On the morning of May 16, 2014, when counting of votes polled in the Lok Sabha elections was on, Narendra Modi was alone in his room meditating with no television on and took telephone calls only after 12 noon.
“In the morning when the counting was going on, I was totally alone and had no TV on. I was finishing off my own spiritual activities and enjoying my meditation time after the grueling elections,” the Prime Minister says.
On the day of counting, he says he “started taking calls only from 12 noon and the first call on the results was from BJP president Rajnath Singh telling me that it was a foregone conclusion that we would sweep the polls”.
This and several other titbits about Modi, his life - both personal and political - and the poll campaign find mention in a new book “The Modi Effect: Inside Narendra Modi’s Campaign to Transform India” by Lance Price, former media advisor to the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Published in India by Hachette, the book is based on the author’s interviews with the prime minister, his Cabinet colleagues like Piyush Goyal, Prakash Javadekar and Smriti Irani and his team of advisers and analysts.
The book also talks about BJP’s relationship with big corporate donors.
“There was a lot of writing that we were using private aircraft from the corporates. Please keep in mind that if necessary I will also hire cycles to run the campaign,” Modi says.
“We needed aircraft to criss-cross the country to manage a campaign of this scale and handle the diversity in India. Our party paid for every bit of the expenses that were incurred in leasing anything that we used,” he adds.
According to Modi, a key feature of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was “indeed the many independent institutions that backed us all across the nation.”
He also mentions about people like yoga guru Ramdev and legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar besides the Art of Living foundation who wanted to “participate in a mass movement” to “make a difference”.
Modi says that since his win in the Gujarat elections in 2012, he was clear that “I would be one of the (Prime Ministerial) candidates under consideration”.
“But I never really thought about it or ever tried to lobby within the party to be nominated as the prime ministerial candidate. Nor was I really curious as to whether I or someone else would be nominated,” he says.
He the goes on to describe how he formulated a plan on giving interviews before the elections.
“I decided that I would not be available to the media. I did this intentionally to create a vacuum and get attention because of the vacuum,” says Modi.
Modi went in a full-fledged manner to the national media only towards the end of campaigning, first to the Hindi channels and then to the English.
“What this did was to allow me to customize my message all the time and not to spill all the beans at once and keep the curiosity of people alive in terms of what would I say next,” he says.
According to Price, Modi had agreed to give him “unprecedented access to help me analyse the campaign” that had brought him to power.
“I met Modi four times for around an hour, each time - sometimes longer. He spoke almost always in very good English and gave me many insights into the campaign and his thinking which I have included in the book,” Price told PTI.
The book also mentions the contest between Modi and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal in Varanasi. However, after Kejriwal announced his candidature and promised a ‘political earthquake’, Modi decided to keep mum.
When asked about it, he told Price, “My silence is my strength..You should know that in the grand scheme of things, Kejriwal was nothing but a small single city leader. He was getting far more coverage than he deserved as compared to other more established Opposition party leaders. So why spend time even ignoring someone?”
Godhra is one subject that Modi refused to discuss with the author.
“Regarding Godhra, I have said enough and you can read the reports and the Supreme Court judgement for yourself,” he told Price.
According to the author, Modi had his own opinion about what the book ought to contain.
“The global population should know how we smoothly and effectively managed the world’s largest election process and how effectively we have evolved the election process since 1952,” the writer quotes Modi as telling him.