Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why the Time 100 Poll does not matter

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 Share: Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Facebook

Political battles are not won on the internet, but they can be lost there

There was some buzz on the Internets about a Time Poll which the Gujarat CM Narendra Modi almost won. Some celebrated, some were aghast at the possibility that Mr.Modi would come out on top in an Internet poll and there was one excellent analysis of what the numbers could mean. Apparently, Mr.Modi led the poll a few days ago, thanks to his massive (online) following and his opponents mobilized enough online votes to make their opposition loud and clear.


The poll itself does not matter because

1. It is an internet poll, and it is best not to take it very seriously and
2. It was a battle of fanatics and devotees, who eventually canceled each other out.

But there are other issues to consider.

On one hand, there is no politician in India who commands such intense devotion as Mr.Modi does, and it boils down to three reasons:
1. Gujarat under Mr.Modi has been touted as investment-friendly, corruption-free and a model of good governance
2. Top-notch media management has highlighted the positives coming out of Gujarat, a stark contrast considering the state of affairs in the rest of India
3. Media focus on the post-Godhra riots and Mr.Modi's role in it, which make him look like a victim.

On the other hand, his opponents have tried to assert that Gujarat is not all that it is made out to be and his direct or indirect involvement in the Gujarat riots is reason enough to disregard any progress seen during his tenure as Gujarat CM. They were fairly successful in traditional media. But for the first time, I have seen Mr.Modi lose an internet battle, indicating the arrival of another group of fanatics who want to win perception battles with mouse clicks.


***

Some people argue about issues beyond the legal ones Mr.Modi faces, but morality has limited and convenient value in politics. If morality was the yardstick to elect our politicians, we would have elected an entirely different breed of leaders. Therefore, only three things matter:

1. The court's verdict on cases before it: I think even Mr.Modi opponents know that there is no smoking gun as they seem to be inclined towards tying him up in court cases and impeding his Prime Ministerial ambitions.
2. Election results: Rohit Pradhan has a great piece in Pragati on future political scenarios. There is another scenario. While Mr.Modi's move to the centre may galvanize votes against him, middle class India might actually turn up to vote for him (and the BJP). This could be due to frustration with Congress' misgovernance and corruption and also because those on the fence only need the court cases to go away so they can brush off questions of morality and vote for the man they think is a man of action.
3. Acceptability of allies: This is a hurdle that Mr.Modi might find most difficult to negotiate, but what if there is a wave in support of Mr.Modi? It seems difficult in the current political and social climate. But because the BJP doesn't have much to lose, Mr.Modi is the make-or-break bet it must make and hope that the allies will eventually come around.

I believe Mr.Modi's time has come and while I may not trust him as the country's Prime Minister, I would rather see him have his legitimate opportunity to lead the country. Of all the politicians and political formations in India today, he has articulated a coherent vision for his state and followed up on it. This, his followers believe, makes Mr.Modi a transformational leader and support their hero with an indignation and hostility that has to be seen to be believed.

***

I received an interesting tweet last evening about a myth-busting website re:Gujarat riots, and I would like to quote a couple snippets from that website:
"Myth 1: 2,000 Muslims were killed in the Gujarat riots
Fact: 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed in the riots, 2548 people were injured and 223 people were missing"
"Myth 2: Muslims were ‘butchered’ in Gujarat
Fact: "by and large - the riots were not one-sided- and Muslims were hardly the cattle hiding from the slaughter house"

There is more, and I will leave you to make your own conclusions but this is a sample of Mr.Modi's following. Another section, arguably, is only interested in good governance and want him to replicate Gujarat on a larger scale.


Mr.Modi's devotees are a curious combination of well-meaning people impatient for good governance, the aggrieved Hindu who thinks the Gujarat riots were a good thing as it taught Muslims a lesson, and the Hindu supremacist. Except for a few people who remain objective, they are either blinded by devotion for Mr.Modi or by hatred towards anyone who speaks against their hero, and won't stop at anything to drown other voices out.

***

Any politician with the extent of demonstrated success as Mr.Modi deserves a fair political chance and it is high time that Mr.Modi's opponents gracefully step back instead of hysterically rehashing the same talking points. While perceptions can be changed on a smaller scale, elections won't be won on the Internet. This is something his devotees must realise because their hostility and storm-trooping puts off more people than they can win the support of. An old proverb says "a man is known by the company he keeps". Mr.Modi's devotees should understand that they are his company and they will have themselves to blame when their he is judged by their behaviour.

17 comments:

Shadab Ansari said...

I think Himachal Pradesh is even better developed than gujarat. Its just they are not promoting it like a brand. Am I wrong ???

Anonymous said...

Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan used to tell a story that when he was the captain of the team he found that his fellow paki team members used to address foreign white cricket team players as "Sir". That kind of colonial slavishness may have long disappeared from current dressing rooms but it seems to be quite alive in media editorial rooms. Hence we see such brouhaha over any little bit of crumbs that foreign media throws out.
Don't we have our own mind to see or judge things for ourselves? Does some Jyoti Thottam of Time know more about Modi, Gujarat and BJP than say journalists of "The Pioneer"?
It is not some divine ethereal being like "Time", "Newsweek" or "BBC" or "NewYorkTimes" that decide what is right or wrong it is some human journalist or reporter -most likely a product of journalistic inbreeding in pseudo-secular cesspool- unloading his/her notions in his/her own madeup frame of reference, where India must always we referred to as a Hindu nation but France, Britain, US, Italy etc. are never referred as christian nations even when they horribly treat their religious minorities.

As the saying goes: there are lies, damned lies, statistics then there are internet polls.

sanjay said...

Being i m from Himachal,indeed Himachal is progressing well but not the speed & multidimensional progress wetnessing in Gujarat.I would give 6/10 to Himachal & 9/10 to Gujrat.

Tsomo85 said...

Amen. I've no laynadeynaa with BJP or Mr.Modi but if I were to vote for him as my leader (PM) likewise, I would certainly vote only by what you've written here. Deep down I can gaurantee that he'll do far better then any PM in candidate from any party. And for god sake, if they can keep the boy Rahul Gandhi out of all these matters or else India will sink before even the world will end.

Amen! To the last quote on man's character! In past, I've had excellent marriage proposal in terms of his financial & reputation but I can not stand the person who he consider as bestfriend. As a women & daughter, this
was catch, but that fact has bothered me so much that I
end up rejecting the proposal & disgraced my family.
Today, again the person that I know since I was 13 years old asked me out. His mother has always loved me, I know that if I accept his date, things will definitely bring to next stage (marriage) but guess what? I dislike the friends that he was hanging out with all these years, at times I feel like if he's single today, it's only because of his wrong company who seem to have badly influenced his adulthood. So there's NO WAY I can risk my life to him. I feel like sharing this facts only to prove how "RIGHT" you are and how much wrong company can cause harm to ones well being.

Awesome post as always!

Tsomo85 said...

Between I'm ShyAngelx from twitter & big fan of your blog. Please get in habit to write more often about anything that makes world go round! Till then peace out!!
:-)

The Comic Project said...

@anonymous: your question is for the 250,000 patriotic people who thought it worth their while to vote on a random internet poll. I'd consider it irrelevant even if an Indian paper ran it.
@sanjay: Every state has a different starting point, but Gujarat has managed to get most eyeballs. Performance + Perception.
@tsomo85: that boy "Rahul Gandhi" :-) I like the sound of that. It's quite a personal story you have shared and connected it with the points I have tried to make. Thanks for the kind comments about the blog. Will try to blog or draw the odd cartoon without falling prey to being busy and laziness.

Tsomo85 said...

Call it agony!!!! LOLZ I would never consider it as personal at all. It is nothing but a #failed attempt to win someone. Rather, look at it as why, where, and how men can go wrong in terms of becoming a "winner." About the sound of "the boy Rahul Gandhi" the origin of that cynicism is rather imitation of Mr.Modi's famous lawyer, who once declared him as nothing but dumbo who has not once read a single book of any great scholars or leaders of India. I just found it amusing yet true,,,,,,,

Anonymous said...

The TIME 100 poll was not lost by Mr Narendra Modi because his haters somehow mobilized lots of people to go and vote against him. They definitely tried to do so but Mr Modi was leading 75%-25% till before 12 hours before the poll closed. He had around 240000 +ve votes and some 90000 -ve votes at that time. Then, all of a sudden the nominee "Anonymous" started getting votes at 40000 per hour and Mr Modi started getting some 30000 -ve votes per hour. This is not humanly possible and is further explained by the fact that "Anonymous" are a group of hackers around the world. They waited for the last 10 hours to come out of nowhere and hack the polls. They had a mere 22000 votes till 12 hours before and suddenly in 5 hours they had 350000! The very reputed Mashable actually has an article on this ( http://mashable.com/2012/04/06/anonymous-tops-time-100-poll/ ) And of course, since the result is decided by difference of Yes and No, they flooded Mr Modi with -ve votes. The program they used is available on the Internet, it votes 500 times in one click!

It was just a hacked internet poll which didn't even have real humans voting on it. Isn't it extremely asinine to analyse the results of such a poll and even write Op-Eds, drawing inferences on it? The Internet is practically irrelevant in Indian elections and Twitter opinion of Modi's fans or haters basically count for zilch. What matters are demographics management, destructive populist sops, pandering to the lowest of electorate fears and so on. And in all these grounds, Congress remains miles ahead. But what indeed needs to be looked and marveled at is the intense devotion Narendra Modi today attracts from a section of youth. I, myself, feel surprised to see that a politician could ever attract such fan following; don't think any politician in independent India has ever raised such emotions. He's truly the Lord Voldemort of Indian politics, the brightest and the most controversial one to have ever graced public life. After all, they both did great things, terrible things - but great things nonetheless!

Arun said...

"@sanjay: Every state has a different starting point, but Gujarat has managed to get most eyeballs. Performance + Perception. "
Haven't you ever considered this is the same that goes to the 'opposition' of self professed humanitarians that write/talk about Modi's supposedly 'yama' like episode? Do you even stop to think what happened to Tamils in Sri Lanka? WHat happened in 1984? The govt. that didn't do crap about it? Also why on earth the 'emergency' happened in India? Stop/think/write something, until then you are yet another planned brainwashed kid that congress dreams of converting entire India, and thus rob the country to the last paisa, like they are doing now.

A certain someone said...

The nature of the case for and against Modi is no different from how a lot of popular Indian political leaders produce polarisation among people. What is unique is how the identity lines that Modi's politics draws are very artificial and non-traditional identities. We have come to expect fault lines along caste, community and language based identities and at some level have rationalised it as being a case of identities too entrenched to be completely gotten rid of in most people. So, escaping the trap of identity politics at that level is not expected. On the other hand Modi's support and opposition has managed to coalesce people along identity lines where they have had to very voluntarily and deliberately take a stand that they can usually not take in public. This is typical among the educated crowd who use their general education to judge that their traditional identities are not the proper ones to stick to when thinking of the big picture. And these are the vocal minority. They over-estimate their numbers. The question then is, are enough people willing to forgo their traditional identities that guide them at the voting booth and support or oppose him at the national level.

Coming from possibly the only state in India where identity politics is virtually absent, I find it hard to predict how people will vote on these lines but my experience outside of the state has been that identity and immediate concerns play a much stronger role in guiding people to choose their candidate than the loud part of the middle class in their ideological bubble likes to think. This apparent contradiction is not unique to India. If it were Republicans wouldn't be getting a single vote from women or low wage earners in the US. So, despite broken promises, a nasty track record of corruption, people and parties get elected. Not only will Modi's fans have to jolt people out of this pattern but this will possibly require a cultural change across our society. Modi fans with their rabid nature won't be able to convince people. So, I really don't see him or BJP getting anywhere in 2014 and that's not for not trying.

This realisation should in turn make the liberal left pause and reassess their panic induced response to everything about him. The liberal angst against Modi also over estimates their own support. Go to south and the east. Ask how many people hold Indira Gandhi responsible, and in extension, the Congress morally culpable for 1984, and you will find very few people. It was too far and too remote to be etched in our memory. So is Gujarat in 2002. All they keep doing now is add fire to the narrative of Modi as a victim though that might not necessarily produce a middle class backlash because in my understanding the middle class is too heterogeneous in terms of political choices (not ideology though) in front of them to act so concertedly. Then again, even if middle class does a concerted campaign, there are too many other people with their own overriding agenda for this to work with Modi as the candidate up front and centre.

A certain someone said...

There's also another aspect to this. Western & Northern India has historically borne the brunt of invading armies. In those parts, the fear of the other is easy to exploit. Modi makes it work in Guj, BalT in Maha. While southern India is culturally chauvinistic, it has traditionally not feared aggressors, as much as it has been bothered by immigrants. Eastern India never had to face this problem. (And hence the huge Bengali debate around how much can we fawn over Netaji. As a Bengali or also as a military leader?) So, Modi being the candidate to stamp out evil, to protect you, to teach them a lesson, in other words, his emotional appeal, as opposed to a cerebral one, won't be as effective elsewhere. Outside of the middle class, people really do not have the time to convince themselves that Hindus are victims and Muslims have done a historical wrong that should be avenged.

PS: Modi was up against Anonymous and Reddit. If his supporters actually knew enough about the net as opposed to just being rabble rousers there, they would never have hoped for a win.

Ektz said...

I believe Mr.Modi's time has come and while I may not trust him as the country's Prime Minister, I would rather see him have his legitimate opportunity to lead the country.

^ this just about sums up my view as a gujju and an indian. I personally think he can lead much better than today's PM & party of "ji-hajoor"s.

@St_Hill said...

Your article reminded me of another online poll from a few years ago. I wrote off a blogpost - http://senthilsblog.blogspot.in/2012/04/call-it-taj-mahal.html

Anonymous said...

I agree with ur take on Mr Modi. He is one leader who has performed well on several aspects. He is relatively incorruptible; Gujrat has progressed under him, and he delivers (as much as a politician can be expected to, in India). However, serious issues against him ever becoming the PM.. his inv. in the riots, plus the fact that internationally he may not be perceived as a good choice.

Anonymous said...

"Myth 2: Muslims were ‘butchered’ in Gujarat
Fact: "by and large - the riots were not one-sided- and Muslims were hardly the cattle hiding from the slaughter house"

This is hardly relevant. People will retaliate if you attack them, and you can hardly blame them for that. The real accusation on Modi is that he stood by and let the rioting and murdering and raping take place. Most of those who led the rioters came clean in the Tehelka expose, and directly implicated Modi and his cohort of people for keeping them out of jail.

And if Modi does win, then the RSS is going to cause hell for all minorities that are not Hindu.

Modi deserves a medal as well as a life sentence for all he has done for Gujrat.

SurveyTool said...

You have a great blog! I'll be sure to bookmark it and visit regularly, keep up the great work!

http://www.surveytool.com/online-poll/

Anonymous said...

Its funny how non-gujaratis are trying to take an aim at Modi. To understand where Gujarat stands today and how they have been affected by historical invasions or others, you have to live in Gujarat. I can give a rather scathing review of Laloo, Bal Thakrey, Prince from south, jay lalita.... The list is endless. Most of the comments here and the article is to take a cheap aim at Modi without really understanding the issue. Have you seen what Congress promotes in gujarat? You should enlighten yourself before jumping on a keyboard with secular speech.

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