Monday, 23 May, 2022
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Why can’t the opposition tell people to do things from their balconies?

After over six years of seeing PM Modi’s gimmicks, opposition still does not understand the new language of politics.

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Why can’t the Congress party ask people to do things from their balconies?

It could start a counter-movement by asking people to, say, wear black clothes and record videos from their balconies, asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi why he allowed the export of protective gear for doctors till as recently as 19 March.

The Congress has been highlighting this issue, as also the lack of testing, delay in the Modi government’s preparedness for Covid-19, and the hardship faced by the people due to the poorly planned 21-day lockdown.

It would be incredibly powerful if social media was flooded one evening, with even a few hundred videos of citizens asking these questions wearing black clothes or black bands in protest. Doing something like this would be the obvious counter-campaign to what Modi has been doing. Question is, why do the most obvious ideas not strike our opposition parties?

Why does the Samajwadi Party not do a hand-washing challenge on social media, just like the one the BJP did, one leader tagging five more to post videos showing how to wash away the wretched coronavirus?

Why doesn’t Uddhav Thackeray ask the people of Maharashtra to clap from their doorsteps at 8 pm to honour health workers?

Also read: Poke fun at taali, thaali, diya and mombatti all you want. Modi couldn’t care less

A lost legacy

Modi’s tricks have long been obvious. He keeps doing them again and again. It is also clear that they help him stay popular even when he is unable to perform on governance. It is clear that these gimmicks are powerful enough to make people forget that demonetisation failed and the economy has been going downhill ever since Modi became the prime minister.

This is the point at which self-righteous ideological people will say the opposition should not be copying Modi because of secularism. But Modi also drinks water. Should secularists stop drinking water?

Then they might say the opposition should come up with original ideas. Guess what? These ideas aren’t Modi’s original ideas. He’s also clearly been inspired because these ideas have been around for decades.

Just like Modi asks people to do things, there was once a Congress leader who used to ask people to do things. His name was M.K. Gandhi. He used to ask people to burn foreign cloth or spin the charkha to make clothes at home or join him in making salt on the Gujarat coast. That even the Congress doesn’t remember Gandhian campaign methods speaks of a lost legacy within the party.

The greatest amplifiers of a politician’s voice are the people. The relationship between political leaders and the masses is like the relationship between stage performers and the audience. The audience applause, laughter, boos, jeers, sighs, are all part of the theatrical experience.

The unwillingness and the inability of opposition parties to understand Modi’s campaign methods is reflective of their own disconnect with mass politics.

Also read: NRC to GST – How Modi & Amit Shah create Anxiety Raj and still win elections

Give the people a task

“I don’t have any problem with Modi ji,” said stand-up comic Abhijit Ganguly in a sketch, “but he keeps giving a lot of work.”

Narendra Modi has been asking people to do things even before he became prime minister.

In 2013-14, he asked farmers to give their iron tools so that it could be melted into the Statue of Unity.

When he became prime minister, he asked people to help clean the streets.

He asks people to do yoga, and to do it like an event on Yoga Day.

He has asked people to change currency notes and adapt to a new taxation system, link their Aadhaar cards to everything and voluntarily give up their LPG subsidy if they don’t need it.

He has asked people to prefix ‘Chowkidar’ to their names on social media, to download the NaMo app, buy NaMo merchandise, and so on.

Modi is always asking people to do things because it is a more effective form of political communication. It’s like the difference between a lecture and a workshop. It’s like the difference between seeing a product on TV and actually experiencing how the product works in a showroom.

Not many people sit through a speech with full attention. Give them a small task and they might do it. Ask them to post a video of them doing exercise as Modi once did, or a selfie to support a cause, and you’ll be surprised to see the number of people willing to do it.

There’s a term for it in the corporate world: prosumers, or people who are not just passive consumers of the product but also help shape and define the product. For instance, children’s toy company Lego crowdsourcing its next design.

By now, the idea of giving people actionable tasks involving props (jhadu, diya, chai, farming tools, etc.) is old and obvious. These ideas work in rallying people around Modi in the same way that rituals unite societies. 

We know the power of this idea: props make ideas tangible, people’s participation makes them invested in Modi’s cause, and thus less receptive to criticism against Modi.

People don’t want to acknowledge the failure of such ideas because they were all part of its execution. It would be like admitting one’s own failure.

These participative campaigns help shift the goalposts: success is not how the government is addressing shortage of medical equipment and paraphernalia, but how many people lit candles.

If you are an observer of Indian politics, all of this is old hat by now. We know the power of the nudge, we know the behavioural science logic behind these ideas. This viral Instagram post describes it well:


View this post on Instagram


Waah Modi Ji waah. @theprintindia has a video explaining this.

A post shared by Harshveer Jain (@storysellercomics) on

And Modi is not the only one to use these campaign methods, though he may be using them the most often. The Aam Aadmi Party’s odd-even car rationing scheme was on similar lines.

My favourite example is from a decade ago. In 2009, a vigilante group attacked women at a pub in Mangalore, a few activists in Delhi asked people across India to send pink panties to the vigilante group by courier. Thousands of people happily did so, even posting selfies on Facebook with the pink panties they were about to courier. It was called the “Pink Chaddi Campaign”.

Also read: Why ‘family elder’ Modi, and not aggressive Amit Shah, is govt’s face in Covid-19 fight

Ideology vs theatre

Branding experts worry about brand authenticity. The moment a brand comes across as inauthentic, it loses its value. But since authenticity is a subjective thing, brands also have to adapt and change with times, take to new marketing and advertising campaigns. There’s a tension between what the brand is and its need to sell the product to consumers whose demographic and tastes keep changing.

One management theorist, Michael Beverland, has defined this tension as the tension between “being and doing” and has proposed that managing this tension is key to growing a brand while keeping it real.

This theory has been adapted to politics by Abhijit Prasad, a branding expert, who tells me the political equivalent is ‘Ideology versus Theatre’.

Ideology is a political party’s identity, and it gets the core vote. It is the theatrics that gets the swing vote. The two need a balance. If a party tilts too heavily in favour of either ideology or theatre, it will lose out. Modi maintains this fine balance.

Our opposition parties — most of them — lack ideological conviction and are unwilling to do theatre. Some leaders and intellectuals think ideology alone is enough, they shouldn’t have to do the theatre. They should listen to Shakespeare: all the world’s a stage, and all the women and men merely players.

Modi plays his part. The opposition sits back and says, oh what a bad actor.

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  1. I am really Impressed with Shivam Vij. I hope he will give benefit of his secularist wisdom to our Pakistani brothers to help them build minority friendly Pakistan of Jinnah’s vision, where a person is Pakistani first and Muslim, Hindu or Sikh later.

    • Yes, no fake named Bhakth can address reality without referencing Religion or Pakistan. Talk about changing the subject & attacking the author instead of assessing the critique on its merits. Your comment just proved the author Vij’s points.

  2. This BIG analysis is not required. Remember PM Modi is hard core RSS pracharak. All RSS pracharaks asks others to do things and they never do anything.

    When RSSS says Bharat can become Vishwva Guru , it meas that Indians need to accept RSS pracharaks as their Gurus Then India will become Vishwav Guru. Only thing here is that PM Modi is an effective RSS pracharak who also happens to be a political leader. That’s all.

    All Indians need to understand how BJP & PM Modi’s rule is harming and NOT helping India. One needs to be an alert citizen and not follow blidly.

    • The problem is the core, the fundamental is that Modi comes from the RSS. The base is authoritarian, superficial (attempts to appeal), shallow, blind to reality, fascist & intolerant to criticism just like Nazi Gestapo. Their fundamental core principles of hatred to non-conformist, past glory based on conformity & blame-game are in stark contrast to those of democracy: free thought & speech, criticism, adjustment towards proper administration & governance, assessment, free & fair elections. If the core is incompatible, if the fundamentals are mismatched the outcome will eventually be destructive. That’s where base & Modi’s fundamental flaw is. He’s only a slight mismanagement step away from catastrophe, which he will then blame on others.

  3. who stops Congress or other opposition parties doing same thing .. but they know not more than 100 people will follow their request .. Modi in connected with masses

  4. Very ” unbiased ” article.

    Thank God. No Gujarat riot now. New takia kalam is demonitisation.

    Continue trying. May be someday people will believe you.

  5. Bullshit may probably smell better. Shekhar gupta, you are working overtime to reduce your credibility

  6. You should first try to understand the core supporters of our leader and their motivation and why opposition at this point can’t convince anyone to do things you want.

  7. The reason why the opposition cannot do what Modi does so successfully is because they are all divided.. when Modi says something, everyone in the party works to make it happen.. but when one opposition leader says something, the rest work to make it fail..

    but there’s no denying they could at least try.. not everyone is impressed with the theatrics.. and all the voices that oppose are spread like scattered rain drops.

    One thing about Modi is that he says and does things no other leader does.. don’t know how successful Swach Bharat was, but it was the first time a PM ever spoke of such a basic, yet ignored necessity. That helps him gain credibility, and connect with the masses.

  8. I think instead of calling youself a news channel you should call youself as opinion channel. When the whole country is fighting this pandemic together you are worried about congress. Well done. I wonder if you have sold your conscience or your soul

  9. Great analysis. Here is an analogy that may explain things.

    MK Gandhi’s politics was primarily based on spirituality though it used rituals for mass participation. PM Modji’s politics is pure rituals and hard for one to say that it is based governance & transparency. Difference between religion and spirituality may help one understand things.

    Rituals in religion start with faith and has little use of truth/knowledge. Justification of rituals of religion is its alleged practical value and based on blind acceptance. Spirituality reverses the position of truth/knowledge and faith. Knowledge makes one self-conscious and does not make one religiously minded. If anything, it is an obstruction to rituals of religion. If religion is not based upon truth what message it has for my life or claim for my allegiance?

    Does one want to continue the act of self-deception or become a religious sheep?

  10. Mr modi is a leader of masses he has an idieolodgy .If opposition tries this tactics I am sure people are going to laugh it out. What is your opinion about people who are beating doctors and health workers people who are spitting one notes and streets .People who are threatening media ?

  11. Modi hater jernos like this one would wish the opposition to preempt some of the political actions of Modi. However, they can preempt if they believe that those actions are gimmicks. The problem of opposition in India is that Modi remains on the side of truth and opposite of truth is lie. So opposition has to base their actions on lies which would obviously backfire as in today’s info age oppositions’ lies get exposed as soon as they are out of the mouth of the opposition. Modi is on the right track and he uses the truth and facts. Opposition to right, truth and facts can only be disaster like opposition’s love for gimmicks.

  12. I thought Shivam is in withdrawal symptoms, needs hard liquor like Desi Tharra or Arrack to gain sense, the entire article sounded the author will commit harakiri …if he doesn’t get his quota of bakwas it sounded more like Manu Shankar farting

  13. Shivam – We all for once forgotten that what all is on stake is country and nothing else .. People
    no longer question where do the current govt get money for all these ‘Tamasha’ .. Even for once none of us including his own party men understands that the govt is failing ‘The Nation’. We love trolling and abusing people on Social Media platform to ensure that we are reduced to a mediocre society and ordinary country where we are allowed to be lead by naivety ..

    • Yes…each time we forget every thing..yes we are all one mould of it demonetization..GST…Pulwama..Islmophobia…Goumutra…Cowdung…Corona…my friend Dictators are clever in exploiting the insecurity and inferiority of the masses…

  14. If you and the people you like can get just 10 non-party members to do something you want, you will start challanging Modi. You are completely clueless on why people are doing everything Modi asks, even if sometimes they don’t go according to plan. That is what a great leader can accomplish, while the rest can bang their head on why everyone is following him.

    • Great leaders? Hitler did the same. Idem Stalin. So did Mao. And people followed them. And the results? I sincerely hope all the people who comment here know the results., though looking at the level of comments, I doubt it.

    • So great leaders like Mao, Stalin, Kim Jong, Roosevelt, Hitler, Churchill, Reagen all made people clang pots in lieu of actual policy? True Stalin & Hiteld did get their own people to commit genocide & atrocities. Modi could do that too & you all will call him a great leader just because he’s able to get people to do his bidding.

  15. Shivam Vij is just another But hurt Lutyens bum-boy who saw the national spirit of April 9th event and is sulking….

    If Rahul Gandhi said something – or even Sharad pawar or others it wont carry the weight of Modi. And FYI, people even in the Opposition are GLAD Modi is in charge now – they know they could.never have handled it!

    So Shivam – take your but-hurt and tub of vasaline and atleast cry with some honesty instead of all this weak projectionist bull about “theater” and “acting”..

  16. Hi Shivam – You are true khan market journalist …who can’t think or write beyond Modi. I suggest you join Congress as their Chief communication officer as it seems you keep giving suggestions to Congress …so better join them and we the readers will be spared . However remember one thing people do what Modi says is because they trust him. Nobody is perfect and he and government will also do mistakes but that does not mean they don’t do right things . As journalist you should have the ability to present both sides of the coins . However unfortunately you are views are one sided and very immature . Modi has a appeal no opposition leader has that appeal or credibility with India …that’s a fact.

    Lastly please come out of your echo chamber and be real journalist .


  17. Whenever I want some comedy, I read Shivam Vij. When he doesn’t write for a few days, I go through Shivam Withdrawal Syndrome.

    • Balcony politics also has a limited shelf life. Winners have to do different things. Mere copying won’t do.

  18. Opposition, media, “intellectuals, historians, sociologists, creative ones, academics”… all fart and not even shit. They are suffering Modiphobia from 2002 and it is not over. They say Modi is all crap but you can produce even that. Verbal diarrhea yes, you are master. Even theater ones who you rope in Nasreeden, Kamal Hasan, Swara Bhaskar, Prakashraj… their paint washed away in Modi’s glare. You know what? Most Who voted for him trust him than they ever will…all of you. Your credibility is just not there. You are insulting each time you throw stones at Modi you are hitting those who voted for him. So, next time you pen an article, you just threw another stone at a common man who has more intelligence than all of you collectively. If you reject that, then you go and live in another country.

  19. Shivam Vij is the only intelligent person in India. He feels compelled to air his wisdom regularly .
    The entire Indian electorate who voted for Modi are fools.
    If Shivam has his way, India will change from an elected democracy to a selected democracy, with “INTELLECTUALS” LIKE SHIVAM VIJ DOING THE SELECTION.

    • Very scathing….ahh! I can feel and understanding why, but I would like Print ot continue with publishing his articles – they are entertaining and frankly engaging to read. I will give Shivam that.

  20. Mr Shivam your frustration is evident day after day, one article after other, Modi, Modi, Modi, Modi and yet people, err sorry the congressmen don’t take notice of what to do and how to do. Congress has battery of advisors and spokies in the media masquerading as journos. Your boss at The Print is the blue eyed boy of 10 JP who was also seen standing with the 4 judges at the famous PC whose objective was intimately not met. Problem with you guys is that you want a quick fix to counter Modi which is not possible. In life one has to work hard to attain some level of success. The party whose defacto member you are is firstly the most hated party in this country for its countless scams and acts which often go against India’s national interest. Since you mention the pink chaddi campain with perverted glee, why don’t you try this on the PM and see the result for yourself. Your lack of credibility and immaturity is manifest in how lightly you consider the people of India. You feel these gimmicks will make those lazy congressmen suddenly popular and halt Modi jaggernaut ? I pity if that is what you feel. Modi is working hard 24×7 and the nation knows it. That is what his every word, every appeal, every act resonates across every section of the society. Reaching this position in public requires years and years of grass root hard work which your handlers are not capable of. They are plain lazy and entitled, rich elites which the nation abhors. Criticising Modi will get you fat paycheque, a mention in Wapo or any other useless crap but you and your handlers will never get a place in the hearts of Indian people with your gimmickry.

  21. You are asking Congress to do something ‘constructive’. Very surprising for such a senior journalist, after having seen their record of over 70 years. What you are suggesting is “Policy”, which ONLY “The Family” may think up. And, the “Family’s” ONLY preoccupation now is with ” How to get Modi out of that chair right now and put RG there”. They can never ‘ACT’, only react.

  22. bro, please join indian national congress,atleast u will become a spokesperson there ,& by the way don’t worry they will definitely give u this job as u r a diehard modi basher 😂🤣 .. please don’t waste time on writing these articles !!!!

  23. People follow a leader whom they trust and have faith. The simple fact is thee opposition do not have one !!!!

  24. The opposition parties don’t have time for such nonsense as they are busy fighting corona virus pandemic.

  25. Governance is serious business. Health workers are testing positive because, despite repeated requests, they have not been given adequate protective gear, sent in harm’s way. Already short, when soldiers are pulled out of battle, the odds lengthen. The trek of the migrants was a very visible, painful failure of imagination. 2. Marketing one does not understand. It is only after dropping into the Nike store that one sees the photographs of the gods and goddesses – Maria Sharapova was my favourite – who endorse the brand. If the product continues to flounder, difficult to judge how long the cash counter will keep jangling. 3. The Opposition may have some lessons in PR and communication to learn. However, all the CMs who are rising to meet this awesome challenge are from its ranks.

  26. Wow this is dumb. Do you think Modi asks people to light diyas because that is theatre? Onli a konfused komrade would think that.

    Modi cares about the people of India. Is that so hard to understand?
    Maybe for an ideology like Kommunism, it is.

    • If course its theatrics.. and it’s doing more harm than good!!

      If you go out for supplies, or walk thousands of kms to reach home because you’re not sure you will survive where you are, you can get arrested, beaten, or sprayed. But see what happens during the diya jalao ‘event’ people step out to buy everything from candles to crackers.. there’s a party on the street.. some houses and butts even get set on fire!!

      So the question is, what’s more important right now .. fighting the virus? Or spreading it? The jalaoing caused more harm than good.. it was obvious it would, seeing what happened during thali bajao! Only one person benefited.. and that’s Modi!

  27. My dearest stupid “shoe I am” please don’t forget your SUPPORTERS who spit and throw stones on doctors and policemen who request them to stop gathering in religious places to avoid CORONA VIRUS. Please don’t FORGET CAA and non existent NRC opponents. All this are fellow stupid SUPPORTERS of the FAMILY you support.

  28. All this “success” at theatrics, winning elections, running the opposition down is explained by – right place, right time, right audience. This era too will run its course – as all eras eventually do.
    Attempting to copy all these tactics isn’t going to guarantee any success. Probably that is perhaps the single biggest reason nobody wants to lead the opposition charge. No single person has a hope in hell of succeeding. Poor Rahul Gandhi is just a convenient scapegoat. No wonder the guy wants out.
    The only durable way of overcoming this is by putting in the hard yards – building your own brand, having sharply differentiated products, (ideas) taking your ideas to the public (even at the cost of ridicule till one day your ideas start to make sense to a lot of people) and waiting for the tide to change.
    After all, time and tide do change.

  29. I request with folded hands to this moron to sit at home to let people running the country to do their job in this hour of crisis.What he doesn’t understand is almost all the opposition leaders command the same respect as this writer commands.Show me one leader on whose call the entire nation comes together.This writer thinks all are bhakths.This same pathological hatred harboured by these so called experts prevented them from seeing what was coming in the 2019 elections
    We will think of analysis&investigation of so called failures once this crisis gets over.Hope The Print doesn’t lose readers because of this motivated author

  30. Better you join the Congress party and advise them full time. Don’t pretend to be a journalist.

  31. Mr Viz is still confused why the opposition doesn’t just copy Modi ji. It’s quite simple ,
    first you made fun of Modi and now want
    the opposition to copy him. It’s not going to happen. The public doesn’t trust them.

  32. I hope Shivam does not become a Prashant Kishor one day; he will surely down any party which consults him! That apart, this article is apiece of delightfully humorous writing by Shivam. He carefully hides the fact that it is not the Congress or the other regional parties who are out of wits on how to deal with the menace called Modi but it is Shivam himself! Once you stop taking these usual The Print writers like Shivam or Jyoti etc. seriously, it is such a fun to read them

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