Modi plays Hindu nationalism card to seek re-election

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Hello from the newsroom of the financial times. In london. I'm Josh noble. India's election has turned into an ideological battle pitting an inclusive vision of a multifaith nation against the view, the Hindu should have primacy. Justin sing discusses the tactics. Used by prime minister, Narendra Modi and his opponents with Amy Kazman and Stephanie Finley. Nine the band. Police some of John Lear he DACA gig it out on a here. Niane to Don downtown. Why you are. Thank you cut it out. I turn on a. Yeah. League in Wadsworth. Go again in the sun. Are your go go to med goose multi? Somebody's at speak. And the political temperature is adding to the intense heat prime minister, Narendra Modi has been crisscrossing the country giving fiery speeches and so as mR Modi's main rival Rahul Gandhi, the president of the opposition congress party, Amy, it's long and staggered election. But Mr. Modi is a tireless campaigner, what are the main issues? He has been raising at his rallies for prime minister Narendra Modi. This has been mainly an election focused on national security in his first prime ministerial election campaign in twenty fourteen he'd been very very focused on the economy, and he talked a lot about how he was going to accelerate economic growth and get a lot of jobs created to absorb young people trying to get into the workforce. But as economic track record has actually been really patchy. So it's not a very strong ground for him to campaign on but the showdown with Pakistan in February in response to a terror attack in Kashmir that. All India law missiles to an alleged terror training camp in Pakistan, really switched the tone nature of the campaign and diverted public attention away from 'economics to issues of national security, so Mody and the BJP have essentially been campaigning tirelessly on this idea that India is under threat that it faces grave external and even internal threats and that Mody is the strong leader that Indian needs to cope with these threats. These threats include the threat of terrorism from Pakistan. They include the threat of illegal immigration from India's neighbour Bangladesh. And then there is this insinuation that. India is also under threat from internal enemies ranging from India's Muslim minority to secular leftists and Naxalites and that old together the nation needs a strong leader to handle these challenges and threats and that Mody. Who is very much seen as a strong strongman is the leader that India needs to handle these challenges. Congress bodies talk campaigners around Gandhi and his sister Priyanka how does their campaign compared to Mr. Modi's, and what are their main arguments? Modena's definitely an absolutely relentless and tireless campaigner he's a natural campaigner one gets the feeling he probably really enjoys giving these speeches in front of these huge adoring cheering crowds. I'm not sure that Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the congress or a sister Priyanka who's been drafted in as a star campaigner share that love of campaigning that the prime minister has they have struggled. I think to find traction with voters they were on a strong ground in December. When there was a lot of focus on the poor performance of the economy rural distress. And I think their campaign strategy gotta be able to knock after the showdown with Pakistan and the conversation turned away from. The domestic economic issues, but they have been trying to focus on domestic economic issues. Modi's alleged mismanagement of the economy rural distress they've unveiled the scheme that is supposed to see seventy two thousand rupees given to every poor household a kind of a minimum income guarantee scheme that is intended to lift the poorest of the poor out of poverty. So they've been trying to focus on the economy and bring voter attention back away from these kind of ideals of nationalism and some threat to the very real issues of their own pocket books. The best care. Wrong, glenn. He has also been trying to really smear Modi's image with a lot of allegations that he's a thief in connection with a controversial arms deal. We don't know. Which of these issues has really found traction with the voters was the congress able to bring voters back away from the idea of we need a strong leader to defend us against these various enemies. There was real dissatisfaction with Mody on the ground among many voters who had voted for him in two thousand fourteen they were unhappy with his economic performance, and they were inclined to you. I think vote against him. At least some what we don't know. What will only be clear on may twenty third on vote. Counting day is which way they finally went rallies are just one way to reach out to voters. There are also colorful posters multimedia advertisements. And song videos to make a strong push. But social media has emerged as a new factor in these elections, Stephanie how political parties using social media, and what are the factors driving up? It's using this campaign. So in two thousand fourteen prime minister Modi had already emerged as the king of social media in India. And from that time his party has been laying the groundwork for a sophisticated political propaganda machine using social media, mostly using what's up and speaking to party officials. They've said that they want to target every voter over what's app, and it's with very specific messaging speaking to one former data analyst of the party, he said that voters are targeted based on class based on caste based on demographic information based on past voting history. So what we have here is a very big very targeted. And very coordinated campaign from the ruling party and the opposition party. Just doesn't have the resources, and they haven't been able to keep up. Offers gaza. Who's the doctor, I suppose, you know, it's cheaper to do this sort of campaign over social media. You don't have to buy posters. You don't have to pay for odds. You just need a ton of people. And they certainly have that I was talking to the social media head of Delhi, and he said in that one state alone, they had seventy thousand people working on the social media strategy. So these numbers are just phenomenal. And they're definitely going to have an impact on how voters perceived issues. Moldy a transplant vote Kisco cutting modern. Modern day. Since the last election. What's up has taken hold in India? And it's now the company's biggest market it has around three hundred million users. Everybody uses what's up for business for fun. And the parties are also using it to spread their messages. They spread it with all sorts of content with mostly memes, which I thought of funny image based jokes or comments and videos, but the concern is is that sometimes the messages of these memes of these videos are quite divisive and polarizing along religious class and caste lions so fake news and misinformation campaigns have led to calls for regulation of content on social media. How what is the trend while we had already seen in Brazil that the president came to power on this wave of vitriolic inflammatory content. And there was huge concern about the role that this sort of message. Ching was playing in Brazil's democracy. And there's a concern about the role. This sort of messaging is playing in India's election because these messages that are being put out by groups supporting the party are often polarizing they're often divisive. Some of it is completely as they say fake news. You know, it shows the opposition leader who Gandhi playing at a mosque insinuating. He's a Muslim to deter Hindu voters. Researchers studying this say the fear is that this sort of messaging will push India towards more polarized climate will drive up tension between into religious groups between casts both what's happened. The government have sort of flagged fake news spreading over. What's happened social media as an issue because we've seen in India there have been mob lynchings caused by what's happ? Rumors so in response to this. This was last year what's up introduced a limit on the amount of times you can forward. A message. Jr. But researchers studying what's up in India say this has basically made no effect on whether or not messages can go viral. Also, we see this large use of what's up by political parties. Even though they may say, oh, we're concerned about the rumors. So there's an inherent contradiction here between what the political party is saying on one level and how they're using it on another. And then also with what's up because they say they're trying to combat fake news. They say, they're partnering with fact checking organizations, but at the same time, they also want to expand further in India, and I'm just putting out a guest here, but eventually wanting to make money in India to it's a kind of very complex issue when you think of all of the different factors at play. Amy. Would you characterize this election as one of India's most divisive so far? This campaign has really been something India's democracy is often celebrated but in some way. As this election is felt almost like watching a match of worldwide wrestling where people are just slamming each other. There's been a lot of really intemperate language used very undignified. Lots of slogans lots of hitting out at people we've seen Rahul Gandhi insisting over and over that the prime minister is a thief. We've seen the prime minister come back and talk about Rahul Ghandi's father, a former prime minister who was assassinated being like the number one corrupt person of the nation. We've seen Amishav the president of the JP talking about illegal bungalow she immigrants as being termites the tone of the campaign. It really hasn't necessarily been a very high level exchange of ideas and contesting visions, it has been a lot of really personal attacks. We've also seen a Hindu extremist who's been accused and. Still awaiting trial on charges of participating in a terror attack against Muslims who has been given a candidacy for parliament of the BJP. The prime minister has defended her saying that anyone who suggested that she might have been a terrorist was defaming Hinduism and defaming all Hindus and defaming of five thousand year old civilization. So it's been a very intemperate campaign hotheaded rhetoric. And I think it's rather unfortunate because I think Mody raised very high expectations and promises over the last five years, and this might have been a good opportunity to debate his track record debate. What is delivered where he is fallen short? What are the alternatives? What should be on the agenda for next time? And instead we've just had a lot of fear mongering and insults. And the result is it's very clear if the BJP comes back to power what exactly is going to be on their agenda for a sec. Term and finally any of you willing to stick out your neck and predict the outcome of elections who's going to win Amy. No, I am. Absolutely not because I've been here long enough to know that trying to predict the outcome of an Indian election is absolutely a mugs game. People may think they know what's going on and people may say something to outsiders. But the fact of the matter is India's electorate has a history of delivering big surprises and people that really have their fingers on the pulse of this election and the electorate say that it's highly competitive, so even a tiny swing this way or that could dramatically affect the outcome. And I think that's why everyone is basically braced for may twenty third when the Indian voters will finally have their say, and you Stephanie, well, I just got here. So I'm not going to pretend that I'm an expert. 'art on India. But if what's up is any indication that I would say that the BJP is going to take the election. Some money. Yes. The. God that was just missing talking to Amy Kasmin and Stephanie Findlay in Delhi. Thanks for listening. 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