In the charged and polarising atmosphere that we inhabit, Modi has chosen the most non-divisive issue to tackle in his book.
At a time when crores of students across the country prepare for the dreaded Board exams, the biggest antidote to stress is coming from one person: Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the charged and polarising atmosphere that we inhabit, Modi has chosen the most non-divisive issue to tackle in his book.
Widely associated with anxiety and suicides, the Board exams have now become part of a new political strategy.
The 200-page book, with 25 chapters, tells you how to deal with the exam stress and the importance of focussing on the larger goal of life. The colourful book is less like a text book and more like an exercise book, where you sit with a pen or pencil and jot down your thoughts. In addition, it has 38 pages dedicated to the practice of yoga.
After penning the book ‘Exam Warriors’, Modi will meet thousands of students from about 2,000 school and colleges at Talkatora Stadium in Delhi on 16 February, along with teachers and principals.
It is not a political event. But it has a very clearly carved political undertone to it.
In his 2017 Independence Day speech, Modi spoke about how those born in the 21st century will start turning 18, and will have to take important decisions. He didn’t say it explicitly, but the message was not lost. Eighteen is the age when you become eligible to vote.
The first page of the book Exam Warriors reveals the political messaging very clearly: “He has been Prime Minister since May 2014, after leading his party to the first full parliamentary majority government in India in three decades. His victory was propelled by historic support from India’s youth, particularly first-time voters.”
About 15 crore young adults became eligible to vote for the first-time in 2014, the highest-ever in the history of independent India. About 39 per cent of the first-time voters in 2014 had supported the BJP. In 2019, the number is expected to be about 13.3 crore. The recent India Today poll presents a near-perfect picture of high popularity of the prime minister among India’s youth.
Overall, in the 2014 general elections, the BJP got about 17 crore votes, while the Congress secured about 11 crore votes. In such a scenario, securing a large portion of first-time voters can make a huge difference to the fortunes of the BJP.
Modi has for some time become artful in embedding politics into what appear to be mass mobilisation campaigns. It began in 2013, when he urged farmers to donate small pieces of iron for Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s statue in Gujarat. It helped him forge an emotional bond with crores of farmers in the country, overcoming caste, colour, regional and language barriers in one go. At the same time, it helped him stake claim to Patel’s political and intellectual legacy instead of Nehru’s.
In November 2016, when he demonetised Indian currency, he successfully struck down the image of running a ‘Suit-boot ki sarkar’, or ‘Adani-Ambani ki sarkar’. Overnight, he projected himself as the messiah of poor, who even ‘risked his life’ to take on the rich.
Exam Warriors is aimed at a rich political harvest, but packaged as a youth-connect event. This, after his Teacher’s Day programme with school children, where he tried to dislodge the narrative of ‘chacha Nehru’.
While launching the Hindi version of the book in the capital last week, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath requested the publishers to ensure that lakhs of students in UP also benefit from this book. It should not surprise us, therefore, if the book is translated into several other languages and distributed free before 2019.
Read Global Pulse for a sampler of the big international stories, and why they matter.