Posts Tagged ‘Gujarat’

Is embarrassing Gujarat data holding back the Indian Health and Nutrition Survey?

July 3, 2015

According to the BBC, the massive undertaking that is the Indian Health and Nutrition Survey has been completed, should have been released in October 2014, was last issued in 2007 and even has an encouraging story to tell. But the data on Gujarat is not an edifying tale in comparison to other states. Economic growth in the state has not translated into any major advance compared to other states. In fact the Gujarat performance is worse than most. 42% of all children are stunted and half of all children are malnourished.

Is the report too damaging to Modi’s Gujarat story? And is it therefore being held back by Modi’s public relations managers? The official position is that the methodology is being reviewed. But it is more likely being held back to somehow massage the Gujarat figures. It will be difficult because copies of the completed – but not officially released – report are now available widely.


Good health data is rare in India. The last time the country published a comprehensive, state-wide survey was back in 2007. So why hasn’t a vast survey of women and children carried out by the Indian government with the UN agency for children, Unicef, been released?

India’s so-called Rapid Survey of Children was a huge undertaking. Almost 100,000 children were measured and weighed and more than 200,000 people interviewed across the country’s 29 states. The final report was due for publication in October last year, the BBC understands. Yet, more than half a year later, the important body of data remains secret.

Leading development economist Jean Dreze describes the delay in publication as “an absolute scandal”. “All the neighbouring countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Pakistan and even Afghanistan have up to date nutritional surveys,” he says. “It is hard to account for a 10-year gap without attributing some sort of political reluctance.” …..

Looking just at the overall figures, India’s reluctance to publish the survey is rather surprising. It shows the country has an encouraging story to tell. Indicators of malnutrition are still very high, far higher than most African nations, but they are improving. Ten years ago, two-fifths of children under five were underweight, now it is more like a third.

However, the survey confirms large and enduring discrepancies between states, including the continuing strikingly poor performance of the Indian prime minister’s home state, Gujarat. As chief minister, Narendra Modi ran the state for more than a decade. His general election campaign was based on the promise that he would do for India what he had done for Gujarat.

Is anybody surprised?

Rebranding of Narendra Modi is well under way

July 26, 2013

Back in 2011 I posted about the rebranding of Narendra Modi being orchestrated by Steven King and APCO Worldwide and which had started in 2009. His chances then of overcoming his Gujarat-riots reputation to become the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister  were small at that time.

That has all changed now and the odds of his being the PM candidate are very high and his chances of becoming the next PM of India must be better than 50%.

Modi is not only the leading candidate to be the BJP’s candidate for PM for the 2014 elections, he has also been appointed the head of BJP’s campaign. He has started his efforts to gain acceptance across the country and regional parties are beginning to position themselves and even if they are not all rushing to show their support for him, they are certainly busy getting onto the fence so that they could support him if it becomes necessary or it could be beneficial. (Indian political parties all strictly follow the ideology of Opportunism).

Steven King – after his plagiarism fiasco – is no longer shown on APCO Worldwides’s website. If APCO are still working for Modi they are not doing it directly. During the floods in Uttarakhand a rather stupid effort was made to show Modi as a hero in the rescue of flood victims. This quickly backfired as in this article in the Times of India. The article mentioned APCO Worldwide  and led to APCO denying that they had anything to do with the rescue story or that they were working for Modi.

India is a big market for APCO and they are going to very careful in the run-up to the election to keep their ties to all political parties alive.  APCO India Brochure

Whatever the truth of APCO’s involvement (and I think the rescue story was a little crude for APCO) some PR group is certainly trying to orchestrate the rebranding of the Modi image. I would not be at all surprised that such a PR Group had – or has – links to APCO.

The latest story about 65 MP’s writing to Obama to ensure that Modi was not granted a US visa followed by 9 MP’s claiming that their signatures on the letter were forged is sufficiently convoluted to make me suspect the guiding hand of a well experienced PR exponent. The result of the circus is that the 65 MP’s look petty and vindictive and are all on the defensive. The Congress Party and the Left parties are busy distancing themselves from the writing of such a letter. Even the BJP has had to point out that they have no significant differences in foreign policy from that of the present government. Modi comes out very nicely with the faint glow of a halo beginning to appear.

Even the reports in the media that Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has stated that he does not believe in Modi’s economics and does not want him to be his Prime Minister are actually working to Modi’s advantage. (Sen’s attack on the real achievements in Gujarat is particularly silly – but I note in passing that it is not at all uncommon for Nobel laureates in Economics to make idiots of themselves). In fact, Sen now being “associated” in the public mind with Rahul Gandhi, is to Gandhi’s disadvantage. In my suspicious mind I see the hand of a skilled PR man again, who has successfully provoked Sen into making a silly – almost stupid – attack on Modi – to Modi’s eventual benefit. If Amartya Sen is really opposed to Modi, he has just scored an own goal – or three.

If the 2014 election becomes a personality contest between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, it would – I think – be a walk-over for Modi. The real skill of Modi’s PR strategists will show in their ability to marshall the diverse regional parties behind Modi. Exactly how they can mobilise and align the different caste groups will be particularly convoluted and fascinating to watch.

Narendra Modi could be the next Prime Minister of India

December 26, 2012
English: Image of Narendra Modi at the World E...

Narendra Modi – Wikipedia

If the Gujarat riots of 2002 had not happened, Narendra Modi would have an easy- and almost pre-ordained path – to becoming the nominated Prime Minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party. With his record in Gujarat he ought to be the “natural” choice of his party. As the only other political party having a national presence, the BJP has a very good chance of replacing the Indian Congress Party as the largest party and the party of government at the next general elections in 2014.  But the BJP lacks leaders of any stature – apart from Modi. The party President is himself badly tainted by corruption charges. The leaders of the past are approaching senility. Their Young Turks of 10 years ago come across as a whiny bunch who oppose for the sake of opposing and have no convictions of their own. Without a credible PM candidate having some national appeal the BJP may – at best –  only just get to be the largest party but would have the most horrendous task of creating a majority in Parliament. But there are still strong factions within the party who do not much like him. Not because of the “anti-Muslim” taint which hangs over Modi as the legacy of the Gujarat riots; but because he is just a little bit too efficient, too decisive and most of all, too “incorruptible”.

The BJP have few other leaders who have Modi’s undoubted competence and his ability to assemble competence. They have no other leaders with his charisma. He has been one of the very few regional leaders who has had the nerve to be a leader – with some kind of vision of where he wants to go – rather than a populist follower (like Mamata Banerjee). In India, populist politicians – no matter how criminal or venal or incompetent – have usually been able to ride the wave of their vote-banks into power. But that is changing as the Indian electorate becomes more discerning and more sophisticated though still dominated by caste. So it seems likely that the BJP establishment will reluctantly – and with some fears for their own futures – unite behind Modi. They have little choice with his unprecedented success in Gujarat:

Narendra Modi will take oath a fourth time as Gujarat Chief Minister at 11 am today. …. Mr Modi began his morning by tweeting a Vivekananda quote, as he is wont to do. “To make a great future India, the whole secret lies in organization…co-ordination of wills,” he said on Twitter.

It has been conventional wisdom that Modi has been fatally tainted by the Gujarat riots. But this is the conventional wisdom of the urban, semi-liberal middle-class. But I see this view changing mainly because even the urban middle-class see – especially in comparisons with China –  that a chaotic democracy holds back economic development. Political decisiveness a la Modi is seen as something which could unlock the Indian potential which is being held stagnant by corruption and the constant interplay of opposing factional interests. There is a mood abroad in the urban, middle-classes that “a Modi” is needed to bring an end to the institutionalised corruption in the country. There is a groundswell of support for the movement started by Anna Hazare but neither he nor Kejriwal are seen as being capable of implementing the ideals of the anti-corruption movement. These two forces – unlocking economic development and the fight against corruption – will convince the liberal-left middle-class to rationalise their views of Modi. He will not be completely forgiven for his role in the Gujarat riots but the taint will fade. Just as the Congress leaders implicated in the anti-Sikh riots following the assassination of Indira Gandhi reinstated themselves with the help of supportive Sikhs, Modi is rebranding himself with the help of supportive Muslims. His former opponents are applying selective memory. Already other non-Congress regional leaders are positioning themselves to be able to support Modi  when – no longer “if” – he becomes the PM candidate for the BJP.

Internationally, Modi was condemned in many quarters. But international politics is ultimately about pragmatic self-interest. If he becomes Prime Minister, it will not take long for countries – especially in Europe to come around. After all, to be seen to be anti-Muslim is quite acceptable in Europe even if Modi would like to tone down that perception. He already has the sympathy of China and Russia who struggle with containing their own Muslim minorities. His visa to the US was revoked in 2005 and the UK avoided him like a pariah for 10 years before reinstating contact in October this year.

But it his acceptance across India which counts. If he can succeed in getting some support from the Muslims across India – and this is not implausible – and if he can gain the support of the urban middle-class – which is already happening – the regional party leaders will also back him and the rest of their sheep will fall in line. For the elections in 2014, to be seen as being incorruptible, a “fighter against corruption” and to be seen as being an efficient CEO could trump all other perceived sins.

And that could make Narendra Modi the first Prime Minister after Rajiv Gandhi having a national stature, an administrative competence and a vision of his own that could be fun to watch.

Birds of a feather? Steven King, plagiarism, Apco Worldwide, Narendra Modi and asbestos

October 10, 2011

Narendra Modi is the  chief minister of Gujarat state in India and has overseen impressive development successes in his state, but he is considered a staunch member of the right-wing nationalistic Hindu camp and was indirectly – if not directly – responsible for the vicious anti-Muslim riots and killings in the state in 2002.

Steven King works for APCO Worldwide, a public relations and communications group, and is based in Delhi. His weekly column for the Irish Examiner has been revealed to contain widespread plagiarism and he has now apparently gone into hiding. Now it seems that part of his work at APCO includes an effort to rebrand Narendra Modi who has aspirations to be the next Prime Minister.

Tehelka reports:

…. the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report that portrayed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as a messiah of economic reforms. …. This glory, however, is largely a consequence of the brand-building exercise that Modi had adopted in 2007 through the help of a Washington-based Public Relations (PR) and lobbyist firm APCO worldwide. APCO, which is the second largest independent PR firm in America, took on the responsibility of taking care of PR for both Modi as well as the biennial industrial summit ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ in 2007. The firm, known for intensive lobbying, brought in investment commitment of up to Rs 20.83 lakh crore (ed. about $4.1 billion) in the 2011 summit. The Gujarat government has been paying nearly Rs 15 lakh rupees (ed. about $31,000) a month to ( APCO) since 2009 in order to bring about the image makeover.

APCO has also been managing Modi’s own behaviour and projection, for which the cost has been over $25,000 per month since 2007. Curiously, APCO was chosen over 10 other firms that also included Weber Shandwick, Grey Worldwide, Twenty-Twenty and Vaishnavi Communications owned by the controversial publicist Niira Radia. The firm, which also specialises in political PR, is notorious for having dictators such as former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha amongst its clients. The firm, which keenly observes political conditions across the world, also boasts about changing its clients’ fortunes.

“We have a deep understanding of how governments make decisions and how to shape those decisions. It is through this extensive experience that we are able to advise sovereign nations on how best to tell their stories to the rest of the world,” claims the APCO Worldwide website. When asked about Narendra Modi, Steven King of APCO told TEHELKA that he could not divulge any detail on his clients.

APCO is involved in promoting other dubious causes as well:

The Department of Occupational Safety & Health in Malaysia has called for a ban on all forms of asbestos in order to save people’s lives. …. 

APCO Worldwide is lobbying the government of Malaysia, on behalf of an undisclosed client, to exclude chrysotile asbestos from the ban. Chrysotile asbestos represents 100% of the global asbestos trade today… The scientific consensus is clear – just as it is on tobacco – that all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos, cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, other cancers and asbestosis and that safe use is not possible.

Only lobby organizations that have a financial interest in selling asbestos claim that asbestos can be safely used, just as the lobby organizations acting on behalf of the tobacco industry have denied the clear science on tobacco harm.

APCO Worldwide has refused requests to disclose who is the client who has hired APCO Worldwide to carry out this political lobbying.

We understand that the client who has hired APCO Worldwide to oppose the ban is, in fact, the International Chrysotile Association, which represents the global asbestos industry.

As the Consumer Association of Penang has stated, “It is imperative that Malaysia joins this global campaign to ban the use of all types of asbestos and not bow to pressure by groups that place financial gains before public health.” ….

Whether Steven King is the  greater liability to APCO or whether it is vice versa is debatable.

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