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Modi’s Call for 370 Seats Is Echoed by Bollywood

How did Modi choose the number? It's obvious really – 370 is also the number of the Article in the Constitution that gave J&K its special status within the Union of India. Getting rid of this Article was the first major decision of the BJP government after 2019.
Stills from the trailers of 'The Kashmir Files', 'The Kerala Story', and 'Article 370'.

This piece was first published on The India Cable – a premium newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas – and has been republished here. To subscribe to The India Cable, click here.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been exhorting his party workers to work for 370 seats. He predicts the BJP itself will get that number, and along with the allies, get around 400. In 2019, the BJP won 303 seats, so it’s a pretty big jump of about 67 seats, not an easy electoral feat that Modi is predicting. Why 370? If the idea is to touch a two-third majority in the Lok Sabha, 358 seats should be enough. Nor is 370 higher than Rajiv Gandhi’s 400 plus in the 1984 elections. So how did Modi choose the number?

It’s obvious really – 370 is also the number of the Article in the Constitution that gave Jammu and Kashmir its special status within the Union of India. Getting rid of this Article was the first major decision of the BJP government after 2019. Lest voters forget, this call by the prime minister will remind them of that. And the media – especially the television channels will do their part, constantly talking about Mission 370 on the nightly news.

It’s a clever by-half tactic by the BJP, the kind that it specialises in. The idea is to always remind the people of its agenda and its ‘achievements’, so that they don’t forget. And they corral social media supporters, mainstream Godi media and of course fellow traveller popular culture.

Right on cue, arrives Article 370, a film starring Yami Gautam and Arun Govil (who once played Ram in the TV serial Ramayan).

The synopsis of the film on the site ‘Book my Show,’ where one can buy tickets for movies, reads:

“In the aftermath of the 2016 Kashmir unrest, a young local field agent, Zooni Haksar, is picked out by Rajeshwari Swaminathan from the Prime Minister’s Office for a top-secret mission. Their aim? Cracking down on terrorism and putting an end to the billion-dollar conflict economy in the valley, by doing the absolute impossible – abrogating the notorious Article 370. That too, without spilling a single drop of innocent blood.”

Lots of guns, explosions, and killings nonetheless follow, as per the trailer.

The trailer of the film also shows Gautam saying, earnestly, “Kashmir is a lost case. Until the special status exists, we cannot even touch them. Nor will they allow us to change it.” But then come our heroes, Narendra Modi and the fiery Amit Shah, telling Parliament that it is being removed. As if we, the ordinary public, do not get the message, the (real) prime minister has endorsed the film. Tax exemption will no doubt follow.

Nor is this the only one in the pipeline. Waiting in the wings is Bastar-The Naxal Story. The title should explain what this could be about – if you have doubts, the teasers, as trailers are called now, will clear them. I won’t give away too many spoilers, but it opens with an angry-looking woman (Adah Sharma, last seen in The Kerala Story) speaking to the camera and informing us that the wars with Pakistan killed only 8,738 Indian soldiers, while in this very nation, Naxals have killed over 15,000 Indian jawans. When Bastar Naxals killed 76 jawans cruelly, there were celebrations in JNU! Apparently ‘Left-liberal pseudo-intellectuals’ are great supporters of these Naxals.

Two other films that are also being made, a biopic of V.D. Savarkar and Kangana Ranaut’s Emergency. No doubt a few more will come.

Not all such overly nationalistic and propaganda films have been successful. A recent biopic of Atal Bihari Vajpayee sank without a trace, as did Akshay Kumar’s big-budget Samrat Prithviraj, touted as a Hindutva film. But small films without stars, The Kashmir Files and The Kerala Story, did well and such movies do get traction on social media even if they don’t succeed at the box office.

For the BJP, however, flops or hits, each of these films adds to the noise it creates and are force multipliers. They confirm the prejudices of its followers and potential voters, especially from a younger demographic who will probably ‘learn’ their history from this. And as the prime minister’s open support for Article 370 shows, the BJP, on its part, will throw its full weight behind those projects, such as Article 370, it thinks will help its mission of getting those 370 seats.

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