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Poll Strategies for 2014!
by Rajinder Puri Bookmark and Share
 

Analysts are scratching heads trying to decipher poll prospects for 2014. One issue of fierce debate is the impact Mr. Narendra Modi will have on the results. To assess the rationale behind his projection the poll strategy of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Singh (RSS), which is determinedly naming him as the BJP candidate for Prime Minister, needs to be understood. To decipher it and other related issues there are two recent newspaper articles that are noteworthy. First, there was the article by Mr. Abheek Barman in The Times of India entitled “Modi’s Himalayan Miracle”.

The RSS and BJP leaders backing Mr. Modi are openly stating that they aspire for single party majority in 2014 without the help of poll allies. On what premise would this daunting ambition be based?

The author quoting facts and figures has effectively demolished many claims of the Gujarat Chief Minister. More tellingly he has rubbished the claimed role of Mr. Modi in rescuing 15000 victims from the Uttarakhand deluge. But the most significant revelation of the article undoubtedly was about the deployment since 2007 of the powerful Israel dominated public relations agency, Apco Worldwide, to promote the Vibrant Gujarat summits and Mr. Modi’s image.

The other day BJP President Mr. Rajnath Singh stated that Mr. Modi never claimed that he had rescued 15000 pilgrims from Uttarakhand. Of course Mr. Modi never did that. That was what Apco was being paid $25000 per month for doing. It would be reasonable to infer that many of Mr. Modi’s assertions and projections are inspired by inputs from Apco. As for just one example, his recent presentation of two video studies in the Planning Commission meeting may safely be attributed to this source. In that sense much of the vigorous media and corporate support for Mr. Modi may justifiably be credited to Apco.

There is nothing wrong or unique for aspiring political leaders to utilize the services of professional public relations outfits for electoral purpose. But a more significant aspect deserves attention. A highly professional and competent outfit like Apco would not ignore the background and persona of their client in formulating poll strategy. The relations of Mr. Modi’s party with its parent RSS must surely have been taken into account. Therefore would there not have been direct or indirect cooperation between RSS and Apco in forging the poll strategy? If so, to what end?

The RSS and BJP leaders backing Mr. Modi are openly stating that they aspire for single party majority in 2014 without the help of poll allies. On what premise would this daunting ambition be based? Till now the BJP campaign is riding on two horses. It is targeting the Hindutva brigade for which Mr. Modi presents a most attractive face. Let it be noted that RSS Chief Mr. Mohan Bhagwat has repeatedly asserted the centrality of Hindutva for shaping India’s future. Most recently on June 19th while extolling the legacy of Swami Vivekananda in a function he said: “We have changed leaders and agendas, nothing has worked. Politics is not the way to make India a superpower; it is only Hindutva that can do it.” Given such commitment to Hindutva how would Apco proceed with its campaign?

The answer seems to be simple. Mr. Modi’s claimed commitment to economic development appeals to the rising new generation of young Indians. The commitment to Hindutva appeals to the traditional pro-Hindu vote bank of the BJP. The strategy opted for Mr. Modi seems to be to marry both commitments and create a groundswell that might give the BJP single party majority which would promise the stability that most Indians desperately yearn for. And how will that marriage be consummated? By convincing India that the Hindu rate of economic growth can be replaced by the new Hindutva rate of economic growth that could make India a superpower. And Mr. Narendra Modi with his background and record as Gujarat Chief Minister is the man to accomplish it.

This is a credible strategy and should not be dismissed out of hand. However there are serious pitfalls to overcome before it can succeed. That brings us to the second recent newspaper article referred to at the beginning of this essay.

In a perceptive analysis, “Doing the Modi Math”, Mr. Ashutosh Varshney in The Indian Express has analyzed reasons in the past for the accretion of the vote share by the BJP in elections. Endorsing Mr. LK Advani’s reasoning he has pointed out that the votes jumped mostly through poll adjustments with allies. However there were two exceptions to this. Post Emergency in 1977 and post Mr. Advani’s Ayodhya Rath Yatra in 1991 the BJP significantly increased its tally. The Emergency of course was a rare issue and Indira Gandhi invited failure without help from opponents. The BJP, the Jan Sangh then, united with other opposition parties to exploit the wave. It is with regard to the 1991 experience that I venture to add a caveat.

In 1991 BJP jumped to 120 seats from 88 during the Mandal agitation and immediately after the Ayodhya movement had consolidated its traditional vote bank. But let it be noted that in 1988 it had jumped from 2 to 88 seats because it had made poll alignment with VP Singh. In 1991 it could successfully reach the figure of 120 only from its base achieved in the 1988 performance. Let it also be noted that it sank to 2 seats in 1984 because due to a misplaced sense of patriotism the RSS backed the Congress after the assassination of India Gandhi. As a member of the BJP then, I had warned Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee of this switch and predicted to him that he would lose to Madhav Rao Scindia in the election. This warning was given to him prior to my proposed resignation from the primary membership of the party.

How then might the BJP attempt for single party majority be assessed?

Much depends upon how opponents of the party conduct themselves and what strategy they adopt. Until now Mr. Modi’s poll conduct has been poor. But the conduct of his opponents has been poorer. Mr. Modi erred in undertaking the Uttarakhand rescue mission thinking it would impress voters. His opponents did worse by emulating him. Mr. Rahul Gandhi was ill advised to appear like Mr. Modi’s imitator and visit Uttarakhand by helicopter. The error was compounded by his violating the injunction of Home Minister Mr. Shinde debarring VIPs from visiting the area. The damage was accentuated by Mr. Digvijay Singh’s patently false claim that Mr. Gandhi had traveled by foot. Opposition leaders and Congressmen from Andhra made Mr. Modi look good by openly quarreling at an airport trying to claim credit for the so called rescue of victims.

The public is not stupid. People view with disgust the attempt by politicians to politically exploit such a horrendous tragedy. Not one leader had the sense to simply address the press over television to urge the public to unite and follow the example of the brave armed services personnel risking and losing lives while rescuing victims. People would have approved that.

There are two pitfalls confronting Mr. Modi’s campaign. The first relates to the definition of Hindutva. Hindutva is Hinduism. According to a Supreme Court ruling it does not denote a religion or a particular community but a way of life. That is the definition that will be acceptable to the pro-development new generation of voters. Despite reaching out to Muslims and making all kinds of statements the BJP and RSS leaders have not succeeded in changing public perception about their attitude to the minorities. Hindutva will have to relate to Hindustanis and not just Hindus. Hindustanis are conditioned by a way of life. BJP and RSS leaders should know that VHP and Bajrang Dal activists harassing couples on St. Valentines Day is not included in that way of life.

The second pitfall is even more serious. Its potential to damage the BJP will depend upon how adroitly its opponents exploit it. Thanks to Mr. Modi egged on by big business and Apco he represents a model of economic development that can be effectively challenged. He represents efficient and rapid economic growth by removal of bureaucratic glitches. In a sense it is not different from Mr. Manmohan Singh’s model. It merely claims to be more efficient. There is no pretence for inclusion and it rests upon the efficacy of the trickle down effect of economic development. This can be challenged by an alternative model.

Mrs. Sonia Gandhi is attempting to do that but very incompetently.

The answer to the big business Modi-Apco model is not dishing out doles and subsidies left and right through an inefficient administration leading to national waste. The answer lies in effectively empowering the disadvantaged to exploit India’s rich human resource material.

As just one example, not a single party has pledged universal free compulsory education and the eradication of caste based reservation within the next five years by offering a concrete, credible and achievable roadmap. It is available. But it requires political courage to seize it. Other examples can be cited. But thus far no politician or party has displayed the will, the vision or the courage to attempt it. After all, such daring can be attempted only by leaders committed above all else to the national interest and not merely to immediate personal political gain.

29-Jun-2013
More by :  Rajinder Puri
 
Views: 1020
Article Comment Hi Sir,

Apologies if my comments offended you that much. I am not a Modi sycophant and the intention was not to offend you.
I am a great fan of your write-ups and have always followed them since one of my close friends recommended it to me. Yes, I have read a lot of your write-ups on Mainos. And have enlightened myself in pursuit of validating them.

It is just that after some of your articles on Modi, it seemed like you too have joined today's brigade of "I hate Modi so I am secular", "I hate Modi so I am liberal", blah blah..
I am one of those frustrated youth of this country who is filled with antipathy for Congress and the toothless Opposition. In such times "Modi" (despite his shortcomings) is perceived to be the one who can be the answer to our problems.

Do not get frustrated with frustrated youth like me.. :)
The need of the hour is to show us the right path.. The present media is anything but educating the youth.

Also would want an article from you on "Biju Janata Dal" and vis-a-vis the scary idea of a "Third front".

Keep enlightening..

Regards,
Anil
07/04/2013
Article Comment Mr puri,, good response but with no clarity - Tell us what we should make of these statements from you -

1."The author quoting facts and figures has effectively demolished many claims of the Gujarat Chief Minister. - " Why do you quote of all people abheek who is a cong(i) insider? Do you seriously think Abheek's article had real merit and has truth written all over it? Did Modi or even BJP really make a claim of rescuing 15000 gujaratis.The TOI report was so obscure,surreptitious read by very few people,I thought it was a trojan horse to beat the head of Modi.later events proved my suspicion

2."That was what Apco was being paid $25000 per month for doing" - the only paper who played this story is TOI, do you have proof that APCO paid TOI to plant this report?

3."Mr. Modi’s claimed commitment to economic development appeals to the rising new generation of young Indians. -" What do you mean by claimed commitment?He has demonstrated by way of action that development agenda in a purposeful way will take the country forward.

The problem you have is your discomfort in accepting modi as the leader to take India forward.You are right in saying that you perhaps would have been the only voice to oppose Sonia especially when persons like advani/sushma or Jaitley were keeping quiet.Probably that was the only reason I started taking interest in your writing.But then at a time when we need all the forces against this UPA government to unite and use a force/identity like Modi to bring in change, what we have is "on the one hand and on the other hand" kind of journalism where we finally will be left with no hand.As voters, let us back Modi to drive away this congi culture of loot and scoot.That is all we must focus on.This country has no magic wand.it doesn't have leaders of the stature of Sardar patel or the vision of Rajaji.The only one who is close to visionary is DrSwamy but then staid pusillanimous countrymen will not have cajones to back DrSwamy.They all want pliable men/women who can talk thro' both sides of their mouth.
shiv
07/02/2013
Article Comment I am truly astonished by all the comments from Modi fans. How is this following pasage from my article anti-Modi? "The strategy opted for Mr. Modi seems to be to marry both commitments and create a groundswell that might give the BJP single party majority which would promise the stability that most Indians desperately yearn for. And how will that marriage be consummated? By convincing India that the Hindu rate of economic growth can be replaced by the new Hindutva rate of economic growth that could make India a superpower. And Mr. Narendra Modi with his background and record as Gujarat Chief Minister is the man to accomplish it.This is a credible strategy and should not be dismissed out of hand. However there are serious pitfalls to overcome before it can succeed." I thought I was offering constructive criticism. Readers ask whether I can criticize the Mainos "with the same passion as criticizing Modi". I would like to inform all you gnoramuses that I have criticized the dynasty much more strongly THAN ANY BJP OR RSS LEADER INCLUDING MODI. You can go to the archives to confirm that. Despite charging five times Mrs Sonia Gandho with receiving KGB money and having an illegal Swiss bank account not one BJP leader could raise even a whimper of support. Mr. Gurumurthy was the one exception, but he too is a journalist.Why did the leaders including Modi remain dumb? If Modi is to win he must avoid all pitfalls. That is what I tried to point out. I forgot to mention one pitfall. He must beware of the stupid sycophants whose blind flattery might make him complacent! I had earlier resolved not to respond to any letters. But the level of ignorance displayed by these letters provoked me to break that resolve. It won't happen again.
my word
07/02/2013
Article Comment The patient is diagnosed with acute "Modi-phobia"... Get well soon and wake up..
Expecting you to have the same passion while ranting against the Mainos.
anil
07/02/2013
Article Comment There were polls by (1) Times Now and (2) Nielson which indicated that both UPA and NDA will not win majority in 2014 elections. These are two recent polls I am aware of. My prediction of Third Front victory is based on what I expect will happen not what I desire should happen. I dont have much expectations from a Third Front government. But what has to happen will happen whether you desire it or not. Whenever you look forward to future election results try to distinguish between what you like should happen and what is likely to happen.
P V Rajeev
07/01/2013
Article Comment I think it is premature to predict right now. The realignments of groupings are yet to take place. The positions of AIADMK, YSR Congress, Telangana Groups, Modi effect, Aam Admi movement and the role played by the younger generation of voters..., all these count.There is a possibility of realignment of Kashmir polity. This time, it is possible that Good Governance could be an issue.Price rise would also be the focus. I admire both Rajendra Krishnanji and Sri. P.V.Rajeev. During the run up to the elections, both these veterans may agree on several counts or agree to disagree. When would the elections be conducted also will count.
----
[Indian Journalists Discussions Group: Linkedin]
Harishchandra Bhat
07/01/2013
Article Comment Mr puri, i am unable to understand what goes on in your troubled mind to go on ranting about Modi.If you have something concrete, then say it with facts.Otherwise your writing on Modi is like farting in the wind.quoting a dubious journalist Abheek Barman is plain skulduggery as anyone who has little knowledge of barman will know that he is the son in law of union minister handique.One of your readers has also rubbished your APCO angle.Don't take us for idiots MrPuri, those jamana of pre internet days are over.Another thing, Times of India after the take over of the jains is a paper fit only for wiping the backside.They have totally destroyed whatever little credibility journalists had...What i think we are passing is strange times where the rulers have become brazen, where all kinds of rule of law is flouted.What I find extremely strange is that not even one journalist including yourself can go and interview sonia or rahul.Why this veil?At the moment, Modi is the only choice to throw out the dubious congis.If modi turns out to be useless as you claim, I am sure, my fellow Indians will find it far easier to throw him out as well with much lesser damage to this country than the current Gandhi dynasty.I thought with your background in Jan Sangh, your experience during janata party rule, will give us lay readers, who have no axe to grind other than this country ruled by people of caliber, some substance to what is going on but then you have turned out to be another pitiable washed out journalist drowning his sorrows in his "old monk" in whichever press club you choose to live in.
shiv
07/01/2013
Article Comment Mr Puri,
May be you should first check with APCO and confirm their actual relation with Modi before writing an entire article based on that assumption -

Please refer to economic times article where APCO has denied ever doing any work for Modi other than work for Gujarat Govt and that its contract with "only" the state government to promote the biennial Vibrant Gujarat Summit ended on March 31, 2013. A senior executive of Apco India said he hoped the statement will end once and for all the constant, albeit wrong recognition the company receives for promoting Modi. Apco, one of the largest and best-known lobbying firms in the US, has denied several times in the past any connection to the publicity campaign of Modi. In an earlier interview with ET Magazine, Margery Kraus, founder and CEO, Apco Worldwide, said, "We do not work for chief minister Modi and we do not speak for him."
bharat
06/30/2013
Article Comment There are three evils that flounders India. Over population, corruption, and pollution, for them there one key that is well intended education for people of
all ages.
pranlal sheth
06/30/2013
 
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