Propaganda and the Plight of People

It was the days preceding 2014 general elections in India that witnessed frenzied commotion and excitement among the masses as if expecting a momentous change in the politics of the country. The nation sensed it was time for a paradigm shift. The fault lines in socio-political attitudes that so far had had subdued presence in the national scene became more pronounced and emphatic. On one side of the ideological divide were those who subscribed to the ideals of enlightenment, liberalism, progressive thinking and constitutional legitimacy. On the other side were those whose propensities lay in the direction of our cultural past.

It was a moment of vital significance in India’s political history. Narendra Modi had acquired considerable prominence in Gujarat and was now ready to grab a status on the national stage. In his ambitious design, he was unstintingly supported by the RSS and other Hindutvadi outfits. Modi proudly claimed himself to be a ‘Hindu nationalist’ and that his aim was to restore the lost glory of ‘Bharat’. He was, and is, an aristarchian critic of Nehru and the Indian National Congress. It was a moment of triumph, and even malicious satisfaction, for radical Hindu nationalists. They had been long dreaming of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in the native land of Bharat. They felt the time to realise that dream had now arrived.

With the entry of Modi on the national scene, there was a feeling of triumphant satisfaction among the Hindutvadi clan. BJP leaders embarked on their electioneering campaign with much fanfare and ostentation. Modi was projected as redeemer and protector of the Hindu faith. Flashy floats with Modi’s pictures were on roads in cities and towns. Such vainglorious ostentatious and costly display was never seen before in India.

No one had seen such a bustling excitement in elections in the past. There was extensive tendentious coverage of BJP propaganda in the media. An air of chauvinistic craze pervaded the atmosphere in the predominantly rightwing electorate. The fervour of radical nationalists’ zealotry was unstoppable. The Hindutvadi cliques lurking in the general population were a real menace. Their macho bluster and bellicose rhetoric were eroding the democratic foundations and traditions of our country.

Indian National Congress that had invested all its efforts in preserving the pluralistic polity of India’s secular democracy was faced with obdurate hostility of the rightwing forces in society. People of genteel and civilised persuasion were against the divisive politics of radical nationalists. Their faith in the constitution of India was indestructible. Their belief rested on the peaceful coexistence of people of all faiths and social manners. Their attitudes and communal habits were steeped in mutual respect and reciprocal deference for one another’s way of life. However, people of this way of thinking were in a minority. Their voice was muted in the stridency of truculent ruffianism of Hindutvadi clan.

BJP claimed that once their government was in place, schemes of progress and national prosperity for every citizen would be launched. Economic strength of the country would grow and both poverty and corruption would be eradicated. There was much hyperbole and nationalistic rhetoric and on BJP’s part the whole exercise of electioneering was sold on false prospectus and promises. There was a dedicated large phalanx of obedient foot-soldiers and pliant media to spread the deceptive and specious promises of national well-being and prosperity.

However, it didn’t take long for the nation to realise that a sordid joke had been played on them. Where were the jobs they were promised? The smart cities, bullet trains, sophisticated modern residential areas in place of squalid and dingy quarters.

Instead of realising any of the specious promises, the opposite has happened. The cost of living had climbed beyond a reasonable reach while incomes had pathetically declined and inflicted misery on the hapless masses. Prices of food and other commodities has been continually rising, making life difficult for all. Whatever new schemes and policies were introduced by Modi regime proved misconceived and overall pathogenic. The baneful effect of all these half-baked schemes was felt by all. What followed was a feeling of utter disappointment and left many disillusioned and disaffected. There was a pervasive feeling of disgust for the way gullible citizens were inveigled through false promises of ‘achche din’ (good days) and were given ruin and calamity instead.

The national economy was in a parlous state. Public welfare was in distress. Peace and communal harmony had been destroyed. The country was precariously lurching towards the cliff. A large part of media had played a maliciously active role in all this fiasco. All the suffering and misery was the making of the media. Modi could not have become prime minister without harnessing the resources of the heavily biased media. If only the media had not plied this regime with encomium and laudatory coverage and approval of their policies, things would not have exacerbated to this extent.

It would either be facile naïveté or wilful disingenuousness on our part to condone media’s culpability in the terrible plight that we are in today.

—Syed H. Hashmi is a retired professor of English