This month Prime Minister completes three years in office. His journey to 7 Lok Kalyan Marg was attributed largely to his PR prowess, which was built of endless intellectual and organizational resources at Narendra Modi’s disposal, and his ability to deploy them accurately and quickly. Effectively, it convinced a vast majority of Indian voters that he leading his party were the change that the country needed.
Being the cup bearer of change in the country, Modi was the aggressor, and the strong opposition throughout the elections. He could attack the incumbent government toughly, question efficacy of the decade under their rule. He was on the front foot, a style of playing that he was probably comfortable playing throughout most of his political career.
That trend however, turned on itself rather swiftly after the elections. Since he moved to 7 RCR, he has been on the back foot; defending the questions being raised on the efficacy of his own administration. Some observed his visible discomfort in playing in that position which was a more diplomatically tactful virtue that his office deserved to assume. Every now and then the old attacking approach would come out, the way it did in his speech in Lok Sabha on 27th February 2015, in reply to the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address. But by and large, his emphatic PR prowess has evolved into a measured meekness.
A remarkable side effect of this change in stance has been that several other senior political leaders are playing a greater role in wielding PR prowess in its new form. True, since the questions are on the performance of the administration, it is only natural that leaders of that administration address them. But the nature of the challenges has been subliminally directed at Modi’s promises of Acche Din, and therefore the responses are debatably being made for him, more than for the administration.
Another remarkable change has been the increasing absence of his social supporters – individuals, online communities, youth in general; who were highly loquacious and influential during the election campaign. At that time, Modi’s PR apparatus created several mechanisms to empower these social supporter groups with information, access and talking points to propagate legitimate arguments in his favour. In his current tenure, this empowerment seems to be absent, and in dearth of supporting resources, these groups have wilted away unneeded.
It is debatable whether his current approach to PR matches up to that which he deployed before the campaign, primarily since there is no election to measure it, nor is there one likely to come before 2019. What is clear is that winning Prime Ministership has had a different approach from that of retaining it, a lesson that a man who is arguably one of this century’s most prominent PR professionals, is in the process of learning.