Jul.12

Dynamics of MahaGadbandhan

Indira Gandhi has been one of the finest Prime Ministers Indian democracy has experienced. She with the help of all her populist moves like nationalization of banks, Pokhran nuclear explosion, abolishment of privy purses, Garibi Hatao, division of Pakistan attained the status which was larger than life.

That was the time when politics was not about the Congress and others, it was the time when politics was about Indira and all other parties. Indira was beyond party lines and carried huge brand image. Indira was such a strong leader that Dev Kant Barooah, Congress president, in 1976 mention that India is Indira, and Indira is India.

Almost after forty years, history is kind of repeating itself. This time it is about Narendra Damodardas Modi. Modi has yet not reached the popularity that Indira enjoyed but we can easily say that BJP is Modi, and Modi is BJP.

Today, the politics in India is about the might of Modi versus all others. It will be wrong to say that it is about BJP and all others. Yes, the scenario is almost comparable to the times of Indira Gandhi when she enjoyed popularity beyond comparison.

All opposition parties understand the situation very well. They also understand the influence Modi enjoys. They are aware of the fact that the position which Modi enjoys is not given to him but he has earned it at every stage of his political career. It will not be wrong to say that Modi is Chandragupta Maurya of modern times.

The opposition understands that to fight Modi they need to construct a united front – a MahaGadbandhan of all opposition parties. The kind of MahaGadbandhan Opposition had created in Bihar. The MahaGadbandhan in Bihar enjoyed a larger and inclusive vote share. A vote share which was much larger than the vote share of BJP. Nitish Kumar as a prominent face of the MahaGadbandhan was yet another key feature of the MahaGadbandhan in Bihar. The only thing which was not right with the MahaGadbandhan in Bihar was the ideological mix. It remained an opportunistic alliance.

The success of the MahaGadbandhan was once again attempted in the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, but the experiment failed. It was seen as absolute opportunistic alliance with has no future. To my mind the MahaGadbandhan was a failure from idea to implementation. It was more like a desperate measure to tame the juggernaut Modi.

The two recent experiments with MahaGadbandhan in recent times and such other historical moves in seventies and nineties makes us think on the idea of MahaGadbandhan and its validity. A few questions that comes to my mind include: Is MahaGadbandhan of all opposition parties possible? Can the MahaGadbandhan survive the test of the time? Can the leaders of MahaGadbandhan workout a common minimum program that is beyond the idea of secularism? Will there be any defined ideology of the MahaGadbandhan? Can the leaders of different political parties elect one credible leader of the MahaGadbandhan? Who will be the ultimate leader of the MahaGadbandhan?

In current situation, even if we have affirmative answers to most of the above-mentioned questions the future of MahaGadbandhan still looks not so bright. The non-BJP parties can be classified in three categories. The Core Opposition, the Ideology Seeker, and Strong BJP allies.

The core group which is ready to form MahaGadbandhan and is promoting idea of an alliance which is secular in nature. They promote themselves as a secular force against the communal BJP. The core group includes INC, NC, IUML, JDS, NCP, SP, BSP, TMC, DMK, AAP, RLD, RJD, Left. If we evaluate the vote share and the probable seat share we would realize that at present they command roughly 100 seats.

The second major group which is not clear with the idea of the MahaGadbandhan but may join the group if the alliance offers attractive opportunity. They mostly have not bought the idea of the secular alliance and mostly awaiting the right ideological mix. In my views, the other set of parties that do not believe in the idea of a MahaGadbandhan based on the idea of a secular alliance include JDU, TDP, AIADMK, YRSC, TRS, BJD, SS, MNS. This group though is wary of the increasing might of Modi and the dominance of his brand of politics. This group has control on another 100 parliamentary constituencies.

Even if the Core Opposition, and the Ideology Seeker join hands they might win a few more than the 200 parliamentary constituencies. The number still will not be sufficient to for the government. They might project themselves as the alliance that will be the united opposition.  I can say with certain assurance that the third set which is part of the NDA core group and the key BJP allies is very prominent and far from the impact of anti-incumbency. This group is still gaining ground and increasing its vote share. The key BJP allies have mostly accepted the dominance of Modi and his brand of politics include LJP, SAD, AD, and other smaller parties. These parties are thriving on the local leadership and the charisma of the brand Modi. These parties are kind of extension of BJP political-DNA. I will not be surprised if some of these small parties get merged into BJP before 2019 elections and a new set of the ideology seekers join NDA.

The dynamics of politics in India is evolving and it is beyond the binary equations of the secular and communal. The new equation is extremely complex and probably beyond the dynamics of caste, and religion. I am not sure if the key players of the proposed mahaGadbandhan are analysing the emerging political equation and its impact.

Politics

Jul.10

India Needs Strong Opposition

India has strong government in the center and we need needs equally strong opposition. The desire of strong opposition is just not my views or wish of millions of the politically active Indian but also the National General Secretary of BJP Ram Madhav also believe the same. Even ruling party demands a strong opposition.

Unfortunately, there is no strong opposition at center. There is no single party or an alliance which can counter the moves of the ruling party as a cohesive unit with an articulated narrative. Ram Madhav, also argues that for any Mahagathbandhan to succeed or to be taken seriously, need to have a coherent narrative. The coherent narrative is missing as each party of the so-called opposition has their own hidden agenda; they don’t have any defined plan or ideology; and the opposition don’t have a defined strong leader.

It is important to understand that strong opposition doesn’t mean only numbers, a strong opposition party should act like a watchdog. They should be in position to command the respect of people and the party in power. They should be in position to argument well with positive in disagreement.

I believe that it is not necessary that congress should emerge as the largest and strongest party of opposition. One of the strong regional parties with strong leadership and national ambition can also emerge as the party of opposition at center. Though there is opportunity for a regional party like Samajwadi Party, or Aam Admi Party to emerge as the option to be the party of opposition, but it also requires leadership to have focus to achieve the position. As of now, in absence of any such alternative, congress becomes the defacto option of opposition party.

The age-old party Congress needs to start from scratch. It has to be a new beginning; this beginning can be independent of the Gandhis. The new age leaders of Congress would need a new approach, new leadership, new ideology, and contemporary agenda. Most of the political analyst believe that if congress need to emerge as the party of opposition, it needs to rework on the leadership, ideology, and reposition the brand congress from scratch.

It is important for congress to reinvent the party as it is fast losing the political ground, and voters confidence. Its ironical that congress as a party has been reduced to the politics of vote bank. The decline of the congress is witnessed from the results of recent assembly elections, and most of the local body elections results has shown that the Congress has been virtually decimated by the BJP. The decline of congress is apparent form the result of the recent Uttar Pradesh Assembly election where, congress managed to win seven seats, which is even lower than BJP ally Apna Dal’s which won nine seats. As we are witnessing the decline of congress and many other regional parties across India, we are also witnessing rise in the vote share of BJP in all the states where it has no presence, or limited presence. The decline in the importance of regional parties, and loosing grip of congress across India has created a scenario where we are not witnessing constructive opposition. It will not be wrong to say that we are back to the era of spineless opposition. The only difference is this time the opposition is congress and other regional parties.

In my views, the gradual decimation of congress from Indian politics is bad news for India and the idea of Indian democracy. Congress need to focus on the constructive opposition and argue around issues which are non-religious, beyond caste and regionalism, issues that talks of development, corruption, women security, terrorism, intolerance, riots, etc. I believe that this is the time for the opposition to unite and restructure. It is time to re-work on the ideology, and reposition themselves.

Politics

Mar.03

Digital Marketing is The Best Medium for Election Campaigns

TV Channels, and newspapers for long have been perceived as strategic for political communications, and for voters’ decision making processes but in recent times, Internet and mobile has changed the dynamics of political communication, political campaigns and party management processes drastically.

In recent times the impact of digital marketing in the political campaigns have also increased as the engagement level of voter on web and mobile devices have increased over years. This change has happened as the smart phones, tablets and laptops have penetrated both, urban and rural space. Moreover, politicians and political parties have experienced that mobile is very effective communication device in the media dark markets. It will not be wrong to say that smartphones, tablets, and laptops are the most important and powerful screen that connects and provides platforms to engage voters and politicians.

In my opinion, politicians and political parties have start seeing traditional media as a mode of entertainment. Moreover, for them it is no more relevant as it used to be a decade back. I am not saying that TV Channels, and newspapers have completely lost its relevance. It is still relevant and help political parties influence voters and form opinion but the relevance of new media such as web presence, blogs, social media, news portals and aggregators, mobile campaign, influencers engagement, bloggers outreach program has increased.

Traditional media is not seen as the preferred tool to win voters and serve the purpose of politicians and political parties.

New age media is seen as a rich source of information. Moreover, the digital ecosystem is effectively used to manage and keep voter’s attention. Ubiquitous reach is one of the exciting part of the digital marketing. It has also made it easier for political campaigns to reach target audience at a lesser cost compared to that of traditional marketing and that is why New Age campaigns ‐ digital marketing, mobile marketing, and social media have already become a key communication tool in political strategies. In recent past we have seen major success of online political campaigns be it Obama, Modi, or any other global powerful politician, their success can be attributed to a successful new age campaign.

The success of global leaders like Obama, Trump, Modi, etc. can be attributed to new age campaigns.

The Digital Marketing Journey

The success of global leaders like Obama, Trump, Modi, etc. can be attributed to new age campaigns. The first big digital marketing success was Obama campaign. Though the Obama campaign was first global success the first Indian success of political digital marketing was Modi Campaign.

The Obama campaign became successful not once but twice in a row. In my views, the dynamics of the Obama Campaign was different from the dynamics of the Modi Campaign. The influencing factors viz. geography, demography, internet and mobile penetration were different in both campaigns but one thing which was common in these campaigns were treatment of the campaign. I believe each campaign is different and we need to find our own parameters to influence and engage voters.

The journey of designing a successful new age communication is not easy. For a campaign to be successful, online presence of political party and politician must be thoroughly planned. In my views, and in simple terms, an effective online presence means being where your audience is in the digitally connected world. There are many ways to do this, such as web presence, blogs, social media profiles, social media engagement with influencers and voters, owning and co‐owning content spaces, and interaction on third‐party channels, etc. The effective online presence is not enough to win the game of political digital marketing, but definitely is the first step towards the success of the voters and politicians engagement.

An effective online presence means being where your audience is in the digitally connected world.

It is important to focus on the empowerment of voters. Indian voters now have seamless access to news, and information required to become active participants in the country’s democratic process. Moreover, we are witnessing vibrant and connected voters who are demanding explanations for all the acts of the political party, politicians and government and also advising political parties, politicians and government. It makes engagement with voters the most important element in the political communication. The issue of how to proceed further in order to achieve high level of engagement with the public can be addressed by answering several questions:

  • Is the Political party and Politician ready to engage on the new age media platforms?
  • Are they ready to change with changing media dynamics?
  • Is there a willingness to interact with the public on the new age media platforms?
  • Are they prepared to deal with criticism on the new age media platforms?
  • Do they have time to devote to what is created on the new age media platforms?

At first the answers of the above questions will help digital marketer understand the seriousness of the political party, or candidate towards digital marketing journey. It will also help digital marketer structure the digital marketing campaign based on the level of seriousness and engagement of the political party, or candidate. Once digital marketers have the understanding of the interest level of politicians and political parties in the digital marketing campaign and the level of engagement they want on the digital marketing platforms, designing a successful digital marketing campaign roadmap becomes easy.

Digital natives are the biggest influencers and their interest needs to be taken into consideration when developing digital political campaigns.

The digital marketers also need to understand that there are millions of voters – native digital voters who have developed a certain digital sense that helps them filter information better and faster. Digital natives are the biggest influencers and their interest needs to be taken into consideration when developing digital political campaigns. It is important to monitor behaviour of the digital natives on web, mobile, and social media on real time. The objectives of campaign monitoring initiative can be classified in following activities: Identifying influencers, identifying the voters who are in favour and voters who are against the political party or politician, creating relationships with voters and influencers, managing grassroots mobilization initiatives, crisis management, obtaining insights for content engagement, interaction and engagement with fans and followers, conversations with candidates, politician, and spokesperson of the party, evaluating for strategic information. The campaign monitoring helps us understand the voters’ sentiment and hence helps us design the political communication.

A successful digital marketing campaign can help us identify the individual who will cast vote for the candidate.

The engagement of the voters, social listening, and analysis of their sentiments is most important element in the success of campaign. We all know that digital marketing is mostly engagement driven and provide us with huge data for analytics. The data which we get form the digital marketing campaign can be mapped with historic data on voting habits and other relevant parameters to get sentiment analysis. The result of the sentiment analysis is used to define the course of political communication.

Point of View,Politics

Aug.30

The Rise of New Muslim Vote Bank

In India, the world of politics remains same only the reference point changes. On the one hand there is a political party which has aligned its ideology with RSS. This political party has been classified as non-secular or communal as it has differentiated itself from all others by aligning itself to the RSS and various Hindu ideologies. In my views, this is a classic case of differentiation as not only the party in question but also all other political parties (who claim to be secular) have labelled it as non-secular or communal. In the process, all other political parties helped it come to power by joining their share of voice against this party and polarized the voters mind (as they claim – politics of polarization). As they say, BJP is the only non-secular or communal party. In their views, there are two other not so non-secular parties – AkaliDal and the Shiv Sena (both these parties have aligned themselves with the BJP).

Politics

Jun.27

A Brand New Akhilesh Yadav

With less than a year left for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has signalled zero tolerance towards corruption and candidates with criminal background. He has sacked many powerful ministers including Rajaram Pandey, Ambika Chowdhry, Narad Rai and Yogesh Pratap Singh and stripped others of plum portfolios. He is not only removing the ‘Dabangs’ from the party and the minister but also creating his own team and on-boarding them as ministers. In last two years, the ‘Team Akhilesh’ members being made ministers. It is obvious from his acts that he is on the go. He is the decision maker. He is clearly out of the shadows of the family politics. He is a mature politician now.

Point of View,Branding,Politics

May.20

Congress: Time for Atma-Manthan

It is important to share that Congress since 1885 has dominated the Indian political space. It has also dominated India’s post-independence politics. It has ruled the country for 54 of the past 69 years, either on its own or as the leader of coalition governments. But now, the Indian National Congress is in crisis. Almost two years after its humiliating defeat in general elections, it has lost its face in the Assembly elections – Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal. They have become glorified third player in most of these states.

Politics

May.16