AHMEDABAD: Adolf Hitler was a brilliant propagandist. Narendra Modi too believes in the power of image.
Which is probably why the chief minister hired a US lobbying firm which has serviced clients like former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and President-for-life of Kazakhstan Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev.
This Washington-based firm, Apco Worldwide, was hired by Modi sometime in August this year, in the run-up to an important Assembly election, to improve his image before the world community. Among its recent clients are Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former Communist youth leader-turned-Russian billionaire with mafia links.
The firm has a distinction of taking contracts of boosting images of leaders who fell out of favour of their followers.
On the face of it Apco Worldwide’s brief is to build and sell Brand Gujarat to the international community. But according to sources Modi, who was denied visa by the US earlier because of the taint he earned in the 2002 riots, wants his image to be improved so that he gets to visit the US in future.
The Modi regime feels lobbying is required to attract much-sought after foreign direct investment (FDI) which has been a cause for concern even though Gujarat is topping the charts among Indian states in terms of overall investments, according to latest statistics brought out by the Reserve Bank of India.
Modi, of course, still nurtures the wish to get an US visa and some of his NRI friends have advised him to use the services of lobbyists for the same. Sources in the government told TOI that if it works and Modi comes back to power, Apco’s contract will be renewed in January for Vibrant Gujarat 2009, the event that Modi prides himself in, for bringing investments to the state.
The Gujarat government will pay Apco 25,000 USD per month for the Modi image building exercise.
Sources in the government said Modi thought of this image-building exercise during his visit to Switzerland earlier this year. His government shortlisted some seven national and international firms, without floating tenders of which two were shortlisted. Even though it quoted a sum that was three times more than others, Apco was picked for the job.
The reason given was that Apco has a better team. Apco has former senators from Republican and Democratic parties working with it.