'Middle Class, Media and Modi: The Making of a New Electoral Politics' \tWhy Middle-Class Voted Modi in 2014 and 2019? New Delhi: June 4, 2020 Lights off –lamps on, for 9 minutes at 9 pm on 5 April 2020, said the PM, and most of the nation followed that dutifully. The nation-wide lockdown to contain the spread Covid-19 pandemic brought to a grinding halt all businesses, factories, schools/colleges and public transportation in the world’s second-most populous country. The losses caused for many businesses and the hardship faced by common people was acute but all endured under the charismatic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Truly, he operates on those soft levers of the middle-class and the media through his novel social engineering tools. The is deciphers the charisma that Modi wields on the middle class and the media through which he ascended the political ladder right from a Swayam Sevak to a Pradhan Sevak. The Modi techniques made the burgeoning Indian middle class to increasingly leverage a slew of welfare and progressive policies/ programs initiated by him government during the last six years. An overwhelming section of the middle class, which now constitutes nearly 50% of the country’s population of 1.3 billion, has wholeheartedly welcomed the historic decision announced by the Prime Minister on March 24, 2020, and the lights off – lamps on technique. There is definitely something more and hidden under that firm and astute personality of Modi. This book tries to peep under the layers and tries to diagnose the whole process of the middle class - media to Modi’s transformation to Pradhan Sevak. The questions sought by political analysts and many inquisitive readers are: Why did the middle-class families, who love to spend time in travelling, attending marriages, and festivals, and loosen their purse strings on shopping at this time of the year supported the ‘Janata Curfew’? What made them stand in their balconies to clap and ring bells to salute frontline health workers serving the nation tirelessly even on holidays (Sunday at 5 pm on March 22, 2020)? Why did they fall in line to light lamps, candles or to hold up mobile phone torches (Sunday, 5 April 2020)? Why have the urban middle-class, and upper castes who have always found comfort in social security and stability embraced Modi’s brand of Hindutva, fuelled by fierce nationalism? In short, what makes Modi a middle-class hero? These are intriguing questions which seek answers. A book titled “Middle Class, Media and Modi – The Making of a New Electoral Politics” by Dr Nagesh Prabhu, senior journalist, and author of Reflective Shadows: Political Economy of World Bank Lending to India published by the Oxford University of India, lucidly responds to these questions and throws light on the growth story of Indian middle class/new middle class and the brand of politics in the 21st century. The social engineering is also involved to ease the hardship caused to the working and the middle classes. The Modi government, in tune with its mantra ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas’ (with all, development for all, trust of all), has come up with a whopping Rs 20 lakh crore relief package for providing a safety net for the poor and all sections of the industry who had been hit by the COVID-19. The Reserve Bank of India, for its part, announced a slew of measures, including a six-month moratorium on payment of instalments (between 1 March and 31 August 2020), cut in the rate of interest on bank credits which is large to the benefit of the salaried middle class, petty traders and small businessmen. The Prime Minister termed the RBI’s decisions as “giant steps” to safeguard the economy from the impact of the Coronavirus, and said they will improve liquidity, reduce the cost of funds, helping middle class and businesses.” Modi’s biggest critique, the Congress Party, which was able to win just 52 seats in 2019 elections, supported the welfare measures, though it demanded more such steps. The World Health Organization too has praised India’s series of measures to take care of communities directly affected by the lockdown. The string of schemes and reforms launched to address many social and economic issues since the formation of the NDA government led by Modi in 2014 has now received a fresh momentum due to the COVID-19 “health crisis”. Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), mega health insurance scheme called Ayushman Bharat, the Fit India Campaign and the promotion of Yoga and initiatives of a similar kind that caught the imagination of the middle-class people has once again come into sharp focus as the health of the population becomes the top priority. For instance, the Ayushman Bharat, which has been described as ‘Modicare’ by the media, provided health coverage to frontline health workers, the poor and lower-middle families, constituting nearly 50 crores. It provided health insurance cover of Rs five lakh. The U.K.-based medical journal, The Lancet, said ‘Narendra Modi is the first prime minister to prioritize universal health coverage as part of his political platform under the ‘Aushman Bharat’ program’. It goes on to add that the then Congress president Rahul Gandhi was “yet to match Modicare”. Besides his social engineering techniques to galvanize the party workers and the middle-class members, the Modi government has brought in some innovative schemes/programs that largely catering benefits to the poor and the middle class. The schemes such as Jan Aushadi (Medicine for the Masses) Scheme (JAS) - providing cheap generic medicines to the patients through a network of 3,600 Jan Aushadi Kendras, at prices of 50-90% lower than the those prevailing in the market; and slashing of the prices of life-saving coronary stents by up to 85% saved a substantial proportion of out-of-pocket expenses to Indian households. The Modi government’s focus on direct benefit transfer (DBT) came in handy during the lockdown as it helped it transfer the relief to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. The focused policy measures such as e-commerce, affordable housing, Ujjwala, distribution of LED bulbs at highly subsidized prices, and low inflation helped saving several thousands of crores of rupees for the Indian poor and the middle class. Digital payments increased many-fold during the last six years. Now once again responding to the public demand and for catering the middle classes’ lockdown woes, Doordarshan (DD) broadcasted Hindu epics in serial form - the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. That pulls the middle class further closer to the PM and broadcast of these epics during the Rajiv Gandhi government in the late 1980s brought spectacular results to the BJP. The book traces how the BJP benefited from the Ayodhya movement that was largely aided by DD which broadcasted Hindu epics to nationwide audiences. The book not only provides the analysis of the rationale behind the rise of Modi, the BJP’s spectacular victories in the 2014 and 2019 parliamentary elections but also examines the strategy Modi adopted his own created from of social engineering to communication with the Indian electorate. It examines factors constructing Modi’s image as a charismatic leader who negotiated a long ladder from Swayam Sevak to Pradhan Sevak, the coveted post of Prime Minister, not once but twice. The ‘New India’ for the middle class and Modi is a clean and sanitized politics, free from the dynasty. The middle-class-driven ‘New India’ will not only occupy a central pillar in Indian politics but it also stands to gain from the Modi government’s policies in future too. Curiously, with a significant rise in the size of the middle class, many politicians have started to feel proud of their middle-class moorings. \tSAGE Publications India announces the publication of “Middle Class, Media and Modi: The Making of a New Electoral Politics” by Nagesh Prabhu \tThe book deciphers the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his influence on the middle class and the media. \tThe Press Release is based on Excerpts from the Book Dr. Nagesh Prabhu is a native of Mangalore. He has done his school studies from St Francis Higher Primary School in Mooduperar, and High School studies from Padua High School Mangalore. He has also done M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., and has been working as a journalist for the past 25 years.