When Prime Minister Narendra Modi showed the finger

THE CYNICDec 14, 2017 | 14:54

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi showed the finger

On December 14 around 12.15pm, the prime minister of India voted and, courtesy Doordarshan, all TV news channels cut live to the event. Viewers across India, if they had switched to any news channel, would not have missed the blow-by-blow account of how the PM voted.

The live telecast showed Narendra Modi walking towards the voting booth through crowds chanting Modi, Modi. Modi, then just like any commoner, stood in line behind a few other voters. The cameras were perfectly positioned to capture the queue with PM Modi in it. The man closest to the camera was seen gawking at the lens, having forgotten his duty to go in and cast his vote, a hand appeared and pushed him in the right direction. The man exits frame and the line shuffles forward, voter Narendra Modi is now second in line.


There are hand-held steady cams which follow voter Modi inside the election area and on live telecast one sees how he has his name verified, how his finger is inked and then how he walks up to the actual booth and does what Modi has to do in complete privacy. While pundits are pretty confident that he voted for the BJP, there are those who say the EVMs are  tweaked in the BJP's favour, so it really does not matter which button he pressed.

Back to the live reporting of this wondrous event, only a tuft of his fair hair was visible as Modi went about his job inside the voting enclosure. A mesmerised India watched that singular tuft of bobbing hair and was reassured that free choice was at work. Then the man himself appeared from behind the enclosure and stuck out his finger for the camera to record... to beam to the world the great march of Indian democracy. One leading Hindi news channel even put up a superimposed text on screen which in English translates to - The prime minister himself cast his own vote.


[Photo: DailyO]

Then having stood for a few seconds silently gazing benignly at those in the room, the prime minister of India waved at the election officials and made to walk out. The camera rushed outside in anticipation and then once properly repositioned - the PM appeared waving his finger at the crowds. Those gritty people of Ahmedabad who had gathered there to witness the event went berserk with joy.

One was reminded of the Larry Charles directed 2012 Hollywood movie, The Dictator, in which Sacha Baron Cohen as the main protagonist shows his index finger as a sign of acknowledgement to fawning and cheering crowds. Though in the movie the dictator's crowds were arranged and paid for there have been no such accusation in Ahmedabad the day Modi went to vote.

Back to the live telecast, Doordarshan outdid itself in capturing each and every moment of the voting exercise. Multiple cameras recorded for posterity Modi and his waving finger as he first walked through the crowds and later rode his American secret service style big black SUV. Standing up at the open door, Modi conscientiously kept waving his finger so that every one of the people who were lining the rooftops and the roads did not miss out on the gesture. Multi-cam setup by Doordarshan, along the entire route, meant that TV viewers also did not miss out on anything.


While walking the crowds, surrounded by his hefty sunglass-wearing security detail, the PM touched hands and even shook a few of them... and then right in the centre of frame had appeared a common man in a wheelchair. The prime minister had to bend down to shake his hand and interact with him. The DD cameraman and all the technicians and everybody at that august autonomous organisation, a bulwark of the free press in India, outdid themselves in capturing this sudden unplanned moment. Viewers saw how the humble prime minister after having voted still found time for this brave wheelchair-bound citizen of India who had braved the enormous crowds to come and greet Narendra Modi - a brave effort indeed.

Even the Election Commission people must have had tears in their eyes as they watched this wonderful symphony of democracy orchestrated by the prime minister of India himself. In a very bad show of taste, the same news channels, which had cut live to DD, woke up to the idea that the entire display may have been a violation of the EC's code of conduct. This introspection was done safely after the PM had left the venue, presumably to do other such work that prime ministers usually do, and news channels ran no risk of missing out on the event.

The EC reacted by responding that they had received no complaints. The Congress press conference was to begin about an hour later but them crying foul is another story. For now, the prime minister has once again shown the finger, democracy is safe in Gujarat and by extension in India.

Last updated: December 14, 2017 | 18:56
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