anything is watched and accounted for. Being tight lipped and catching the media unawares of what’s in the offing, most of the time is also part of this method.

As an example, on Demonetisation, Rajdeep candidly admits that he and his team did not have a whiff of what the Prime Minister was going to address the nation on 8th November, 2016. He had actually lined up a few defence experts for the prime time discussions assuming that the address was related to some strike on Pakistan!  There have been other instances too where, the media did not get a wind of what’s cooking within the Modi Sarkar.

In a chapter wholly on media titled ‘Prime Time Prime Minister’, in addition to detailing how Modi and the government ensures maximum eye balls for themselves, Rajdeep also turns into a strident media critique, a hat we see him don often these days! Rajdeep tears apart his own fraternity which he feels has lost its moral compass and yearns for a time when media would not just be a lap dog for the government in power.

If 2014 was all about a one man army called Modi, in this book, Rajdeep makes a distinction. BJP is now not just about Modi but, Modi and Amit Shah, the Jodi No.1 of Indian politics. Even the cover design of this book drives this point featuring both Modi and Shah prominently.

The author credits the messaging strategy of BJP as one of the key elements that drove its victory. Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar! So we should take it that BJP’s messaging was on point. However, I thought that compared to 2014 when a single point message of Abki Baar Modi Sarkar was flogged and many micro campaigns were woven around this central message, in 2019, BJP dabbled with different messages lime Modi hai to Mumkin hai, Main bhi Chowkidar and so on even till the initial rounds of elections till it boiled down on Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkar theme.

In the book, Rajdeep claims that the Prime Minister who has a penchant for coming up with interesting acronyms had come up with another one – JAM to convey the coming together of Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhar and Mobiles. As per me, the phrase ‘JAM trinity’ was first used by the then Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian in the Economic Survey report of 2014-15.  This was then widely adopted by the Government and the media to talk about this phenomenon which was bringing a huge change in the livings of the marginalised.

If you were Rajdeep and one who felt that you have fallen out of favour with this regime, you would be tempted to write a book that is more of an eulogy of the current regime and in particular of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. After all, Modi, Shah and the BJP did win the elections with an emphatic margin and there were enough reasons to talk high of. To his credit, Rajdeep does a fine balancing act, commending BJP, Narendra Modi and other leaders where required and equally being critical where he feels so. In fact, you get the impression that he has tried hard to present himself as a “Neutral” journalist, a species which is almost extinct these days. So, in the entire book, the writing yo-yo’s between “on the one hand, on the other hand”, “this and having and said that” format!

Far away from what is shown on TV and social media, the book gives fascinating insights of how the BJP election machinery works. The many faceless back room boys who take up tasks in mission mode and ensure they are accomplished, the many micro programmes which the party undertook at booth level and so on to win the 2019 elections emphatically have been outlined in detail. It is clear that it is these micro tactics more often than not are missed by journalists when they do ground reports during election times because of which they get the extent of the ‘hawa’ wrong.

While on this, I would have liked if Rajdeep had spent a chapter on the whole business and dynamics of opinion/exit polls in India. These continue to be an enigma. Even in the run up to the 2019 polls, media kept saying that it was a “wave less” election and it being “a sum total of 545 individual battles”! Most of the opinions based on ground reports suggested that BJP would be short of majority and have to tie up with new allies to form the government. What happened eventually though was a bigger win than 2019 for BJP and NDA which none predicted!

If you are a news buff and a current affairs watcher, ‘2019 How Modi Won India’ is a must read for not just the political stories but the granular detailing on what goes behind an election win in India!

Post Script: While talking of the many M’s that mattered, Rajdeep prefaces this book with the narration of another M – Madison Madness. It’s more like the author’s Mea Culpa (there you go, another M!) for what happened way back in September 2014 when he got involuntarily involved in fist fights with frenzied Modi supporters in Manhattan! (The “M” Madness doesn’t seem to end!)

2019 How Modi Won India

Rajdeep Sardesai

HarperCollins Publishers India

355 Pages, Rs 699

Wen tym & Tech t’frmd E’lish 😊

All languages undergo transformation over time. But it must be only the Queen’s language which has gone through such a huge upheaval of sorts. Makeover of languages happens with changes in grammatical usage, sometimes spellings, addition of new words,.. (Like we keep hearing of new words which enter the lexicon every year – “Selfie” being one such overused word these days!!!) However it must be only English which apart from going through all this also has been metamorphosed due to technology!

Technology can be disruptive. At times the disruptions are by default but most of the times they are by design. I can’t fathom if the disruptions in English language due to technology have been deliberate or they just happened. And I don’t think any other language has been so vulnerable to technology as English. With the advent of computer first and then mobile devices, the face and shape of English have gone through a transformation. Today when you receive a communication either through e mail or through short text, it is possible to guess the age group or the generation to which the sender belongs!!! It can be as polarizing!

The initial days of the mobile phone were quite normal. Then debuted the new tool of communication called SMS (Short messaging service) after which English language has never been the same again. What initially started as a means of super-fast communication using abbreviations and acronyms soon became the norm of the language. And it became so uncool if you are part of the old school typing full words and sentences and doing the mandatory spell check before hitting the “Send” button. I remember pieces appearing in newspapers/magazines,.. that time explaining to the uninitiated the so called “SMS lingo”. In Mid-Day newspaper there was a daily box called “SMS lingo for the day”!!!sms

I mentioned in my opening remarks that English as a language is so vulnerable to technology that the contrived form which came popular while sending the so called short messages soon started pervading into the normal communication as well. So today you will find the acronyms, short forms and abbreviated type of communication being used in normal long e mails, notes, wherever. Even business communication has not been left behind. Is there a day where you spend at work without using “ASAP”, “FYI”, “NBD”,.. ??? One disclaimer like this “Sent from my mobile; please excuse the brevity, spelling and punctuation” is enough to sort of take care of any problems the other side might have! I now wonder what would have happened to the now almost extinct stenography if SMS lingo had made an advent much earlier!!! I also wonder if the “Spell check” tool will soon become superfluous. Because the “Spell Checker” will ink the whole page red. Even now as I write this its almost getting there.

While one has been reconciling to this new reality and had almost concluded that things can’t get worse than this, came the next attack – “The Advent of smileys” 🙂 🙂 🙂 Again what started as a harmless way of expressing joy using 🙂 or sorrow 😦 soon developed into a full language of “Emoticons”. So much so today it is difficult to find any reasonable length of communication without an emoticon. Here again the rupture of the language come through technology. With people spending more time with their smart phones than anything else these days, it has become easier to just input a suitable emoticon from a whole bunch of smileys available today than typing even few abbreviated words.

Ergo I was not surprised when I read this article (read here) some time back which said SMS lingo has now begun creeping into the answer sheets, assignments and even record books! And that, teachers were alarmed to see this. It may be a good idea for the teachers today to keep themselves abreast with the new Lingua Franca! And internet does help. Like Google Translate which helps to translate languages, there is this http://transl8it.com/ . Just type in SMS, text message, emoticon, smiley, slang, chat room/net lingo or abbreviations and “transL8it” will convert it to plain English to understand!!!

With the assault of SMS lingo and smileys on the English language, I can imagine what the future holds for the Queen’s English. The day is not far off when my whole blog post will be with SMS lingo and smileys galore. Nd dis xchnge ment 2 b a jok may jus bcom real’ty!!!

 Boyfriend & Girlfriend on Whatsapp:

Boy:kesi ho…??

Girl: 😊

Boy: missing me..?

Girl: 😜

Boy: yar meri tabiyat khrab hai

Girl: 😱

Boy: aaj kaisa din guzra…??

Girl: 😉

Boy: busy ho…??

Girl: umhm ..

Boy: Koi paas hai…??

Girl: na 😍

Boy: To kuch likh bhi, apne Baap ki shaklein kyu send kar rahi hai….

Girl: 😢😡

Boy: I heard u failed in English?

Girl: Who TELLED you? It is unpossible.. I sawed d result ystrdy… I Passed away 😂

Boy:😁🔫 meri maa tu smiley hi use kar..