If there is one leader who has used his power of oration to the best of his abilities, it has got to be, without a doubt, Narendra Modi. Coupled with a strong personality in a ’56-inch chest’, and a paternal personality, he has become one of the most respected, vocal and visible leaders that we have in our country today.
Pranshu Sikka | Opinion
It is this same personality that helped him sweep India in the national elections twice, and now as he battles coronavirus, it is this same aura that lets him create the impression of being a people’s leader.
Right from the way he held the nation together with his famous 8 pm broadcasts and recorded addresses, to getting everyone out on their balconies to applaud our healthcare workers, and even lighting candles and diyas to dispel the Covid ‘darkness’, Modi managed to get all Indians to obey directives like never before.
But apart from gaining a steady horde of followers, his aura achieved very little. For the first time, we have a leader who could have utilized this opportunity and this ability to emerge as a unifying force for the country. He could have trumped different political lines, bringing allies and enemies much closer in these trying times, and win over a larger section of the population. His communication strategy could have been stronger and more focused on the work being done to effectively mitigate this crisis, which would have worked wonders not just for India but also for Brand Modi. It would have also given him ammunition to fight off his divisive image, and attract even non-core vote banks, thus helping him score some major political brownie points.
But instead, he massively undermined the severity and longevity of the epidemic. Whether it was the infamous Tablighi Jamaat case, to the mass exodus of migrant workers, it not only worsened conditions in terms of the raging disease, but also highlighted how Brand Modi’s charismatic speeches did absolutely nothing for the most underprivileged sections of the society.
Moreover, different chief ministers across states managed to emerge heroes in their respective domains by tackling the epidemic at a more locally holistic level. For instance, in the beginning, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan became the first in the country to receive praise for tackling the crisis in his state with aplomb. With regular press meets and bulletins to appraise Keralites, he ensured that the state felt safe under his leadership. Similarly, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also did all the right things in the fight against Coronavirus – from regular sanitization, sero surveys, housing homeless migrants, feeding people, and ramping up testing massively.
When these state leaders did their job, their respective audience gave them a lot of empathy and support. Because they managed to reinforce their commitment to their people and the state. Even BJP’s arch-rival Congress didn’t lash out at the ruling party this time, and quietly worked with a dignified silence. This further corroded people’s trust in the Brand Modi.
All these reasons combined altered the way we perceive Brand Modi. Now, it will be interesting to see how he uses these incidents as a lesson to chart out a new communication strategy. He may have also finally realized that in moving from national to local, and pushing the onus of responsibility and outcomes on state-level authorities, he might be able to regain his brand strength. It could also fire back at him, but could also work out for him in a way that reinforces and solidifies his brand positioning among the masses.
(Disclaimer | The writer is the CEO and Founder of The Pivotals, India’s first Business Worries Outsourcing firm with expertise in stakeholder engagement. He has been a strategic communication consultant with over a decade of experience.)