Thursday 17 September was the 70th birthday of prime minister Narendra Modi. World leaders sent him hearty birthday greetings to the prime minister of the world's largest democracy, now in his second term of office. Within India, all prominent leaders, cutting across political divide wished him long life and health. And the ruling party at the Centre, the BJP, have lined up a variety of programmes to make the birthday of their all-in-all leader scintillatingly impressive. BJP president JP Nadda declared a service week from 14 to 20 September. Earlier, there was a practice in the country of observing a service week in connection with Gandhiji's birthday, aimed at promoting interest for, and involvement in service among students. BJP chief explains that it is in line with the same model that the party has ventured on the seven-day campaign aiming at drawing inspiration from the service-oriented life of prime minister Modi. Thus the party has come up several programmes all revolving around the number of 70. Artificial limbs to 70 differently abled people, eyeglasses for 70 visually impaired patients, 70 blood donation camps by Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, planting 70 plants in every polling booth, clean-up campaign in 70 villages in all districts, villages and the list goes on for the various forms of birthday celebration. Apart from this, a programme has been made to conduct 70 virtual conferences to project the 'life and mission' of Narendra Modi and to circulate 70 slides of them via social media. Different state units are virtually vying with one each other to make their leader's 70th birthday a festival to note. The goal behind this entire exercise by the party's power machinery and manpower is to put Modi above the personality of all the architects of the nation, who had straddled India's history and above the past prime ministers of India.
Almost all mainstream media gave unusual prominence to the birthday celebration of Modi. There are also those who tried to make him a legend by singing his praises and those who portrayed him as the foremost or unequalled Indian ruler by highlighting his governmental achievements. On the other hand, several media also indulged in the Modi-encomium, while the grave crisis of the country resulting from the failure of the central government, is very much current. The pro-Modi media segment allocated plenty of time and space to elaborate that he achieved feats that the country could not do for 67 years since independence under prime ministers from Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh. They also spared no effort to establish that in current times he did a wizard role in beating China, and in the prevention of Covid. Newpaper columns and channel programmes marked Modi's birthday in a way that would make the entire BJP echelons right from Amit Shah upto state-level leaders, pale into insignificance. Beyond the normal conveying of greetings and expressions of respect, what that section of the media in hyperbolic mode did was to convert the birthday bash into a paean of non-existent governmental achievements.
A prime example of the media show would be 'India Today', which went whole hog in applauding a Modi standing unshaken by the crisis-ridden six months during which over 83,000 people died of Covid, GDP contracted by 23,9 per cent, more than 8 crore people were rendered homeless and millions lost their jobs. The spectrum of the eulogistic media looked immersed in birthday panegyric: whatever may happen to India, Modi rules the day. But regardless of media's sycophancy or leaders' pat on the back, social media had its share of notable fireworks against the pro-Modi thunder. Those netizens observed 17 September as National Unemployment Day. They cited the fact that in the coutnry that saw a loss of 12.2 jobs, last August witnessed the sharpest rise of unemployment in the last three years, and that too interestingly citing figures from the very media who were busy lauding Modi with alacrity. The fact that unemployment reached its peak in the last 45 years and five lakh salaried people lost their jobs in July alone, which those netizens highlighted, brought huge response to the observance of National Unemployment Day. From their perspective, a birthday is to be observed not by distributing eyeglasses and artificial limbs but by setting right central administration that has been left purblind by hegemony and crawling in inefficiently. Their warning says it all, i.e. any celebration without such corrective measures may be a festival for the BJP, but it will be harmful for the country's overall health.