By: Rita Joseph
“The Art Of Communication Is The Language Of Leadership.”
Perhaps taking a cue from this author James Humes quote, Prime Minister Modi has used his oratorical skills to influence citizens in their day-to-day activities in a bid to involve them in nation building.
“If 125 crore Indians decide to do something for the country, we can shape a new future for India..,” Modi said during one of his radio chats –‘Mann Ki Baat’(musings from the heart).
Hitting the airwaves at regular intervals, he constantly communes with the citizens guiding, appealing, and galvanising them into action.
The Prime Minister or Pradhan Sevak (chief servant) as he prefers to call himself, selects issues that resonate in everyday life like cleanliness, yoga, students, education, black money, drug addiction, girl child, farmers, insurance schemes, Khadi, festivals, gas subsidy, land acquisition etc.
The first 23 such episodes of Mann ki Baat have been compiled into a book by BlueKraft Digital Foundation, a not-for- profit organisation working in the realm of policy and governance matters, and LexisNexis – publishers of law books.
The book – ‘Mann ki Baat: A Social Revolution on Radio,’ has the cover designed by Dubai-based artist Akbar Saheb and is studded with 11 of his illustrations.
The 418-page compilation captures the very essence of Mann Ki Baat. There are interesting anecdotes shared by the Prime Minister’s team and AIR officials about how the idea of the radio programme came up, how the name and frequency were decided, how the format was chalked out and how the most relevant suggestions are picked up along with the contributors’ names.
The book states that as the team were looking for an appropriate name for the broadcast, Modi said why so much fuss, “Kuchh halki phulki mann ki baatein karoonga,” and the team had got the title for the programme.
Mann Ki Baat has “touched every concern of Indian citizenry”. “The sheer intellectual firepower the PM brings even to a casual missive is amazing,” says Mohan Ramaswamy, MD (India and South Asia), LexisNexis.
The book as of now is only available in English and Hindi but thanks to advanced technology there are QR codes at the end of each chapter that not only enable the readers to listen to Mann Ki Baat anytime anywhere but also provides a choice of 22 major languages.
Ramaswamy says the book will be offered in digital version. The second edition of the book with some 21-odd episodes would likely hit the stands next year.
Modi’s passionate appeals over the radio has led to among other things one crore families giving up their gas subsidy, Khadi sales recording an all-time high, All India Radio revenues touching Rs 10 crore besides Swacch Bharat concept gaining acceptance on a pan-India scale.
The book states that prime minister’s radio show is not reduced to a monologue but a regular dialogue. People are invited to become the essence of participatory governance by suggesting areas and topics to be focussed upon so that these can then be taken up during the address followed by subsequent action.
Anyone anywhere in India can send his/her suggestions through messenger applications – Narinder Modi app – or on toll free number 1800-11-7800- or on government website specially created for the purpose – https://www.mygov.in/group-issue/give-your-inputs-prime-ministers-mann-ki-baat.
Mann ki Baat, launched on Vijaya Dashami day – October 3, 2014, is totally apolitical and aimed at social transformation,”states the book.
In His radio talks, Modi expounds on many issues especially those confronting the youth, students and farmers. He not only apprises people of government decisions, his visits abroad but also lectures on wholistic development and societal issues.
In the inaugural radio show, he exhorted the citizens that “On the occasion of Vijaya Dashami, we must take a vow to rid our country of dirt and filth.” Modi spoke about the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan launched a day before. He also spoke of the success of Mars mission, ‘divyang’ people and the need to promote Khadi. He introduced MyGov- a platform where citizens could engage with the government.
The Prime Minister makes gentle requests with words that touch an emotional chord. For instance, while promoting Khadi he said when you go out shopping “buy at least one or two Khadi products like a handkerchief or bath towel and help poor people light lamps on Diwali. It may be a small gesture but will have a very great impact.”
It had an immediate and profound effect. In the very next episode on 2nd November Modi shared that … “Khadi sales had shot up by a whopping 125 percent,” following his appeal.
In another instance, he spoke about an old man who built 100 toilets free in his village. How tribal people and NGO volunteers painted and beautified their railway station with art. “Now, this is becoming a rage across India. This initiative was not taken up by the Railways. It was not taken up by Narendra Modi. This was done by the citizens of our country.”
The book states that sanitation and students have been some of the core issues he has spoken about. He tells students “don’t be nervous before exams, read the question paper thoroughly…”.
Reigniting fires of inspiration, “Narendra Modi makes it a point to address students before their board exams. Never before has a PM directly engaged with school children on such an issue.” Modi is also reportedly writing a book on the topic.
Furthering the cause of the girl child, he asked people to take selfie’s with their daughters and many people including celebrities, obliged. “#Selfie with daughter became a trend worldwide,” states the book. However, the most-talked about the episode is the one aired on January 27, 2015, when the then US President Barack Obama joined Modi on a live radio show. People were invited to send in their queries.
One, Monika Bhatia’s query impressed Obama, who termed it as a “good question”. She asked the two leaders “… what inspires you and makes you smile at the end of a bad day at work?
Obama said what was gratifying for him was when someone tells him “You have made a difference in my life. Your Health-Care Law saved my child.” Encountering such people made his day.
While Modi recalled how years ago he lived like an ascetic and was provided food by the people. He was once invited by a very poor family. They gave him a simple meal of bajra (millet) roti and milk. He saw their young child eyeing the milk. Immediately he offered the milk to the child who gulped it down in seconds. This made him introspect that “when a poor person could think so much of my well-being. So I should devote my life in their service.”
Modi’s stirring up of a social revolution on the common man’s medium, the radio, has been applauded by world leaders.
Japanese premier Shinzo Abe says “This book is filled with Prime Minister Modi’s enthusiasm for interacting with the people of India, particularly with the youth.”
Writing the foreward for the book, he says “doing regular radio shows, while addressing challenging tasks as prime minister requires tremendous efforts, I cannot but feel his strong passion for dialogue with his people.” But how did it all begin ? The book states how Prime Minister Modi was influenced by the tremendous impact that the radio broadcast of Martin Luther King Jr’s epoch making speech “I have a dream” had on those who heard it. “It has a transformative power like no other medium.”
For the PM the radio chats are like conversing with “my family about routine issues while sitting at home.” He said through the programme, he had “become like a member of every household” of the country. We have formed a beautiful bond between us.”