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19098While he addresses rallies, thundering against all and sundry, across the country Modi has never stopped to speak with the journalists, on or off the record

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  • Sankara Narayanan
    Apr 9, 2014


      Wednesday, April 09, 2014




      Tue Apr 8, 2014


      New Delhi:

      Multi-crore advertising and publicity has ensured that BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi stares at the voters from every second hoarding in New Delhi and other big cities; speaks to the large floating population over FM radio channels; has his mug shots liberally sprinkled over television channels; and serves as the ‘cover’ jacket for the major newspapers in a blitz that has gained momentum over the last few days.

      Modi advertisements have eclipsed all others with the Congress despite the charges of amassing of wealth, remaining a poor second. Not a single voter driving through the state highway in western UP on roads leading to and off from riot hit Muzaffarnagar can forget Modi as he stares out of large hoardings in the otherwise desolate countryside.

      One name that keeps coming up, regardless of occasional denials, is of APCO Worldwide headquarters in Washington, with over 600 employees and presence in 29 or so countries. Interestingly APCO has steadfastly denied the Modi account, and acknowledged only its Vibrant Gujarat initiative for which it signed an agreement at least five years ago with the Modi government in the state.


      Even so, APCO’s minimalist denials have fallen on deaf years in India and even in BJP and other political circles it is largely credited with managing the Modi ‘make over’ for the masses and fine tuning the campaign that has been cleverly graded to increase in proportions and stridency as the Lok Sabha polls approached.

      APCO is a high powered company that has played an influential role, from all accounts, across the world in shaping destinies and political outcomes. It has a virtual who’s who list of consultants with the Indian presence being marked by former foreign secretary who was also the Ambassador to the US after retirement Lalit Mansingh. Mansingh is on its International Advisory Council. In what is seen as a related and even more high powered appointment directed at the Indian market is the appointment of former US ambassador to India Tim Roemer as APCO’s Cice President. He is assigned to APCO’s Global Political strategies and international advisory council groups.

      The list of consultants includes former US secretary of energy and governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson, former US Ambassador to Spain and Andorra Eduardo Aguirre, former Minister of Netherlands Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, former US secretary of Agriculture Daniel Glickman, former national security advisor to President George W.Bush, Stephen Hadley; former UK secretary of state for defence John Hutton, former Afghanistan ambassador to the US Said T.Jawad, former president of Ghana John Kufuor, former president of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski, former Sri Lankan ambassador to the US Devinda R Subasinghe, former Israeli ambassador Shimon Stein and others. The list is specific covering key areas and countries.

      APCO’s Global Political Strategies in its own words specialises in “political intelligence, risk assessment; government relations and coalition building; apart from other objectives and is credited with, in various media reports, over the years in playing a more intrusive role in countries across the world than it gives itself credit for. Indian Express carried a report last year quoting an RTI query that spoke of APCO’s role in setting up a Friends of Gujarat with journalists and others to be identified as Ambassadors for Gujarat. Interestingly, reports suggest that APCO had been involved in promoting the rather infamous Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev through a Friends of Kazakhstan group.

      And is also credited with supporting pro-war lobbies and playing a post-war role in Iraq.

      Modi is not dependent at all on the BJP for his publicity. Sources said that this had been entirely outsourced with the BJP barely involved in the process. Modi has already managed to control the party with an iron fist, with his point of view prevailing on all counts, be it the election candidates, the campaign and now the election manifesto that was delayed for two weeks at Modi’s insistence.

      In the process the nuclear doctrine of no first use, put out by former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra of ‘no first use’ seems to be under review in Modi’s manifesto in what could amount to a major reversal.

      However, Modi’s publicists have not been able to persuade him —presuming that they tried—to give interviews to journalists. Even at the release of the manifesto he refused to take questions from the scribes, and has never allowed himself to be cornered into a question and answer situation. So while he addresses rallies, thundering against all and sundry, across the country he has never stopped to speak with the journalists, on or off the record. This glaring omission has been hammered at by the opposition with Aam Aadmi’s Arvind Kejriwal in particular asking repeatedly why Modi hesitated to answer questions.