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Is this election ‘Modi-image centric’?

We need to see whether in upcoming phases it may return towards developmental and futuristic debates of Indian democracy or may progress towards conventional line of identity politics. I have started saying and writing that this parliamentary election has no narrative. It was difficult to accept for the people in media and academics who are […]

We need to see whether in upcoming phases it may return towards developmental and futuristic debates of Indian democracy or may progress towards conventional line of identity politics.

I have started saying and writing that this parliamentary election has no narrative. It was difficult to accept for the people in media and academics who are engaged in understanding election. It is interesting to see now many eminent journalists, columnists and academics also started believing that this election has no national narrative yet. It is easy to listen in many TV debates such opinions. It is easy to observe that in every few days, the political debates of this election get shifted from one to another and appear as immediate and temporary.

Another proposition which I argued was that it is an ‘election of images’ -not election of narratives. I wrote in various opinion columns and spoke on TV channels about it. I argued that images of leaders are contesting with each other in different states in which leaders of regional parties have also joined. It is true that this election turned as election of images due to fixity and stereotypical repetitions of the narratives in various elections. The public wants to listen some new narratives during electoral discourse. Secondly, it turned as election of images because PM Narendra Modi has evolved his very influential image in public mind and memories which are crucial factor for mobilisation of votes in the favour of BJP. So, the entire election became PM Modi centric-either’ for Modi’ and ‘against Modi’. My friends who have now started accepting that it is narrative less election, may also have to accept wo things that this is election of images in which Modi brand is central. The crisis of this election is that opposition political parties have not yet succeeded in carving the image of their leaders and disseminate them at the level where they may respond to brand(image) Modi.

The’ image Modi ‘carried a narrative with itself as supplementary constituent of image building that is development centred Vikasit Bharat narrative. This narrative is combined with various developmental initiatives which PM Modi took and implemented in last 10 years of his rule. The Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who is not able to carve his image yet, at the level of PM Modi, started to evolve- caste as electoral discourse to develop caste-based polarisation in election scene. Through aggressive campaign for caste census and increase in the reservation percentage for Other Backward Caste, Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe he gave new life to cast- based electoral discourse in the parliamentary election of 2024.It changed the contours of electoral discourse in India and deviated the discourse on development, beneficiaries and vision of future India and made caste in mainstream of electoral debates.

This turn made the discourse of democracy in India — from futuristic toward regressive. In reaction it also provided space for religion-based appeasement discourse in electoral campaign of India. The one of the indicators of deepening of democracy is the nature and form of debates. The developed democracy in all over the world try to come out from primordial identity-based othering. It evolves futuristic debates, long-term visions and plan for equal and samaras society. If it cultivates the debate of the future of society and nation for making it developed and strong, it means democracy is being deepen and mature. If it is compelled to return back to the old, conventional and regressive questions and debates, it means it is going to create democratic deficiency. If it happens, it shows the soul and body of democracy is going to receive some jerks due to such regressive debates.

One question may be asked here- if this election is’ Modi-image centric’, what will be reading of low turn votes in various states of India in the last two phases. As I read it, the public who is influenced by Modi image, they don’t see any challenge to it. This perception makes them confidents, that may be one of the reasons of such low turn voting in last two phases. Secondly, those who wants to see defeat of PM Modi, they don’t see any hope in current scenario. Because they don’t find the capacity to defeat to PM Modi, in the countering political images who are contesting against him in this election such as Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee Sharad Pawar etc.

The parliamentary election-2024 after crossing two phases revealed the form and nature of narrative and discourse politic in this election. We need to see whether in other phases it may return towards developmental and futuristic debates of Indian democracy or may progress towards conventional line of identity politics.

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