Spoof: Spin Maestro’s Masterpiece
Who was behind the NDA government’s two-year anniversary? Was it someone in faraway New York or a whiz closer home? Our reporter meets the elusive, self-proclaimed mystery strategist in the Big Apple
Ajith Pillai Delhi
P Murugan Associates (JPMA) has its offices in midtown Manhattan and has been advising governments across the world for the last two decades. Its expertise ranges from framing fiscal policy to striking defence and nuclear deals. But, when business is not particularly promising, JPMA also plans birthday bashes, guides clients to the best dive bars off Times Square and arranges selfies with baseball stars.
“What Murugan can’t, no one else can” is the promise that welcomes the visitor to its garish office on 34th Street. And the receptionist -- a gentleman who says hello in 64 languages, including defunct Nordic — welcomes you with a box of designer candies (from Macy’s) and, should you have the inclination and the time, will analyse the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the context of the latest episode of Comedy Nights With Kapil or Chetan Bhagat’s Making India Awesome. Alternatively, you can flip through JP’s Mundane Monday Musings --a treatise on “why Sundays come after Saturdays and not before Tuesdays”.
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Well, whatever you choose to do, it surely is worth the wait when you are finally ushered into the inner sanctum to meet Jagdeesan Prakashan Murugan. He is the whole and soul of JPMA and was once the toast of Madison Avenue for the campaign he submitted to the Barefoot Society of America (BSA). The punch line ‘If God Wanted us to wear Shoes he would have given us size 9 Hoofs’ was instantly acknowledged by the gurus for its brilliance although some sod in the BSA rejected it for “lacking in both soul and sole”.
Luckily, Mr Murugan quickly got over the rejection and promptly dashed off letters to several heads of state, offering his services as an “anonymous communications consultant”. His intervention during the George Bush era is still a classified secret and no one in the State Department will confirm or deny that he had something to do with the repeated use of the expression ‘WMD’ during the Iraq war.
To cut to the present, Mr Murugan claims he sent a strategy paper last December to various arms of the Indian government (including the RSS, PMO and the IB) on innovative ways of shaping popular opinion. This, he says, has influenced the Narendra Modi government’s recent multi-media campaign to mark two years in office. “No one will acknowledge it but the spectacle you have seen has the JP Murugan stamp on it. The central thought is mine although they have interpreted it in their own silly way. Had they followed my gameplan it would have been far more effective. Hopefully, they will implement it in their third year of celebration,” Mr Murugan says wistfully. He was quick to add that he seeks no credit (or debit) for the work he has done as a “patriotic Indian”.
One of my associates, Goldy Sax, wanted to sign on Angelina Jolie, Emma Stone, Scarlett Johansson, Olivia Wilde for the event. But I felt that these Hollywood actresses would be mistaken for the cheerleaders of IPL by the aam aadmi
So what was his strategy paper all about?
Over several rounds of fiery Bleddy Mary (a heady concoction of piping hot rasam laced with vodka), Mr Murugan — JP to friends — revealed the shell of what he had shared with folks back in Delhi. Here are excerpts from the interview.
Celebrations as entertainment: I had suggested that the two year celebrations must have a very filmi touch. One of my associates, Goldy Sax (a rather unusual name since he hates jazz although he likes to blow his own trumpet), wanted to sign on Angelina Jolie, Emma Stone, Scarlett Johansson, Olivia Wilde and the like for the event. But I felt that these Hollywood actresses would be mistaken for the cheerleaders of IPL by the aam aadmi. I also shot down his Leonardo Di Caprio idea. ‘Why do you need nakli videshi ghee, Goldy, when you have the shudh Titanic stuff at home,’ I wondered.
After all, what’s an Indian birthday bash if it’s not a Bollywood extravaganza? Although I must say they should have been more imaginative than calling upon Vidya Balan and Raveena Tandon…and Amitabh Bachchan — well, I know he can pass off wearing any political hat (including the Panama variety) but they should have called someone more dynamic, hot and young.
However, I am not complaining. I had insisted it should be a television event like the ‘Awards Nite’ that we see every other day. You see, public attendance is unimportant at these events so long as there is public participation via Doordarshan providing exclusive feed to all channels. With 150 million to 175 million Indian homes having TV accessibility, you can literally treat the venue as a set. Of course, you have to ensure that the cameras don’t focus on the thin audience made up largely of bureaucrats, politicians and their hangers-on.
Game of Numbers: I have always believed in the dazzle of numbers. So, I had advised Modiji’s PR machinery to throw numbers at people and floor them. And amidst the explosions of incontrovertible fact and figures to push in some uncomfortable stats so that your opponents do not accuse you of obfuscating the truth. Let me give you an example:
Beefeater gin has been banned in all states where prohibition has been imposed. The word beef is to be expunged from all official communications. For example, henceforth, security cannot be ‘beefed up’ -- it can only be ‘muttoned’ or horsed around with
With Modi sarkar in power and respecting the great traditions of our land, light continues to travel at 299,792,458 metres/second. The earth goes round the sun at 1,675 km/hour. The sun rises in the east every morning despite the western disturbances and global warming. India is simply hot, dry and dusty with the smell of mother earth.
Odd numbers continue to end with a digit of 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 despite Arvind Kejriwal’s attempts to change the rules and make odds at sixes and sevens with evens. Thankfully, it is even-steven now. Meanwhile, USA still has 50 states and water is still two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen — nowhere in India does nitrous oxide get into the mix. The respiratory rate for an average Indian remains at a healthy range of 12-20 breaths per minute, thanks to the promotion of yoga.
(Having stated these facts, now slip in some suspect data.)
Rs15,000 crore was what was saved by plugging leakages in LPG subsidy. (Conveniently forget that the International Institute of Sustainable Development put the savings at Rs143 crore! Also, ignore that Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian said the savings calculated were “potential” and not actual.)
Number of LPG connections provided to BPL families: 3 crore (actual government figures, not to be mentioned, 60 lakh connections till April 2016).
Lakhs of new jobs have been created — 90 per cent of these are in the unorganised sector and hence not accounted for in government records. So, don’t get misled by statistics that show a decline in jobs. Remember, India is moving forward and is the fastest growing nation in the world. That’s why 22 crore new bank accounts have been opened by hitherto economically disadvantaged Indians (what if 33 per cent already had bank accounts and 28 per cent of the new accounts are lying idle)
Trumpeting obvious achievements:
These are representative examples of Modi’s achievements which I suggested should be played up. Here are never-before happenings (no harm in making claims!) that came to pass ever since the NDA came to power in 2014:
Train tickets can be booked online. Ditto air tickets, hotel reservations and fast food orders.
Roads are being laid and repaired. Accidents are being averted.Plane crashes averted.
Students go to schools and colleges.
Children are being vaccinated.
All citizens are living their life cycle from birth to death.
Beefeater gin has been banned in all states where prohibition has been imposed. The word beef is to be expunged from all official communications. For example, henceforth, security cannot be ‘beefed up’ — it can only be ‘muttoned’ or horsed around with.
Project Negatives as Positives:
Drought now affects all -- the rich and the poor—equally. We share our sorrows and joy. Water shortage is now bravely faced by 380 million proud Indians. Bharat Mati ki Jai!
Poor public health facilities have improved the incomes of doctors and private hospitals. The projected growth of this sector is 50 per cent in the next few years.
UGC funds cut from `9,315.45 crore to `4,286.94 crore. This paves the way for more private universities and ‘achche din’ for young India.
We will soon overtake China as the fastest growing intolerant nation.
So far, so good. But what about the next bash in May 2017?
Mr Murugan paused for a moment and shared this piece of insight: “I have already started work on the third-year celebrations. But, it’s too premature to share it with readers. However, I am happy to announce that I will be brain-storming with Karan Johar and Ekta Kapoor over dinner in LA next month… More importantly, one suggestion that the government must consider actively is Goldy’s idea. His friends, the ever reliable consultants, Murugan and Saini, say they can provide India crude at $10 a barrel by April 2017 even if Brent prices touch $75. And guess how will they do that? Well, the plan is ingenious. Fill the barrels with $10 worth of crude and top it with water! As for the government, it can justify higher number of barrels imported by declaring that consumption is going up— a sure sign of progress.”
I must admit that Mr Murugan had me floored. My head felt dizzy and sight grew dim as he mixed me another one of his Bleddy Marys. Cheers to the third year!
The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi.