Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday was awarded the “first ever” Philip Kotler Presidential Award by the World Marketing Summit (WMS), India. However, the accolade soon garnered bad press for itself after it emerged that the WMS Group has corporate ties with sponsors including public sector heavyweight, GAIL India, and partners like Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali group, and Republic TV (co-owned by BJP MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar), among others. Its origins and nature, shrouded in mystery and confidentiality, quickly launched a row over its legitimacy.
“Shri Narendra Modi is selected for his outstanding leadership for the nation. His selfless service towards India, combined with his tireless energy has resulted in extraordinary economic, social and technological advances in the country,” the award citation read, begetting a wave of congratulatory tidings from senior BJP lawmakers and noted .
How bhakts and critics responded
Union ministers Piyush Goyal and Smriti Irani, chief minister of Manipur N. Biren Singh, and former chief ministers Raman Singh and Vasundhara Raje, feted the prime minister over social media for winning the inaugural award. Minister of state for information and broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore called it “a momentous achievement, and a proud day for all Indians.”
This only exacerbated doubts about the legitimacy of the award and the selection process, as critics and the opposition fanned the flames further.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi took a jab at the Prime Minister on Tuesday, saying he wanted to “congratulate” him on winning “the world famous” prize. “In it’s so famous it has no jury, has never been given out before & is backed by an unheard of Aligarh company. Event Partners: Patanjali & Republic TV :),” Gandhi added. Congress leader Shashi Tharoor called it a national .
Some avid critics of the Modi government took the satirical route to give credit to where credit’s due, claiming that PM Modi truly deserves the award for effectively driving the national conversation around his Hindutva brand and launching an impeccable campaign with the vision of “acche din.”
First, the brand-new Philip Kotler Award is being awarded by WMS, which has previously only achievements in advertising and marketing. The WMS Group held a summit in the national capital in December. The contentious award was given by this franchised event, which was later revealed to be held by the largely unknown Aligarh-based firm, Research International Institute.
The Wire further uncovered that both the WMS India and are the initiatives of a Saudi-based team, led by a Tauseef Zia Siddiqui whose LinkedIn profile describes him as a specialist at a Saudi Arabian government-owned petrochemical firm, keen on expanding its business in India.
Furthermore, the government’s press release makes no mention of jury members, nor the exact behind the latest award. The statement from the Prime Minister’s Office only says that the award is based on the tenets of ‘people, profit and planet’ and will be offered annually to the leader of a nation.
Some of the mystery behind its provenance was cleared on Tuesday as after whom the prize is named, came out and endorsed it. Over a series of tweets, the founder of the WMS Group wrote, “I congratulate PM @narendramodi for being conferred the first ever Philip Kotler Presidential Award. He has been selected for his outstanding leadership & selfless service towards India, combined with his tireless energy.” Modi’s efforts have reaped “extraordinary economic, social and technological advances in India,” added the professor of international marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
“His winning the first award raises the bar for future recipients,” Kotler said, shedding further light on how the award was conferred by his friend Jag Sheth. He also mentioned the “misunderstanding” in the Indian media, citing Modi’s leadership skills in an interview with The Marketing Journal, stating that he was chosen for the award as he ‘stood highest’ in qualities such as believing in social justice and representative government, working toward a healthy business climate and trying to achieve the common good.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius