2020 was the year of the coronavirus pandemic and the attendant devastation it brought along. Thousands of lives and livelihoods were lost, families were shattered, and businesses ran aground. One of the strictest lockdowns imposed in the world led to a migrant crisis in India and financial distress of unprecedented proportions.
However, despite all the hardships faced by the people, ‘Brand Modi’ has only grown stronger this year with the Bharatiya Janata Party emerging victorious in Bihar state Assembly elections and putting up a great show in Hyderabad and Rajasthan local body elections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity ratings are at an all-time high due to his handling of the coronavirus situation.
As per an IANS-C-Voter survey as many as 93% respondents agreed that the Indian government is handling the coronavirus crisis very well. According to an analysis done by a US-based research firm, PM Narendra Modi has secured the top position among global leaders, with an approval rating of 68 over his handling of the pandemic.
Indian Opposition political parties criticised Modi for imposing a sudden lockdown and doing ‘theatrics’ rather than coming up with concrete plans to tackle the outbreak and an economic plan to revive the economy. But it didn’t affect his image one bit.
That’s how Modi’s graph has been over the years, right from the days when he was the chief minister of Gujarat to now as the Prime Minister of the country: the more you attack him, the stronger he gets.
The lockdown, while causing economic hardship, did result in controlling the pandemic in the country. India has one of the lowest fatality rates in the world and our active cases are low despite the festivals, unlocking and a disregard for safety in many quarters.
India’s tough response to China’s misadventure along the Line of Actual Control in which both sides suffered casualties has further established Modi as a strong nationalist leader.
India’s banning of a number of Chinese apps is also seen by people as giving China a fitting reply.
Modi has been successful in creating a perception that he is no Nehru and China cannot take India for granted and be a big bully, cementing his place among people’s hearts and minds.
Most of the successful campaigns of Modi have been the ones where he has been able to convert his ideas into public campaigns. There are many examples, such as Swachch Bharat, Fit Raho India, Main Bhi Chowkidaar, et cetera. This year ‘Thaali Bajao’ and ‘Diya Jalao’ got added to the list.
As Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief of The Print, writes in his article, ‘… he always asks you to do something for him and, thereby, the nation.’ Thaali bajao not for himself but for the medical staff fighting to contain coronavirus. Diya jalao not for himself, but to defeat the darkness of despair and light up your lives with hope.
He apologised to the poor for causing them inconvenience by touching an emotional chord, something similar to what he did during demonetisation in 2016. The poor blindly followed Modi for the sake of the nation.
Despite his best intentions, many migrants suffered and had to walk for thousands of kilometers to get back home. Modi, however, was able to shift the blame for this to mismanagement by several states. His popularity remained unscathed throughout these incidents.
In the Bihar polls, people blamed Nitish Kumar for mishandling of the pandemic, the resultant economic crisis and the floods. However, most voters were satisfied with the performance of the central government and this helped the National Democratic Alliance beat the Mahagathbandhan in a tough contest. Narendra Modi single-handedly ensured victory for Nitish in Bihar.
Modi, who always seems to be one step ahead of the Opposition, has tuned his strategy in the wake of the pandemic. He has devised what I term as a ‘COVID-strategy’, with Communication, Visibility and Delivery as its three key pillars.
He always communicates with the public directly so that the message is not lost in translation. Modi was spreading positivity during these trying times through his speeches. He ensured people don’t panic, their mind doesn’t wander sitting at home; he united people through a common thread of hope that we as a nation will overcome this crisis. (Communication)
Almost every week he appears on the TV channels (and radio) participating in some government or BJP programme or seeking votes for his party or sharing his Mann ki Baat. He is all over — from social/digital platforms to print and electronic media, to posters in our city/town/muffasil/mohalla/village. (Visibility)
Modi is credited for improving the implementation of schemes in the country through Direct Benefit Transfer. The pandemic posed a big challenge, so how would the poor and the marginalised survive during the lockdown? The prime minister announced a Rs 1,500 cash transfer to female Jan Dhan account holders and free ration for the poor to help them tide over the crisis. (Delivery)
This 3-pillar ‘COVID-strategy’ has helped Modi consolidate his position as one of the best prime ministers of all time and given a big leg up to ‘Brand Modi’.
A weak Opposition is helping ‘Brand Modi’ get stronger. According to Choi Young-il, a political commentator and adjunct professor at South Korea’s Kyung Hee Cyber University, there are three factors that go into making a successful Opposition.
The first is criticising the government’s shortcomings.
The second is providing an alternative to it, and
The third is cooperating with the government when it is doing a good job.
The Opposition is failing to counter the Modi juggernaut because it is not following the 3-factor model, except for criticising and attacking the central government. The masses see through this and thus their trust in the Opposition view tends to erode.
The year 2020 was a big test for Modi and he has come out with flying colours despite the Opposition blaming him for the pandemic and for alleged loss of territory to China.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author and do not reflect the views of Yahoo India. Yahoo India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.