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Modi’s Mann ki Baat is a masterstroke

Monday, 02 May 2016 | Rajeev Ahuja | in Oped

Through his radio programme, the Prime Minister has developed a two-way communication process with the citizens, and built an emotional bond with his listeners

Hearing Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak on his monthly radio programme Mann ki Baat, a platform where he directly communicates with the people of this country, feels as if a fatherly figure is talking to you extemporaneously. Simple as it may appear, this programme is an incredibly powerful initiative that has enabled Modi to create an emotional bond and win the minds and hearts of millions of people across the country. Through this initiative, Modi informs, educates, inspires, shares, reminds, urges and extols on just about everything that can contribute to nation-building.

For example, the Prime Minister informs the people about the various initiatives and programmes of his Government, he educates about the rationale behind those programmes, shares early achievements made, cites personal anecdotes and experiences, reminds of our country's rich history and its great leaders, exhorts people to stay healthy and productive, and extols small achievements of people in every nook and corner of the country. He also tries to instill social and civic values — values of caring and sharing, of mutual respect for fellow workers/citizens.

When a listener sees the continuity and consistency in the Prime Minister's messages, many misgivings about him, which are common in this make-believe world, tend to get dispelled. Modi comes across as a strong personality — a person with varied experiences, deep knowledge, strong commitment and keen interest. He talks about traditional things like khadi with as much ease as about new technological breakthroughs such as the detection of gravitational waves.

The Mann ki Baat initiative started off as a one-way communication, but people have now adapted it quickly to provide ideas, make suggestions and share their views either in writing or through a voice message recorder. Notice the advantage of this two-way flow: Not only do people get to learn about the views, beliefs, perspective of Modi, but the Prime Minister too gets to learn about the pulse of India. Modi has effectively used the recorded voices of listeners to amplify his messages. Now various episodes of this programme can be heard anywhere, anytime in many different regional languages.

In his Mann ki Baat programme, Modi's talk relate to the cross-section of the society: Urban and rural dwellers, young and old, poor and non-poor, men and women, students and working population, consumers and producers, entrepreneurs or salaried class, farm workers and non-farm workers and so forth. Topics covered are wide-ranging of course but these are also super relevant to our times as well as for our future generations: Energy and water conservation, job creation, adoption of modern farming methods, promotion of in-country tourism, power of positive thinking, and so forth.

Each Mann ki Baat episode that the Prime Minister has delivered thus far, has been organised flawlessly. There must be a team of professionals working behind the scene, scanning inputs from the listeners, developing content for each episode and weaving it nicely to give it a smooth flow. But the manner in which the Prime Minister delivers his speech suggests his deep personal conviction. Surely, there is much more to it than meets the eye. Maybe some listener will ask Modi to give a peep into what all goes into the making of his Mann ki Baat!

The radio programme is already creating impact world over. It’s good to learn that over 10 million well-to-do families voluntarily gave up LPG gas subsidy for the benefit of disadvantaged population lacking access to clean cooking fuel. Also, the sale of khadi, which promotes rural non-farm employment, increased by a certain multiple just because Modi made a modest appeal to the citizens through this programme. This shows the power of the initiative. It also goes on to prove that people's thoughts and actions can be conditioned.

Is it not a re-awakening of the consciousness of Indians happening through this programme? Surely Modi and his team deserve full credit. However, certain political parties and some elite sections of the society have been critical of Modi and his Government. They have been fighting it out in Parliament. Still, they should certainly not shy away from giving credit where it is due.

(The writer is a development economist, formerly with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank)

 
 
 
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