As the world’s biggest democratic exercise draws to a close, it’s time to take a myopic view of the way the political campaign of BJP has been marketed in 2014. If one goes by what the Exit Polls are predicting then the man from Wadnagar, Narendrabhai Damodar Das Modi, is all set to occupy the 7, Race Course Road. But there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip as skeptics would say. So let’s wait and watch till May 16.
Irrespectively, Modi and his team should get credit for putting up the most eclectic and multifarious political campaign seen in India’s electoral history. Remember the early 1950s, 60s and 70s when politics was considered to be a contest of ideas, ideologies and even over powering principles for the good of the country. Cut to 2014 and it’s all about who can sell their product better? Who can convince the voter with his marketing strategy? Who can politicize the pains and miseries of the electorate? Isn’t this an age of crass commercialization of politics?
Well, results will be out in two days from now and I have a prayer for Narendra Modi. Mr Modi, you began the campaign with the thunder and thud of development and governance in the initial phases while trying to establish your credentials on the national terra firma. You were aware that if you don’t speak the language of development, people won’t pay heed to you. You gave people the hope that you were the man with a magic wand. You held out a mirror to the Indian voter that there’s no alternative to you.
And while you were heli-hopping from one state to the other, you ensured that people paid rasp attention to the Gujarat model of development despite its loopholes as pointed out by the critics. Were you playing the role of a neta with a vision or a man with brilliant marketing skills trying to sell dreams to the people of India? I am too young to call you by names, but Sir you are a man with extremely predatory marketing instincts which would outfox even the brightest minds in the Silicon Valley. They must be wondering, how this man achieved what the Pied Piper of Hamlin did and drove out people in hordes.
The credit for the large voter participation goes, of course, to the Election Commission against whom you and your party launched a vilified campaign for not allowing you to hold a rally at Beniabagh in Varanasi. With just one brush you painted a venerable institution like EC as the biggest villain.
Mr Modi, did you not like a corporate CEO preside over the nuances of the campaign imagining unachievable targets like 300 plus. Like any marketing honcho, you set your eyes only on the targets, but what about the cadres on the ground? The cadres are definitely upbeat but you have burdened their shoulders with insurmountable targets. For a second, just keep the Exit Polls aside as they have been wronged in the past. If that’s the case what happens to your dream of becoming PM? How will you face the voters who have parked all their hopes on you? Are you prepared to face questions on manufactured Modi wave? Where was the Modi wave? Were you duping voters? Were you entrapping the electorate with your high octane campaign? Some will perceive you as committing the cardinal sin of duping the electorate with wild unconceivable dreams and creating a mirage in a desert. One would not be surprised to see you booked under the Drugs and Magical Remedies Act, Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practises Act or even the Consumer Protection Act.
Pardon me for my vivid imagination, for I know I’m imagining a bit too much, but I have taken a leaf out of your book.
Mr Modi, towards the last three rounds of polling you had mastered the art of conducting yourself in the caste driven belt of Uttar Pradesh. You were never a casteist but you skilfully distorted the campaign and gave it the shape and colour of a casteist discourse. It didn’t take you long to abandon your development and growth agenda and aggressively indulge in the caste rhetoric. You knew how to sell yourself in Uttar Pradesh. You consolidated and polarised the Hindu-Muslim votes to your advantage. Not to forget how you morphed the Neechi rajneeti remark of your daughter like Priyanka Gandhi. Your Chai Pe Charcha campaign did create ripples but you took it to a different level and began playing the OBC victim card. Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar dared you to sell tea at Congress office and you took that challenge as an opportunity. Hey Modiji, don’t feel shy that Mani Shankar Aiyar gave you and your party the idea to use this Chaiwala phrase for your campaign speeches. You should thank him. I don’t know whether you’ll do that.
Despite all this you deserve a pat on your back for your marketing skills and ability to commercialise these elections as any fast moving consumer good. Other parties, be it the Congress or other regional forces, have failed to market themselves like you could. You have emerged victorious with your vicious branding and advertising campaign.
Lastly, you dismissed the Aam Aadmi Party chief as AK 49, but what if he continues to give you sleepless nights even after you take over as PM. Will he not take you on with the accusations of being close to Adanis and how land was doled out to them at Re 1 per square metre in Gujarat? He could also target you for being a communal prime minister. The opposition might be on a weak footing but what if this fledgling party (read AAP) rises like a Phoenix to asphyxiate your aspirations. Pause for a second and think about it. For the moment, I know you are soaking in the success of the Exit Polls, but 7 Race Course abhi door hai. But what if the numbers don’t go in your favour, will you be leading another UPA in the NDA garb? Will allies not extract their pound of flesh from your vegetarian personality?
Elections are as unpredictable as the game of cricket and one should expect googlies at the death overs. For now three cheers for the excellent marketer Narendra Modi whose campaign was the best in the bazaar of Indian politics. You will go down in the history as a marketing guru surely. Hurrah! But, the real winner is the Indian voter.