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Elections 2014: Brand Modi reaps success of efforts

LiveMint logoLiveMint 16-05-2014 Maulik Pathak

Ahmedabad: It’s a bird, it’s plane, no...it’s Narendra Modi, flying over India dressed in a Superman-like costume.

Modi, India’s next prime minister, stars as a superhero in a recently released animation film made by a fan club.

Titled Nation in Motion, the short film shows a muscular Modi flying over India’s villages and cities, bringing prosperity wherever he goes. Villages light up, roads are paved and dams start flowing with water as he flies around in his maroon costume with a black cape.

A bold M replaces the trademark S of the original Superman suit, as Modi fights terrorists, their bullets flying off his chest and six-pack.

The film (bit.ly/1jBM996), launched on 26 April, has been made by a team of Ahmedabad-based volunteers called Gujarat Gaurav Fan Club.

“Modi is a solution to India’s problems, almost like a modern-day superhero,” says business entrepreneur Rajeev Chajjer, one of the core members of the fan club formed in 2005.

In real life, too, Modi has become a kind of superhero after leading the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a majority on its own in the 16th general election—the first time in 30 years that a single party has emerged with enough numbers in the Lok Sabha to form a government on its own. On the way, he became something of a political human brand.

The making of ‘prime minister Modi’ at least partly marks the success of the BJP leader’s public relations machinery and the team that has been working for him in the social media or at the ground level.

From a Hindutva icon to a developer, to a chaiwalla and a person from other backward classes, brand Modi has shown itself in various avatars. Be it merchandise like Modi masks, video games, apparel, Modi kurtas or cell-phones, Modi has been sold to millions of Indians like no other politician.

A biopic of the man is planned by Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal, who contested for the BJP from East Ahmedabad in Gujarat,

Running a presidential-style campaign, the Gujarat chief minister has been the face of the BJP—unlike in past elections—and emerged as larger than the party.

In Gujarat state elections, Modi, as the chief minister, spearheaded a “Modi-no manas” (Modi’s man) campaign, which paid off. He asked voters to not look at local candidates but instead bear in mind that every vote for the BJP was a vote for him. This he replicated successfully in the national elections as well with the Ab ki baar, Modi Sarkaar campaign.

Modi personally looked into the election campaign, organizing key strategies himself, said an official in Modi’s Gandhinagar office in Gujarat.

“In advertising terms it has been like promoting the lead brand. But nothing can become a brand if a product is not so great. A lead brand gives you a persona that the company represents. Modi is the persona that represents BJP,” said Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and national creative director at Ogilvy and Mather India.

Pandey has worked with Gujarat government’s tourism department for a Khushboo Gujarat Ki (the perfume of Gujarat) campaign.

An early riser who practices yoga every day, Modi has travelled 300,000 kilometres in the past eight months since being named the BJP’s PM candidate, addressing as many as four to five rallies daily.

“This is one of those classic days when everyone will yell, ‘I told you so, I told you so’. This sweep has been phenomenal. Modi has found the perfect niche to work his wedge into all, thanks to the leadership shortfall....Everything was just right for Modi to ride in,” said Prathap Suthan, chief creative officer and managing partner, Bang In The Middle, known best for his ‘India Shining’ campaign of 2004 for the BJP.

Part of the branding exercise was a 48-page comic book titled Bal Narendra, released in March. It contains 17 stories that about the formative years of Modi.

Published by Rannade Publication and Blue Snail Animation—both Ahmedabad-based companies—the book portrays a fearless Modi who swims in a crocodile-infested lake in his hometown, Vadnagar in Gujarat.

He brings home a baby crocodile to be told by his mother how painful it is for a child to be separated from its mother, so he goes back to the river and releases the crocodile back in the water.

From helping his father sell tea, to acting on the stage and strategizing his team’s kabaddi win, the book says that it aims to inspire people—in the words of Modi—“to dream of doing something meaningful, rather than merely becoming someone”.

Tech-savvy Modi has more than 10 million likes on Facebook and four million followers on Twitter, the highest for any Indian politician.

Modi has used technology extensively to reach out to people. He is the first politician to use 3D hologram technology for rallies, covering 1,350 locations.

“There are several instances when Modi’s campaign has been similar to (US president Barack) Obama’s—be it hiring a team of young professionals to launch a social media campaign or the “India 272” initiative that has the exact architecture of Obama’s dashboard that has a points system for giving incentive to active workers,” said a promoter of an Ahmedabad-based advertising film who has worked with Modi on his Vibrant Gujarat summits.

In August last year, Modi chanted “Yes, we can!” to flag off the party’s election campaign in Hyderabad, copying Obama’s famous election slogan.

“One of the innovative things we did was mobile telephony, in which we reached out to 6-7 crore people using pre-recorded message of Modi. Another innovation was an Internet portal for live telecast of Modi’s speeches. It received tremendous response,” said Delhi-based Vishal Gupta, programme manager, operations, BJP IT cell.

Gouri Shah in Mumbai contributed to this story.

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