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Thursday, May 30, 2024

PM Modi’s Transition to ‘Yug Purusha’ in provincial India

Welcome to the era of “image-time,” where our existence is immersed in a visual narrative. Images inundate our lives through diverse channels of orality, cultivated perceptions, electronic and print media, and the expansive realm of social media platforms. We not only consume these images but also engage in their recreation and distribution among our peers. The younger generation in India, devoting a significant amount of time to the vast media landscape, becomes avid consumers of these visual narratives, distinguishing them from their older counterparts.

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By: Dipak Kurmi

Welcome to the era of “image-time,” where our existence is immersed in a visual narrative. Images inundate our lives through diverse channels of orality, cultivated perceptions, electronic and print media, and the expansive realm of social media platforms. We not only consume these images but also engage in their recreation and distribution among our peers. The younger generation in India, devoting a significant amount of time to the vast media landscape, becomes avid consumers of these visual narratives, distinguishing them from their older counterparts.

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In the realm of images, a dichotomy exists between those with fleeting moments and those with enduring legacies. Images endowed with longevity often undergo a metamorphosis, evolving into symbols through a continuous process of additions, deletions, and modifications. These symbols, born from the amalgamation and remixing of diverse images portraying leaders, social icons, and political figures, possess the remarkable ability to persist even beyond an individual’s lifetime. Consider the indelible impressions left by leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Ram Manohar Lohia, and Indira Gandhi, etched in the collective memories of the populace, particularly the youth, who, despite not directly experiencing these leaders and their eras, carry their images forward. However, the images or symbols of leaders no longer among us are less susceptible to drastic shifts, whether positive or negative. The political actions of leaders actively shape the resources of their image, paving the way for significant transformations. In contrast, a living leader seizes the opportunity to wield considerable influence over their own image through ongoing political endeavors, allowing for sweeping changes in perception.

Exploring the visual inclinations of the youth in the district towns of Uttar Pradesh involved engaging in interviews with middle-class individuals. These young minds, predominantly enrolled in colleges or engrossed in preparations for diverse competitive exams, offered us valuable insights. Our interviewees, representing various castes in these district towns, collectively showcased a profound reliance on images and political symbols as beacons of hope during their arduous journey towards employment. The future emerged as a paramount theme in our discussions, resonating as the focal point in the minds of these youths. Beyond personal aspirations and concerns, their contemplations extended to encompass the future trajectory of both society and the nation.

Research indicates that the advent of the neo-liberal economy has induced inertia and uncertainties among the youth. During this phase of stagnation, they lose their bearings for personal growth. Notably, such trends were discernible in the initial stages of the neo-liberal era, primarily evidenced in studies conducted before 2010 in India. However, in the current epoch—what I refer to as the ‘second (matured) phase of the neo-liberal era in India’—a noteworthy transformation has unfolded in the mindset of the youth, marking a shift from inertia to aspirations. The fervent desire for success is rapidly taking root in provincial India, spurred by two key factors. Firstly, there is an explosion of information regarding diverse livelihood opportunities, success stories, and entrepreneurial narratives conveyed through various media forms. Secondly, the youth are driven to explore, comprehend, and share inspiring symbols of socio-political icons, delivered either through traditional narratives or the evolving narratives crafted by diverse media channels.

The concept of “kam-dhandha” is emerging as a beacon of hope among them. Many express the sentiment that if traditional employment opportunities (‘Naukri’) elude them, they are determined to embark on entrepreneurial pursuits like starting their own business or exploring online platforms such as YouTube channels. In this phase, often labeled as a ‘time-pass period’ by Craig Jeffery in his book “Time pass: Youth, class, and the politics of waiting in India,” I’ve observed that images play a pivotal role. They not only assist in garnering inspiration but also fortify the ‘aspirations bhava,’ fostering determination to achieve their goals. Amidst the diverse imagery shaping the minds of the youth in provincial India, political images stand out as potent cultivators of inspiration and hope.

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The manner in which these young individuals engage with images is intriguing. Our observations in the small district towns of provincial India revealed a distinctive pattern in how they consume political icons’ images. Drawing from their knowledge, perceptions, and available information, these youths craft specific typologies or condensed narrative capsules for easy recollection and reference. For instance, figures like Gandhi are encapsulated as ‘Mahatma’ and ‘Rashtra pita,’ Nehru assumes the roles of the first Prime Minister of India and a nation builder, while Indira Gandhi is envisioned as the daughter of Nehru and a formidable woman Prime Minister.

During interviews in various district towns of Uttar Pradesh, particularly in the eastern region, a multitude of images pertaining to Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, emerged. Descriptions portrayed him as a robust and decisive leader, committed to eradicating corruption and dedicated to fostering development—a narrative that has persisted over the years.

During recent field explorations in several district towns, a noteworthy trend came to light as diverse positive images of Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, coalesced into a symbolic amalgamation referred to as ‘Yug Purusha’ in the minds of certain youths. Intrigued by this classification, I delved deeper into the reasoning behind this symbolic encapsulation. While some youths found it challenging to articulate the reasons, others, particularly from upper castes and other backward castes, offered insights. According to them, Modi is perceived as diligently working towards a developed India, shaping the future trajectory of the nation with a visionary outlook. They highlighted his role in the construction of the Ram Janam Bhoomi temple as a testament to his commitment and contributions.

The emergence of the ‘Yug Purusha’ image intertwined with Narendra Modi’s persona among a segment of provincial youth poses a challenge in pinpointing its exact origin. However, our observations indicate a significant shift in Modi’s image, particularly among youths in district towns, following the Ram Janam Bhoomi Pran Pratishtha Samaroh. The event marked a pivotal moment, triggering a substantial transformation in the perception and portrayal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi within the provincial youth demographic.

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Indeed, these images serve as potent symbols of trust and hope, resonating within the imaginations of those who embrace them. The ‘Yug Purusha’ emblem, forged through the political and administrative initiatives spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the past decade, transcends mere political connotations. These images carry with them a representation of a leader actively engaged in reshaping the socio-cultural and economic fabric of public life. As the 2024 parliamentary elections approach, it is conceivable that these symbols will wield political influence, leaving an indelible mark on the electoral landscape of Indian democracy and prompting nuanced political analyses. (The writer can be reached at dipaknewslive@gmail.com)

 

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