SIGNS THAT SHOW BJP IS WORRIED IN GUJARAT

First phase of Gujarat state election is over. The second phase is on 14 December and the results will be out on 18 December. But the chances for the BJP, which has ruled Gujarat since 1995, are not looking so bright this time. There are, in fact, signs that say the BJP may lose the polls this time. Signs, that reflect in pre-poll surveys and trends in election campaign.

PRE-POLL SURVEYS

An opinion poll just days before the first phase of Gujarat assembly election on 9 December projected it to be neck and neck contest between Congress and the BJP. The ABP-Lokniti-CSDS survey projected equal vote share for both parties at 43 per cent. According to the survey, BJP is expected to win 91-99 seats and Congress 78-86.

Though the survey still gives the BJP more seats, when we see it in continuation of its previous pre-election surveys, we can easily see the rising graph of Congress as the campaign is progressing. The same agency in its November survey had predicted 113-121 seats for the BJP and 58-64 for Congress while its August opinion poll had given the BJP even a wider margin projecting 144-152 seats for it against Congress’ 26-32 seats.

Another set of surveys by Times Now also shows a declining graph for the BJP. Its October survey gave the BJP 118-134 seats which came down to 106-116 seats in its December tally. On the other hand, though not much rosy, the Congress pie went up from 49-61 in October to 63-73 in December.

The BJP is facing 22 years of anti-incumbency and to make matters worse this time, there are factors that can derail its juggernaut there, Narendra Modi, demonetisation, GST, atrocities against Dalits and demands of Patel reservation. Narendra Modi is not the chief minister of the state and the CSDS opinion poll showed that the trading class is not happy with demonetisation and GST. And the biggest faces of Patel reservation protests and the movement against Dalit atrocities, Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mewani, are with Congress.

DEPLOYMENT OF A LARGE TEAM TO COUNTER ONE PERSON

The BJP has unleashed its full force in the Gujarat campaign. Apart from dozens of union ministers, many chief ministers and senior BJP leaders, Narendra Modi himself has devoted fulltime to the party’s prospects in Gujarat. He is addressing multiple rallies in a day with at least a big rally scheduled in every district of the state. Though Vijay Rupani is Gujarat’s chief minister, the BJP face in the Gujarat polls is no doubt Narendra Modi. And all this is to counter a single face from Congress, Rahul Gandhi, who has been pivot of Congress’ campaign.

RELEASE OF MANIFESTO IN THE 11TH HOUR

The BJP released its manifesto just a day before the first phase of Gujarat state election. Though the party quoted busy campaign schedule and technicalities behind this delay, the truth is, the BJP move came after Congress made it an electoral issue with Rahul Gandhi calling it a disrespect to the people of Gujarat. Congress had released its manifesto on 4 December.

RAHUL GANDHI’S UNORTHODOX MOVES

Two stands taken by Rahul Gandhi stand out here, saying he is a mature politician now and can take his journey as Congress’ president further. First, he had issued a written instruction to his party leaders last month not to launch personal attacks against Narendra Modi, seeing how a long list of below the belt comments by Congress leaders targeting Narendra Modi had hit the party’s electoral prospects, be it Sonia Gandhi’s ‘maut ka saudagar’ (merchant of death) or Mani Shankar Aiyar’s ‘chaiwala’ or his very own ‘khoon ki dalali’ in last year.

Second, he immediately got Mani Shankar Aiyar suspended from the Congress party for his ‘neech aadmi’ (vile man) comment on Modi saying, “The Congress has a different culture and heritage and I do not appreciate the tone and language used by Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer to address the PM and both, the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said.”

While asserting that “the BJP and PM routinely use filthy language to attack the Congress party”, Rahul, at the same time, denied the BJP the plausibility of using Congress’ personal attacks on Narendra Modi in its favour. And it is evident from the fact that Aiyar’s ‘neech aadmi’ jibe could not get much echo beyond few rallies.

RELIGION CARD

Rahul Gandhi started his Gujarat election campaign from Dwarka and has visited several temples across the state so far while on the campaign trail. He has declared his family and himself ‘Shiv bhakts’ (devotees of Lord Shiva) and is trying consciously to adopt the Soft Hindutva image to counter the BJP’s Hindutva politics. And it seems he has been successful so far in his attempts.

Otherwise the BJP would not have made Rahul Gandhi’s religion such a big issue, and that too based on a fake news. The BJP went big time saying Rahul was not a Hindu as he signed a non-Hindu visitor’s register during his Somnath Temple visit, a claim which was later refuted by the Somnath Temple trust.

‘DEVELOPMENT IN GUJARAT’ NARRATIVE MISSING

The BJP initially said its poll plank was all about development in Gujarat, something that would speak for itself. To counter it, Congress mounted a well-lubricated social media campaign focusing on ‘how development in the state had gone crazy’. But one look at BJP campaign speeches and one can easily see the development plank missing from there, something even its ally Shiv Sena pointed out today in its editorial Saamna.

DRAGGING PAKISTAN AND CHINA IN GUJARAT POLLS

The final days of campaigning in Gujarat has seen Narendra Modi and the BJP dragging in the issue of China and Pakistan meddling in Gujarat polls with Narendra Modi going as far as to allege that many including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a secret meeting involving the High Commissioner of Pakistan and an ex-Pakistani minister to discuss the Gujarat election.

There have also been allegations that Mani Shankar Aiyar colluded with Pakistan and even put out a contract to eliminate Narendra Modi. But the issue is not finding much traction as evident from the media coverage of elections. Apart from few news outlets, most of them are desisting from taking any stand on these allegations and counter-allegations.

©SantoshChaubey

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NEPAL EARTHQUAKE: UPDATES SO FAR – ON APRIL 27

— The death toll in Nepal has crossed the 4000 mark. It is expected to be in many thousands. The severity of a strong earthquake is revealing itself with each passing hour. The reconnaissance efforts are now reaching to the remote areas assessing the damage.

— Roads are broken. Cracks are wide and open. Rubble and debris have taken over the roads of cities. Access to places (villages and town) are coming in bits. Maximum reports available are from Kathmandu and the valley surrounding it. Agencies involved in rescue and relief efforts are now trying to reach other locations with help of choppers and aids.

— People are staying out and need blankets. Fear is universal psychosis there and that is natural after such a massive earthquake, the one after 1934. Aid teams are working to provide them relief while rescuing the trapped ones. Taking out people trapped and bodies from rubble are tough tasks and will take time. Already, there are more than 6500 injured. UNICEF says around 1 million children are in urgent need of help and thus we can imagine the count of homeless and displaced adults by this calamity.

— Rescue and relief agencies are working with power generators, engineers, medicinal supplies, doctors, earthquake relief personnel, buses, aircrafts and helicopters, radars, equipments, food material, water, daily-usage supplies, satellite equipments, etc., to help people in distress.

— Countries are evacuating their people stranded in Nepal. The figure for India, with historical and religious ties with Nepal, has already crossed over 2000 mark. Many countries have asked India for help. India is airlifting the stranded people there as well as is working to clear the roads to transport people through road-routes in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The government of Uttar Pradesh has set up four camps at India-Nepal border for the victims.

— In India, the death toll has already reached 72 with Bihar registering maximum number – 56. Uttar Pradesh has registered 13, West Bengal 3 and Rajasthan 1. China has said that its Tibet region has 20 people dead in earthquake incidents so far.

— Kathmandu airport (or Tribhuvan International Airport) remains a scene of chaos. Many people are waiting there to be evacuated but operations are not regular. Needy people are being given preference. At the moment, though the airport is now open, there is so much aid material is at the airport that it is hampering with the flight operations.

— Earthquakes and tremors have continued in Nepal. Two major earthquakes were on day-1, Saturday. The first one at 11:56 AM local time with a magnitude 7.8 was the severest one in country’s history after the 1934 earthquake of Nepal-Bihar. The landlocked nation faced another earthquake, measuring 6.6, at 12:30 PM on Saturday. Quakes followed many aftershocks that are expected to continue for days, and if we believe the comments of the scientific experts, may continue even for months and years. There are quakes and aftershocks yesterday and today. In India, Bihar and West Bengal faced another earthquake this evening. Its epicentre was in Mirik and it was measured at 5.1.

— India, being the country with direct road connectivity to Nepal and bigger role on global stage has strategic interests in the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reignited the ties and India is at forefront of the rescue and relief operations. It is also engaged in reconnaissance mission to assess the damage. Indian Army is conducting Operation Maitri to help in the landlocked nation in this hour of help. Over two dozen aircrafts have been put in service and many are on standby. Relief material and personnel are already there and more are being sent. Still more are on standby. India is also helping other countries, along with its own people, evacuating them as the situation is permitting. So far, over 2000 Indians have been evacuated from Nepal. Foreign nationals who are placing their requests are being issued free visas to their country via India.

— Indian Prime Minister and senior ministers are monitoring the R&R efforts. They are holding meetings every day. A team of senior officials from different ministries landed in Nepal today to coordinate with rescue and relief efforts.

— Nepal is strategically important, not just for India, but for Pakistan and China as well. Yes, it is driven by the crisis of the hour, and these two countries, along with other countries from the world community, aid agencies, NGOs and the United Nations are engaged in rescue and relief efforts in Nepal.

— Countries have started issuing travel advisories. Nepal, many parts of India and the affected regions of Himalaya are expected the face the results. USA, UK and Australia have advised their citizens to avoid Nepal in the near future. Darjeeling, Sikkim and Northeast India are expected to be affected from the resulting events.

— Kathmandu is destroyed beyond recognition. Very few buildings there can withstand an earthquake of this measure. Many localities are entirely wiped out. Many heritage structures are totally lost. Most of the buildings have suffered cracks and other damages.

— Overall, according to the United Nations, 6.6 million Nepalis are affected. Reports say Gorkhadistrict is hardest hit.

— In other parts of Nepal, with passing hours, the rescue teams are reaching and the extent of damage thus is widening its ambit every hour. Entire villages, be of 200, of 500, of 100, or 1500, or so, have been destroyed in the quake. Here, the number may be variable but death is a constant word. A report said the entire villagenear Lamjung, the epicentre of 7.8 quake, is totally destroyed leaving a trail of dead bodies. When the Nepali government is not able to help people in Kathmandu, we can imagine the plight of people in remote areas and towns.

— Avalanches, consequent to earthquakes, have killed 17 so far in the Mount Everest area, the world’s peak. According to the same report, the plans of over 300 to ascent the peak have been put on hold. South side of base camps are badly hit in avalanches. The way to the peak from China, the less popular one, has also been blocked for the time-being.

Related post:
NEPAL EARTHQUAKE: SO FAR, ON APRIL 26
https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/nepal-earthquake-so-far-on-april-26/

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

DELHI ASSEMBLY POLLS: WHERE CONGRESS CAN PITCH IN

THE QUESTIONS

1. Can Congress expect the intervening one year will help it recover some lost ground expecting the time may abate the feeling of anger against the Congress led previous union government?

2. Would the party be able to draw mileage from ‘AAP breaching the trust of Delhi voters by deserting the Delhi government in just 49 days’ to increase its tally?

3. Even if the seven months of Narendra Modi led NDA government have performed exceedingly well on the foreign policy front, the government has nothing much to talk about positive changes back home beyond declaring some major policy changes, policy announcements and structural changes. There is some time before the nation would be able to realize the impact of these changes and thus their scope and scale. Would Congress be able to open a window of opportunity for itself here?

4. Everyone is writing Congress off. Analysts are predicting it to be a Congress Vs AAP contest this time. Can Congress leverage this position of ‘hopelessness’ around it to concentrate on ground work? After all, from a historic low, any gains, especially in Delhi, the national capital of India, would be morally boosting for the party?

5. Congress has chosen Ajay Maken, the senior Congress and former union minister, as its campaign head for the upcoming assembly polls. Would Maken be able to make any difference for Congress? As a minister and as Congress spokesperson and media cell in charge, he failed to leave any impact. The scene of Rahul Gandhi intervening in a press conference being addressed by Maken justifying the government ordinance on convicted lawmakers saying the ordinance was ‘a complete nonsense’ is still fresh in our memories.

6. Ajay Maken and Shiela Dikshit were seen as political rivals in Congress politics. Now, even the staunchest of Sheila Dikshit’s critics feel difficulty in rubbishing the fact that Delhi witnessed significant development under her three terms. Sheila Dikshit has welcomed the Congress move of choosing Maken. Would Maken be able to put aside differences building on the work done by Sheila Dikshit giving her thus the credit?

7. Ajay Maken was appointed on the day the Delhi assembly polls 2015 were announced. Some pre-poll surveys on the same day projected even more fall for the party, from its all time low of 2013 assembly polls. Though Congress won two seats in the Delhi Cantonment Board polls on the day, such small scale electoral exercises can never be the criteria to think about legislative assembly polls. Will Congress, away from making empty rhetoric, be able to take cues from the past year and from such pre-poll projections to fine tune its strategy including its chief-ministerial name and candidates to mount a credible challenge to other parties in the fray?

8. Moreover, will Congress be able to recalibrate its aim based on the reality of prevailing circumstances to concentrate its efforts on maximizing the winning ratio, even if in a modest range, a reality for the Congress of the day?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

ABHINANDAN RALLY LETDOWN: BJP NEEDS TO FIND ANSWERS BEFORE MODI’S NEXT DELHI RALLY

Reportedly, BJP is in thinking mode after lacklustre response to Narendra Modi’s rally at Ramlila Ground on Saturday while Aam Aadmi Party leaders are tweeting about the ‘poor turnout’. AAP leader Ashutosh has even written a piece titled ‘Modi’s Delhi rally has AAP relieved’.

BJP was eyeing a crowd of around one lakh while The Hindu said the gathering was 35,000 quoting the Delhi Police sources. Overall, the estimations range in 35,000 to 40,000 bracket.

It is quite a letdown for the central leadership of BJP and going by the stern image of Narendra Modi, he is not going to let it go.

But that doesn’t matter for voters, who in spite of being a non-working day, Saturday, didn’t turnout in numbers as BJP strategists had expected.

Now, nothing can be written on the basis of this one rally only.

There might be reasons like the intense cold wave when people prefer to stay indoors, under warmth of quilts. In such a situation, attending a political rally would be a ‘tough decision’ even for most of the Modi supporters who can enjoy the full speech in real time on live broadcasts.

Also, the much talked about factions of Delhi BJP, the reluctance on the part of the members of parliament who all are from BJP in bringing people to the venue or Delhi’s leaders being miffed with Satish Upadhyay’s efforts to project his chief-ministerial claims can be the reasons for thin crowd from Modi’s standards this time.

Though worried, the BJP central leadership would like to see this ‘letdown’ more as a ‘mismanagement’ issue than a ‘waning interest in Modi’.

But that doesn’t mean the party doesn’t need to engage in some serious soul-searching.

After all, the usual hallmark of Narendra Modi’s Delhi rallies has been crowds in lakhs as we saw in some big rallies preceding it. This situation was like if there was a crowd of some 2-3 lakh against the expectation of 4-5 lakh, it would be seen as ‘less than expected’ outcome.

Also, the Saturday rally was only after seven months of the absolute high of May results of the Lok Sabha polls where BJP swept the scene winning all seven parliamentary constituencies and leading in 60 of the 70 assembly segments falling in these constituencies.

Also, a report on social media trends on ‘Abhinandan Rally’, as the Saturday rally was projected, failed to earn talking points. Modi’s rallies during poll campaigns of last Delhi assembly polls and Lok Sabha election would normally be among the top trending social media events.

But ‘Abhinandan Rally’ remained a non-entity this time. Instead, #DelhiAsksPMModi on Modi’s promises for Delhi was trending on Twitter.

Also, the same report attributes it to differences between BJP’s IT Cell and Samvad Cell (social media cell). So, here as well, BJP can find a reason to think the failure is not calamitous and is a matter attributable to mismanagement that can be worked out.

But it is more than that. It is not about hashtags created and promoted by parties. It is about the overall social media behaviour that picks up a hashtag based on the popularity or notoriety of an event, irrespective of who created it. The #mufflerman hashtag, initially created to mock Arvind Kejriwal, has indeed become a top Twitter trend about the content lauding him and is creating positive vibes.

So, before the next election rally in Delhi, BJP needs to come with the answers that the yesterday’s rally created – of mismanagement or if the interest is really waning and if so, then ‘why’ of it and how to address this ‘why’ – to have a rally of the stature of Narendra Modi’s popularity, because the next letdown would have a negative ripple effect.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MODI TAKES ON AAP, AAP TAKES ON MODI AND QUESTIONING BEGINS

THE QUESTIONS

1. Narendra Modi formally launched BJP’s poll campaign for the Delhi assembly polls from the Ramlila Ground today. Modi is expected to be the main card of BJP with an intensive campaigning revolving around him. Is BJP forced to ride on the Modi Wave once again as the party has no face even remotely near to Arvind Kejriwal’s popularity as Delhiites’ chief-ministerial choice as every pre-poll survey so far has projected?

2. Modi pushed big for the ‘electricity sop’ promising 24-hour supply and freedom to choose from among the discoms based on their rate cards. Will it be an effective counter to Aam Aadmi Party’s promise of slashing the electricity tariff by half given the fact that AAP did reduce the electricity tariff during its 49-day government as promised in the poll campaign?

3. Will the ‘deserter tag’ be enough for BJP to counter AAP and win the elections with clear majority?

4. Alternatively, will Kejriwal’s popularity as the most preferred chief-ministerial choice be enough to check the hostile sentiments on Kejriwal and AAP deserting Delhi just after 49 days and pushing Delhi to remain without a government for almost a year and mobilize the voters to give AAP full majority?

5. Or AAP would be able to deflect some of the blame to BJP for leaving Delhi without a government for almost a year as we continuously came across developments where AAP demanded fresh polls but BJP sounded non-committal?

6. Given the tone of Modi and thus the BJP rally, taking on AAP directly using terms like ‘masters of lies’ and AAP’s counter presser in the evening hitting back using equally acerbic terms like ‘master of empty speeches’ – was the tone of an all out ‘Modi Vs Kejriwal’ and thus ‘BJP Vs AAP’ verbal war set today?

7. Though Arvind Kejriwal said today that he would refrain from responding to personal attacks, but can he be trusted for it given his high intensity activist mode of campaigning? He has gone as far as to camping in Gujarat, where he has no base, to dig dirt and target Modi.

8. Over half an hour speech of Narendra Modi was largely focused on AAP. AAP’s presser was to counter Modi’s speech during the rally at the Ramilia Ground. Though Modi took on Congress, it was basically an AAP driven rally. Is the triangular contest of 2013 assembly polls is reduced effectively to a BJP Vs AAP contest in 2015?

9. Sheila Dikshit on Thursday said Congress could again support AAP in forming the government. Doesn’t it convey the Congress leadership has already accepted that it is fighting a lost battle?

10. Both, Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal, are perceived as incorruptible at personal level. How would it affect the mood of the campaigning?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MODI’S MASSIVE ROAD-SHOW: DAY 2 IN VARANASI, BEFORE THE CAMPAIGNING ENDS ON MAY 10

GENERAL ELECTIONS 2014

Modi’s road-show in Varanasi, from the helipad of Banaras Hindu University to the city office of the BJP, and the huge crowd moving with it is a classic case of how the decisions taken in frustration and panic boomerang – in this case the initial denial of the permission to the rallies of Narendra Modi in Varanasi and the subsequent flip-flop by the Varanasi district administration resulting in the delayed permission over Modi’s rallies that boomeranged and hit back massively.

And the way the BJP has exploited the developments, it shows undoubtedly a sound presence of mind and an equally sound campaign management by the BJP core team.

It is praiseworthy if seen from a neutral analytical perspective.

If seen from the campaign management angle, the refusal of the ‘delayed’ permission for Modi’s Beniabagh rally and Ganga Aarti by the BJP was a masterstroke, a deft move that resulted in an almost 5 Kms long road-show with people on both sides of the road that just ended after spending quite a long time (over 3 hours) on Varanasi roads.

And there was much more crowd on the roads and in the streets than it was visible on the TV screens.

The flip-flop by the district administration and also by the Election Commission gave the BJP an opportunity to create a media spectacle of playing the victim card that sidelined any possibility of the steps that the administration could have taken in the name of maintaining law and order situation asking Narendra Modi to avoid the road-show.

Managing the crowd at Narendra Modi’s rally was much easier than managing the people’s outpour throughout the stretch of Modi’s trip to the BJP office.

The fact that Modi’s caravan crisscrossed the city through its most crowded areas like Sonarpura, Shivala, Godowlia and Luxa, and that too, during the rush evening hours, when traffic moves inch by inch, only exacerbated the misery of the city administration as it could not say no to Modi after the fiasco yesterday.

Any more ‘no’ could have resulted in more protests by the BJP compounding the gains from the wave of sympathy (obviously due to the ‘victim card’ that the BJP earned yesterday) when the polls were just three days away.

And this trip, from the BHU helipad to the central election office of the BJP in Varanasi, that was technically not a road-show, indeed became a massive show of strength with people thronging the Modi cavalcade throughout the entire stretch.

Narendra Modi and the BJP score handsomely here.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

A POLITICALLY ENLIGHTENED ARVING KEJRIWAL IS REACHING VARANASI NEXT MORNING

GENERAL ELECTIONS 2014

Arvind Kejriwal has left for Varanasi and is reaching there the next morning to pick the thread of campaigning that he had initiated last month. Almost three weeks have passed since then.

During these three weeks, Kejriwal, on one fine day, got the half-baked enlightenment that pushed him to say that the time chosen to leave the Delhi government was wrong.

While saying this in a half-hearted temper, Kejriwal put his moral on the higher pedestal declaring the move a tactical miscalculation as the Delhiites could not understand his puritan motive.

And now, with this enlightenment (political) that has lighten the burden of his heart, he is reaching the city of Lord Shiva tomorrow to set in motion his campaigning that is directed against defeating Narendra Modi.

And like an enlightened soul, Kejriwal expects to be hit again, but not now. He says, in a way of saying, that in real terms of thrashing, the real thrashing stands postponed, that he is safe until the elections are over as any more thrashing attempt may ‘boomerang’ and may benefit Kejriwal and AAP electorally. His enlightenment says the ‘real’ thrashing will come after the Lok Sabha polls.

(The alter-ego to his enlightenment says that it is logical that these thrashings should stop for now as these have failed to produce any electoral wave of sympathy for AAP/Arvind Kejriwal.)

And like an enlightened politician, Kejriwal now sounds like accepting a defeat (in Varanasi and elsewhere) in the garb of moral victory, expecting that the unexpected could, somehow, happen. He is seeking ‘truth’ to defeat forces like BJP and Narendra Modi (he doesn’t consider Congress a worthy adversary anymore!).

He says: “What is needed is the path of truth… This is what happened in the Delhi election too. People used to then remark that we had no money. I agreed. But I told everyone that we were on the path of truth. We need to stick to that.”

And with this enlightened thinking, he is reaching Varanasi the next morning to take on Narendra Modi who is busy crisscrossing the country. Refusal of Mukhtar Ansari (that has left the Muslim votes available to others) has already given him a boost before the next leg of his Varanasi stay as he can expect to mobilize the Muslim votes in his favour now.

(The alter-ego to this enlightenment says the deal with Mukhtar Ansari to consolidate the anti-Narendra Modi votes is indeed a political requirement of the electoral scene of now in Varanasi though the ‘truth-seeker’ in Kejriwal rubbishes reports of any deal with the don-turned-politician who is in jail for rioting, murder and other charges, even if Mukhtar’s brother claims to have the CCTV footage of AAP leaders in meeting with him to discuss the possibility of Mukhtar leaving the Varanasi seat.)

And with this enlightened political persona, Kejriwal is reaching Varanasi to hit the campaign trail, banking on the strength of his ‘truth’.

Varanasi has been electorally-politically interesting right from the day Narendra Modi announced his candidature. Kejriwal only added to it. And now, a politically enlightened, truth-seeker Kejriwal is going to add even more spice to it.

Some pretty interesting days (electorally-politically) ahead folks!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

AAP: TREND-SETTING TAKEAWAYS FOR 2014 GENERAL ELECTIONS CAMPAIGN FROM FOUR-STATE POLL RESULTS ON DECEMBER 8

What are the trend-setting takeaways for the 2014 General Elections campaign from the outcome of the four assembly elections held this November-December the results of which were announced on December 8 (Mizoram, being one Lok Sabha seat only, doesn’t matter for the mainstream political parties when it comes to the electoral equations and thus the political calculations to devise strategies and design campaigns).

Delhi or no Delhi – Aam Aadmi Party needs to play it down to play it longer:

Yes, AAP now needs a special mention here. Though just a regional party at the moment with just one electoral performance in Delhi in its bag, it has stirred the established notions of the current political establishment in India. Barring few, almost everyone was dismissive of the new outfit until the results came on December 8. They are now expressing their desire to learn from ‘how AAP did it’.

And yes, what a surprisingly pleasant entry it has been. A voice to the suppressed and expressed desire of political change in India!

Delhi may not have a government for the next six months with President Rule in place after the hung-assembly verdict. As the Lok Sabha polls are scheduled by April-May, holding another assembly election in Delhi should not be an issue. In fact, it should be seen as a welcome opportunity.

AAP needs to focus on consolidating its Delhi gains and should design its campaign in a way so as to not to waste its efforts and energy in widening its base out of Delhi so soon.

Widening base – for any political outfit, that is important. But AAP needs to play it differently. It needs to play down its Delhi feat until it gets comfortably in the office and starts running the show of governance comfortably as well.

It needs to prove it first in the office. Expanding from there would be the next logical step. It needs to see it does not become another AGP (Asom Gana Parishad).

Expanding beyond Delhi needs considerable resources in terms of time and finance availability. Also, demography of Delhi that made AAP the real winner of the Delhi polls is not there in the small town and hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar or Maharashtra or any other state of the country. Also, Arvind Kejriwal is not JP. Even Anna Hazare could not be.

So, it is important for the party to set its priorities right to move further, to expand its political footprint, to design a campaign for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls (and possibly for the Delhi assembly repoll).

With Delhi as mainstay for its Lok Sabha election campaigning (and possibly for assembly seats in case of repoll), its campaign should focus on demographic pockets of the country with similarities to Delhi to expand its base.

Obviously it is going to be the urban centres first. It is going to be the people at the bottom of the pyramid, the middle-class and the youth of urban areas who are going to be in dialogue with AAP first. Once that happens across the urban pockets of the country, taking it to the small town and rural areas will follow.

But that needs time.

Watch to see an interesting trend analysis unveiling!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

NARENDRA MODI BEGINS: THE EXPECTED KEY ELEMENTS FROM THE FIREWORK THAT IS GOING TO BE ON DISPLAY

It has already begun. The Reuters interview should be seen as the formal announcement – timed and worded the Narendra Modi way!

It is just a matter of time when Narendra Modi is declared the NDA’s prime-ministerial nominee. Anyway, he is already calling the shots. He has started writing the script of BJP’s and NDA’s strategy to approach the upcoming assembly and parliamentary elections.

As expected, it is going to be the reflection of the Narendra Modi style of politics and is going to be based on the experiences gained in Gujarat. And it has to be seen in the light of the growing realization among the majority of the BJP leaders that a wider deviation from the core Hindutva ideology has harmed the party, especially in absence of someone like Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

This would certainly push the party and the coalition strategists to push for a ‘mix’ of religion and politics that could serve the twin purposes of – not looking too deviant on the core Hindutva ideology as well as not sounding communal while wooing the voters on the religious line.

And Narendra Modi has been doing it exceedingly well in Gujarat, especially after 2007 when he won the state the second time.

And so, the cardinal elements of the script are expected to be:

A greater emphasis on the Hindutva branding: As already indicated in the Reuters interview where Modi reiterated himself to be a Hindu nationalist first.

An increasing mix of the hardline ideology as the time progresses: More in sync with the RSS thought process – to stir the voter’s thinking pattern with the notions of Hindu identity and the Hindu pride!

Religion and politics to gel even more deeply: Yes, the BJP may not make the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya an election issue but it is only because the party knows its support groups like the VHP or its ideological mentor RSS would do this bit.

But the party would keep talking about it in varying degrees as Amit Shah spoke about the temple during his Ayodhya visit recently. Expect Modi to polarize and exploit the religious sentiments of Hindus to unite them across the divided Hindu votebanks on similar lines.

‘Gujarati Pride’ to prop up the ‘Indian Pride’: ‘Gujarati Asmita or Gujarati Pride’ has created a huge pro-Modi middle class votebank across the different caste lines in Gujarat. It pulls the affluent class and the Diaspora as well. Modi would love to rake up the imagination of Indians for their position in the globalized world, a not so encouraging picture at all. He would talk and eulogize the Gujarat development putting it in context of the BJP’s performance in the party-run states. The development plank would run parallel to the religious plank.

Expect more of the comparisons like with China and other neighbours as Modi elaborated on in his Pune speech on July 14. The meekness of the Manmohan Singh’s government in dealing with China, Pakistan and other neighbours as well as acting coy in dealing with the global powers like the US can be exploited very well. And there are plenty of such issues.

Besides these are the routine pot-boiler elements like the UPA corruption or the price rise or the falling Rupee.

Elections in a country like India are not fought on statistical manipulations like what the Congress tried to do by putting a point-by-point rebuttal targeting the Narendra Modi’s Pune speech a day after.

In a country that has not had the history of distinguishing between ‘status quo’ and ‘progress’ as the election plank, elections are fought by creating stronger elements of perception putting the adversary in the negative light. Yes, having a pro-development image is an added advantage. And Narendra Modi as the most popular political leader in the country with the twin advantages of being ‘pro-religious’ and ‘pro-development’ looks far more capable than any other leader in any political outfit to deliver it.

So be ready for the fireworks. Narendra Modi knows a small spark lit by him creates a huge fireball taking every political opponent within its reach. And he seems to be enjoying it. That is what he is looking for.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

BHARAT NIRMAN-2: MAY WELL PROVE TO BE THE UPA’S VERY OWN INDIA SHINING!

It was over Rs. 150 crore for the ‘India Shining’ campaign in 2004. It was around Rs. 200 crore for the ‘Bharat Nirman’ campaign in 2009. Figures available till February 2012 show the UPA-2 government has already spent Rs. 2246 crore on advertisements.

To begin the campaign season formally, the government recently re-launched the ‘Bharat Nirman’ campaign with a reported budget of Rs 35 crore for an initial run of 15 days. Overall, the Javed Akhtar-Pradeep Sarkar output is expected to cost a whopping Rs. 180 crore.

But, for the UPA and the Congress party, the picture is not as rosy as it was in 2009.

The Congress party led UPA-2 government that is completing four years in office on May 22 has become synonymous with corruption. Scams like 2G spectrum allocation, coal blocks allocation, Commonwealth Games, many Defence deal scams and scams in projects that helped the UPA-1 win the 2009 elections like the farm debt waiver and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act have created an abysmally low credibility scenario for the government.

With the forced ouster of the two cabinet ministers, Ashwani Kumar from the Law & Justice ministry and Pawan Kumar Bansal, from the Railway ministry, the debates on the possibility of early General Elections, otherwise to be scheduled around May 2014, have got a step-up.

The only breather for the Congress party and the UPA is the absence of a united and clean opposition. The major opposition party BJP just lost the Karnataka assembly elections fought on the main issue of corruption, to the Congress. Important regional parties like Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Nationalist Congress Party, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Rashtriya Jatna Dal, Janta Dal (United), have had history of corruption with tainted leaders.

Also, in spite of growing corruption allegations and involvement of the UPA members in scams, the Congress party has been able to win assembly elections of Assam, Kerala, Manipur, Puducherry, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and now Karnataka in the second term of the UPA when the political and bureaucratic corruption have touched the newer heights. That makes the Congress strategists think that the ‘public memory is short and it can easily be swept away in the impulse of the moment’.

The strategy makers in the Congress party believe the populist schemes focusing on the rural India and marginalized population segments of the urban India could still help the Congress party win over the upcoming elections in case of a fractured opposition.

And so, the Congress party has already started working, in full throttle, on its campaign for the General Election 2014 with the launch of ‘Bharat Nirman’ version-2.

But, going by the indications and the negative sentiments against the Congress, its many leaders including Manmohan Singh as well as against the ‘Gandhis’ after the alleged Robert Vadra cover-ups, ‘Bharat Nirman’, this time, may well prove to be the UPA’s very own ‘India Shining’.

After all, every Javed Akhtar and every Pradeep Sarkar creation has not been a hit. They have had their share of duds.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/