Indian Express

When Narendra Modi takes the stage

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Narendra Modi rallies have, in recent times, gone on to become full-fledged stage productions involving light. Narendra Modi rallies have, in recent times, gone on to become full-fledged stage productions involving light.

The grammar of political rallies has been re-written by the tech blitz involved in the BJP PM candidate’s meetings. Johnson T A looks at what goes into the making of the Narendra Modi persona, from sound, shirts and cameras, to crowds, speeches and inputs from Gujarat Photographs by Kashif Masood.

The night before Narendra Modi is to arrive in the northern Karnataka town of Hubli on February 28, senior BJP leader and party spokesman C T Ravi has a go at the public address system that is being tested ahead of the party prime ministerial candidate’s big rally.

Ravi, like Modi, prides himself on being a firebrand orator. He loves his own voice as well. He launches into a full-fledged speech about the misdeeds of the UPA government. It does not matter to him that he is speaking only to empty chairs and the people unloading them.

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He can’t resist the sound amplification provided by the 140 speakers spread all around the empty arena either. In the light of the setting sun, with dusk creeping in, standing on a stage in front of a giant LED screen, with 12 LED screens interspersed among the 1.5 lakh chairs, he cannot be faulted for feeling like a rock star while doing the sound check.

Narendra Modi rallies have, in recent times, gone on to become full-fledged stage productions involving light, sound, carefully chosen music, stage design and sky cameras — all intended to enhance viewer experience and build the Modi brand.

The grammar of political rallies has been largely re-written by the tech blitz involved in the Gujarat Chief Minister’s meetings. The rallies are no longer places where you chomp on peanuts, sip tea, brave the sun and wait among masses for the headlining speaker to deliver a monologue. But if parties across the board are attempting to make campaign rallies an experience now, the biggest productions continue to be Modi’s.

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Like any big production though, the backstage is a picture of chaos before order is restored at show time.

For the BJP in Hubli-Dharwad, one of the biggest challenges ahead of the Modi rally was finding the right venue. With over two lakh people expected, the traditional grounds — Nehru Maidan and the Railway Sports Ground in Hubli — were rendered out of bounds by local authorities.

Finally, it was decided that 63 acres of jowar fields located around 2 km outside the city and recently acquired by a few real estate developers of Hubli would be appropriate. “The land belongs to a few local developers and one of our leaders, Ashok Katti, owns about 17 acres. This is being used due to security and traffic concerns,” says continued…

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