On Wednesday, the central poll watchdog Election Commission granted a clean chit to PM Narendra Modi, who was reported for the breach of Model Code of Conduct during his televised announcement of successful test-firing of India’s anti-satellite (ASAT) missile, Mission Shakti on Monday.
On 27th March, national public broadcaster Doordarshan aired a feed of speech by PM Modi announcing the successful test of anti-satellite missile Mission Shakti – highlighting the NDA government’s efforts for national security. But ahead of the speech, Modi had posted a tweet urging people to watch the “important announcement that he was to make between 11:45 AM and 12 noon on March 27 – keeping the entire nation on anticipation hooks for a couple of hours. Indian stood in desperation to know about the possible announcement – especially after big shockers like note ban announcement and Balakot strikes were made in similar fashion.
The manner of approach works for India, and there was almost an instant widespread swathe among the people – making sure that the unannounced announcement is watched by maximum number of people. Furthermore, the telecast of ASAT Mission Shakti announcement was delayed – rather advertently – successfully raised the anticipation and ensured thickening of audience. Given the machinery of mass self-communication to its maximum potential, the perfectly choreographed announcement of Mission Shakti followed by a spotlight on the work done by the party in power for national security – a hidden political agenda that could easily escape through loopholes of “Model Code of Conduct”.
Soon after the announcement was aired by national broadcaster Doordarshan, Indian media houses got to business with narratives of “how fantastically the Indian missiles lit the sky and hit the satellites in space”. Even a day after the mission when Modi kick-started his electoral campaign, news headlines reading “The PM’s first rally after Mission Shakti” swarmed around. A mission that was a scientific achievement, a result of hundreds of working hours by space and defence scientists of ISRO and DRDO was used as a machinery to advertise “ASAT Mission Shakti” – showing the PM’s capacity to mass messaging.
The clean chit from the Election Commission on Wednesday, shrugging off the Opposition’s allegations and declaring that “the PM did not violate the provision of party in power in the poll code” is a proof to the immense media capability that the party holds. For Indians, the political campaign has just begun with a shot down of live satellites, and we must brace ourselves for an inevitable extravaganza in coming month.