‘The Big Brother is watching’: Modi billboards take over Delhi ahead of G20 summit

By Mikaela Viqueira

New Delhi, Sep 8 (EFE).- Be it signs on bus stops, flyovers or traffic circles, advertising billboards, placards hanging on lampposts and even wall-posters in markets, the face of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken over the streets and landmarks of New Delhi as the city gets ready to host G20 leaders this weekend, ensuring that he does not get out of sight or mind even briefly.

“Giving voice to the Global South,” “Solving the Greatest Challenges of the World Together,” “Ensuring that the benefits of developments are universal and inclusive,” are some of the slogans used in the countless placards installed around the iconic India Gate, accompanied by the figure of the Hindu nationalist leader.

Very close from there, the shiny and renovated Pragati Maidan complex is all set to host the G20 leaders summit on Sep. 9-10, with the area beginning to fill up on Friday with embassy personnel, delegates, government officials from various countries, all in search for reaching agreements to bring in a new world order.

Covering the Indian capital with slogans and photos of political leaders is not a new phenomenon: most of the city buses carry the face of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, while Modi has traditionally been displayed on the billboards installed at gas stations.

The formula also extends to residential neighborhoods of the city, where placards are often hung up outside parks with the photos of members of the resident welfare associations, announcing anything from local elections to wishing the residents on festivals. Even signs wishing local leaders on their birthdays are very popular.

Indian schools and sports complexes also tend to put up posters carrying the faces of the best students or athletes, celebrating their achievements.

The bombarding of publicity material, as well as the attention to detail and commitment shown by India towards the event – turning the city into a grand vista ahead of the arrival of leaders such as United States’ President Joe Biden or France’s Emmanuel Macron – has ensured that common Indians now feel a part of the G20 event, seeing it as a matter of national pride.

“It’s actually quite brilliant and one has to give him (Modi) and the BJP credit for making an event that is usually elitist and esoteric, and a rotating presidency that is routine, into something the whole country can understand and be proud of,” Manjari Chatterjee Miller, senior fellow at US think-tank Council on Foreign Relations, told EFE.

The image of Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party has been strengthened by the arrival of G20 leaders in what is now the world’s most populated nation with over 1.4 billion people, through slogans that express India’s major concerns, right next to the leader who is supposed to protect them.

“The G20 has been a forum for India to announce itself as a global power. The Modi government has given outsized importance to its presidency and in doing so shrewdly turned the G20 into a nonstop advertisement for both India and his leadership,” Miller added.

Use of the different action plans for G20 from the moment of the presidency, such as the G20 summit logo that has a lotus flower – an Indian national symbol but also the BJP’s election symbol – and ensuring that Modi’s face appears everywhere, has in a way helped the party kick-start its campaign for next year’s national elections.

“I think this is both part of the BJP’s nationalistic agenda but also gives Modi a boost going into national elections next year,” Miller said. EFE


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