This India hasn't seen Independence, Partition or Emergency. In fact, till 2014, even a single-party majority at the Centre was something unseen in Indian politics. But since then, India has started to revisit a lot of things from the past.
And one of them is personality worship, sometimes to unfathomably low levels. It is something India did not see at the national level since the days of Indira Gandhi, the late prime minister, but has started witnessing in the era of Narendra Modi, the current prime minister.
The ruling BJP has decided to observe the three years of the Modi government in a mega way and the name of the festival to make the moment memorable is MODI fest. And guess what, the word 'MODI' here means 'Making Of Developed India'.
Dev Kant Barooah had immortalised Indira Gandhi in a similar way in the 1970s
Is it much different from the skill late president of the Indian National Congress Dev Kant Barooah had exhibited in the mid-1970s when India was increasingly being swept by the Indira Gandhi wave? Barooah then had gone on to say "India is Indira. Indira is India", setting up a precedent in sycophancy not many had done in independent India.
While the Congress directly identified the entire nation with one leader, the BJP did it slightly differently by using one leader's name as a facilitator of the whole nation. But the aim was same: to establish Modi as an immortal leader.
But Modi has not claimed all credit for himself; he has put the people up front
However, unlike the megalomaniac Indira Gandhi and her successors and sycophants who were only concerned with their own branding even if that came at the expense of the popular democracy, Modi blended his personal branding with a pro-people stamp on it which means the sale of his image will never seem too elitist and anti-people, something that has happened with the Nehrus and Gandhis today.
Two factors have also helped Modi
Modi's cause has also been affected by two factors and he should consider himself lucky for that.
One, India has seen more democratisation compared to what it was in the days of Indira Gandhi. With the pattern of India's socio-politics turning more broad based and empowerment of the common man through the revolution in the media – both mainstream and social – Modi's cleverly-knit self-propaganda finds a decent resonance among the people who feel the Congress hasn't done enough to liberate their potentials despite ruling for a long period.
Keeping pace with the burgeoning middle class, Modi has added wings to its aspirations by making use of all resources at his disposal and this has made his image look infallible ever.
The second factor is the non-existence of any credible Opposition. Indira had paid the price, even though for a short period, after she had lifted the Emergency in 1977 because there were some strong leaders in the Opposition who succeeded in cornering her before sinking their own ship.
Similarly, in 2004, the BJP had carried out a similar India Shining propaganda but never really understood the undercurrents that ensured its downfall in the general elections that year. It was a re-energised Congress under Sonia Gandhi which got the benefit of the doubt that people had about Atal Behari Vajpayee's party.
Today, PM Modi has no such fear, till at least Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is there. Modi and his party will be happy as long as Rahul is in the Opposition ranks for it will only add to their firepower to trounce the opponents again and again.
In the meantime, Modi and his smart generals will skilfully combine the PM's personality cult with well-oiled propaganda machinery claimed to be working 24X7 for people's welfare.
The brains behind the running of Modi's juggernaut continuously are also wise and tech-smart enough to come up with befitting terms and acronyms that suit the BJP but expose its opponents.
A new culture of sycophancy
Modi and his party have also inculcated a culture of sycophancy but it is more sophisticated, tech-driven and manned by educated and smart people and hence looks less crass. But since the spirit of the game is still the same, the MODI fest doesn't excite those who feel concerned with the future of the Indian democracy which gets hijacked by power and publicity-hungry politicians time and again.