Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi Facts

Information and analysis about Narendra Modi, India's prime minister since 2014, and the network of Hindu nationalist organisations around him.

How did Modi's PR machine help him to become prime minister?

How did Narendra Modi go from being widely associated with the Gujarat violence of 2002 to being prime minister only 12 years later? A big part of this story is his very active and successful PR machine. Modi and the BJP's current, very effective, propaganda apparatus has its origins in the period before 2014.

During his time as chief minister of Gujarat, and the run-up to the 2014 general election, Modi had an extensive PR apparatus whose stated goal was to "...shape favorable media opinion for Gujarat Government, both nationally as well as internationally...", via a strategy which included getting certain numbers of stories published per quarter in major media outlets "based on input provided by the State Government". Already at that time, the importance of propaganda was well understood, and the propaganda strategies included 3D speeches, and his own TV channel. It was never clear what these cost and how they were funded. Modi's social media strategy, included heavy use of twitter and facebook, though analysis showed that a large proportion of Modi's followers didn't actually exist (see also this recent analysis, and here and here). Doctored images presenting Modi in a glamorous light circulated around the web (and continue to do so). Meanwhile his strategists circulated slogans like 'Har Har Modi', appearing to deify him.

Another part of the PR strategy was to woo potentially sympathetic commentators, often very successfully. The Modi spin machine would plant false stories in the media, such as the Times of India "Rambo Act" article (original article now removed by TOI) claiming that Modi saved 15,000 Gujarati pilgrims stranded in flood-hit Uttarakhand. The story came from a BJP source, but turned out to be false and resulted in some backlash. Similarly, BJP strategists circulated the story that Narendra Modi had been declared incorruptible by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, which also turned out to be false, causing the party embarrassment.

The official face of Modi's PR machine was an American lobbying company APCO Worldwide, in charge of the Gujarat State government's international PR operation from 2006 until March 2013. While APCO claimed only to promote Gujarat and denied promoting Modi as an individual, the BJP's "Glittering Gujarat" campaign with its exaggerated and selective claims laid the foundations for Narendra Modi's campaign first to become BJP prime ministerial candidate, and then prime minister.

PR machine in our news pages.
last updated: Oct. 2019