For me especially this topic was really interesting, I wanted to know why after this much of criticism and failure of PM Modi why people are justifying him. So I saw interviews of people from the time of demonetization where people are actually praising PM for taking this kind of decision despite all the problems that they are facing and then I analyse the interviews of 2019 before the election, and the common thing I noticed was that in spite of the deep economic and social impacts of Modi’s govt. Major policy decisions, people are not criticising Narendra Modi, in fact, they are praising him and I found it very unique and unjustified situation where only the credit for positive results go to PM Modi but not the credit for negative results.
That’s why many political journalist and experts claimed that “PM Modi has developed a Teflon image” This is a term used frequently in political science, and for them who don’t know the Teflon, it is a chemical compound which used in frying pan and because of this nothing stick to the pan, So basically Teflon leader’s are the ones on whom criticism never sticks to, no matter how much they are criticised and on the other end there are Velcro leaders on whom even the slightest form of criticism sticks to their image. Every leader, both political and non-political could be placed in the scale of Teflon to velcro and experts believe that PM Modi is found in Teflon side, as a result, the last 4 year of falling economy and this year minus GDP might have very less effect on PM Modi’s political ambition. The main reason behind all of this, as far as I know, is that PM Modi is not just a political leader, he is almost a spiritual leader too.
TEFLON AND “SPIRITUAL”
On 8th November 2016 PM Modi announced that 500 and 1000 rupee currency will be withdrawn almost after 1 month of this the same story happened in Venezuela where President Nicolás Maduro announced that he was cancelling the 100- bolivar currency notes because those notes were in the mafia’s possession but soon after his announcement people came on the roads to protest against this decision, but we didn’t see any these kinds of protest in India, in India people, supported this decision. In spite of knowing that demonetization neither brought black money nor infiltration was under control and even the other objectives of the government were not completed, still many people didn’t criticise him, in fact, they said at least he’s trying to do something good and this was the st indication of PM Modi’s Teflon image.
But PM Modi is not the only one where this word was used Japanese PM Shinzō abe, American President Donald Trump, Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini and polish politician Jaroslaw Kaczynski. This term was used for all these politicians because despite their corruption and sex scandals the impact of their image is very less, Researchers feel that such leaders have some common aspects “They are seen as extroverted and socially confident which appeals to voters but this single definition alone cannot explain PM Modi’s Teflon image, for this, we have to study him more closely and in-depth There are some factors behind this image which we do not include in because there are lots of discussion about them like nationalism Hindu majoritarian Control over media. Financial advantage Weak opposition will see what form has this Teflon image has taken..!? We had seen the form of this image during May 2019, when PM Modi decided to meditate in Kedarnath after election campaigning, as always media paid more attention to this, that was a point to show us PM Modi’s image was not just of a political leader but also of a spiritual leader, as a result, things which could weaken a normal political leaders career like economic slowdown, we’re not making any impact of PM Modi’s image. Asim Ali, a research associate at the centre for policy research, also spoke about it on his recent article and he points out that the way he uses the Hindi language is responsible for his spiritual image, but we need not focus on the fact that he uses difficult Hindi words instead, we should focus on his choice of words.
Like to describe the problem of migrant workers PM Modi used the words ‘Tyaag’ ‘Tapasya’ and ‘Agnipariksha’. He called demonetization a sacrifice (Yagna) against corruption.
When he gave a speech in support of corona warriors he asked people to perform 7 activities which were almost similar to asking people to take 7 vows and he also use some religious text in his speeches, in recent he used Mahabharat example and all of this used in developing his spiritual image.
Language is one factor the other factor is the way PM Modi phrases his major policy schemes during his communication, Benjamin Franklin used an important tool in his political career, which is now called “Benjamin Franklin effect” and this can be found in PM Modi’s speeches too, according to this effect, if you ask a favour from someone and if he/she accepts to help then chances of him/her accepting your second request for a favour also increases and he/she would start liking you more, This happens in our brain due to “cognitive dissonance” This is because if someone asks us for a second favour, we make up our mind and assume that we like them and through his policy announcements, PM Modi doesn’t give us an instruction nor an order but he asks us for a favour, requests for Swachh Bharat he requested us 2 hours of our time every week, for demonetization, he said we would have to face problems for some time and he requested us to return LPG subsidies.
Through such appeals where PM Modi asks is favours there are 2 advantage, 1st that his likeability increase as per Benjamin Franklin effect and 2nd that many responsibilities are moved from the PM towards the citizens, So even if these policy schemes don’t work out the govt will not be the only one responsible for it, some portion of the blame would be on the citizens too and maybe only to disassociate himself from the results he doesn’t give full details of any scheme like Atmanirbhar package pm kept his focus on the numbers and the responsibility of the details was on finance minister as a result when the performance of the govt is criticised that criticism is not directed towards PM, it is directed toward ministers.
Neelanjan sircar, a political scientist argued in his recent papers that in 2014 election pm was relied on Vikas but in the 2019 election he relied on Vishwas because if 2019 election relied on Vikas then many voters vote against BJP but they relied on Vishwas and PM’s spiritual image could explain this trust.
IS THE TEFLON IMAGE PERMANENT?
Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani was the 4th president of Iran, he was also called the Teflon mullah, in the 1980s he was involved in a secret deal with Iran’s biggest enemy America, even after this secret deal became public his image was intact, he was Iran’s most vicious leader and he became leading political figure after the death of Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, people also called him king Akbar, he was the president of Iran during 1989-1997 Even in 2005 he contested in the presidential election in spite of being a front runner he lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad an unknown political leader. There was no specific reason behind this defeat, economic collapse due to a drop in oil prices, the lavish lifestyle of Rafsanjani and his family were contributor too and there was another reason that he promised too much and couldn’t deliver, a lot of people might be familiar with this statement, in last 6 years PM Modi has made several promises 5 trillion economy, Farmers able to double their income, Every penny of black money would be brought back, Indian economy growth was on downwards trend before COVID and now the predictions are it can go in negative but due to this PM Modi don’t pay any political cost because of his Teflon image but this image is not permanent as we see in Rafsanjani case but the change in his image would not happen with one factor it has to be multiple factors.
For an ideal leader you should be criticize for what you did and praised for what you did it doesn’t work in a one way.
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