New Delhi: Building on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) success in getting its message across to voters in areas with no access to television, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is starting a new communication initiative on Friday to try and reach out to some 90% of the nation’s population, including those in its remotest parts, through All India Radio (AIR).

The Indian version of US President Franklin D Roosevelt’s fireside chats of the 1930s and 40s will be called Mann Ki Baat and the first episode will go on air at 11 am on Friday—the day of Dussehra.

Interestingly, Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)—the Hindu nationalist organisation that Modi belongs to—will also address its volunteers on the same day. The government is planning to make the Prime Minister’s radio chats a regular fortnightly feature, confirmed two people close to the development who declined to be named.

“Prompted by suggestions made by the public on mygov.in, Modi decided to start this radio programme. The content for the show will touch upon a variety of issues of national importance," said a top official at the information and broadcasting ministry who declined to be named.

“This is a unique opportunity to showcase the potential of All India Radio that now has almost 422 radio stations and relay centres. The feed of this 20-minute radio show will be available on Doordarshan’s direct-to-home service, Freedish, to both television channels and radio stations," said Jawahar Sircar, chief executive at Prasar Bharti.

The listenership of AIR on medium wave (i.e. transmitted through transistors) is 40-50 million. “The potential for FM stations in this country is 500 million and this initiative will help in strengthening that eco-system," added Sircar.

A ‘recording point’ has been set up at the Prime Minister’s residence at 7, Race Course Road for his new campaign.

The BJP-led government has spent around Rs1-1.5 crore on newspaper advertisements for this campaign.

Political analysts monitoring Modi’s outreach initiatives believe that these steps are being taken by the BJP in preparation for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. “Àfter BJP won the general elections, (party president) Amit Shah had said in his speech that the BJP performed well in Uttar Pradesh because it managed to reach out to people who didn’t have access to television or newspapers. Since radio has far greater reach to people, this is also a means to connect with people," said Jai Mrug, Mumbai-based political analyst.

Mrug added that Modi is trying to set up a connect with the people irrespective of television channels. “The entire politics of the Prime Minister is to set up a direct connect with people. That is why he is active on Twitter and social media."

“All his communication is directly made to his constituents either through social media or through controlled interviews he’s agreed to do. For instance his Fareed Zakaria interview on CNN was a strategic one. He’s using corporate PR (public relations) tools to push political messages and agendas," said Shivraj Parshad, founder of Brewis Consultancy, a communication agency that gives training in public speaking and media management.

The pre-recorded radio show will have an expected duration of about 20-30 minutes. It will not carry any advertising and is likely to touch upon issues such as the Swachch Bharat campaign scheduled to be launched on Gandhi Jayanti on Thursday.

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