Thursday, March 28, 2013

Modi’s PR agency spins another yarn….this time using US lawmakers

If the PR stories put out by Modi in the newspapers are to be believed, it would appear as if the US has come down on its knees apologizing to Narendra Modi for having denied him the visa; and promising to make good by putting billions of dollars in investments into the next Vibrant Gujarat summit! In reality, as this post will show, it is nothing but a typical Modi PR stunt.

First of all, who came down visiting? Some unknown Republicans who are probably the lightest weight of all Republicans. Their party lost the Presidential race, so Republicans occupy the opposition space in the US. So the equivalent of these people would be someone like Bal Kumar Patel or Pakauri Lal of the Samajwadi Party (even heard of them???) going to the US and saying “You are doing a great job, Mr Obama. The US is the best place in the world to do business in”! And then the newspapers in the US carrying an Obama-planted PR story about the praise lavished by these Indian MPs on him!

It’s all PR. Modi’s strongest suit is PR. Less work. More publicity. Take credit for things that are not his. But ensuring that the work is publicized as his own. This must have been the brief Modi gave his US based PR firm, Apco Worldwide. As per reports, the firm is paid (a relatively small amount of) $25000 per month to manage “Brand Gujarat”. In reality, it manages “Brand Narendra Modi”. In reality, the sums paid to APCO might be higher, supported through Modi’s network which goes by the name of “Overseas Friends of the BJP”. It’s all a racket. After all, what else can one expect from a PR agency that also has had clients such as former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and President-for-life of Kazakhstan Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev. Modi fits in brilliantly as a client in the agency’s roster of clients!

The following is taken from the internet and is accessible on the following URL: ( Admittedly, it is not the official website of the PR agency, but it nonetheless serves as a good site for a little grime on the agency! Here are some extracts from this source:

“Doing public relations for dictatorships is perhaps the more charitable part of Apco’s activities. Apco has a battalion of pro-war lobbyists under its wing. The firm is also a strong advocate of expanding armaments and the US military role in world affair”

“In the name of war against terror, Apco helped to coordinate government communications to convince the public of the necessity of war. Its job also included manufacturing public opinion and feedback in supporting the war efforts. Basically it exploited Islam-phobia in Western society to sell aggression as the solution to regain security in the West.”

“Apco is described as a lobby firm that “specialises in helping corporations advance their goals by manipulating legislators, and drafting and advancing model legislation and regulations. Key tools include the creation of business coalitions and fake, corporate-funded ‘grassroots’ groups tailored to specific issues.”

It is very likely that APCO organized the trip of these three US lawmakers by paying them for their services (isn’t that what “manipulating legislators” means?). In the US, lobbying is a legal activity and lawmakers are often schmoozed to support or oppose certain causes. There is really nothing remarkable about three such lawmakers coming to Gujarat and extolling the virtues of Modi. In fact, a condition of the tour contract would have been to sing paeans of Modi.

It’s a shame that the US continues to deny Modi visa. That puts him in the company of leaders from countries like Iran….and members of known terrorist outfits. Modi is obviously trying all he can to get rid of this stain, but the fervor against Modi continues to remain strong, as the recent Wharton denial of even a chance to speak via Video Conferencing showed. As recently as in December 2012, the US government’s decision on denying Modi a visa was re-inforced when “a group of 25 American lawmakers urged the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to continue denying visa to the BJP leader, stating that his government has not adequately pursued justice of the 2002 riot victims.” (source: India TV website: Twenty five lawmakers urged he be denied the visa. What’s three lawmakers, who APCO is no doubt lobbying with, saying that they will “speak” to the US administration to give Modi a visa?

Sure, most countries worldwide are keen to do business in Gujarat (just as they are about doing business in Maharashtra, Haryana, AP and TN), and they are bound to meet Modi for that purpose. The UK’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs also visited Gujarat a few days back, but when asked if he would invite Modi to the UK, he was dodgy. Visiting foreign dignitaries routinely meet Indian leaders, but that doesn’t make noise. After all, most Indian politicians cannot afford a PR firm like APCO Worldwide.

The real truth is that the visit of 3 lawmakers from the US to Gujarat, and their saying good things about Modi is just a PR exercise, orchestrated by Modi’s PR agency. Such exercise don’t mask the fact that Modi remains a pariah, who people are forced to deal with only for business reasons (and credit for that goes to Gujaratis, not Modi). Rather than focusing his energies at PR, it would be better if Modi just corrected his steps….and atoned for the mistakes of the past….

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