Yogi Adityanath has done well as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and it is a matter of shame if the BJP cannot capitalise on that
If you were to believe the buzz on social media, the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) is apparently nervous about the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections and is apprehensive about the outcome. That is a shame given the stupendous work done by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the past five years, improving every aspect of the most populous state of India with chronic issues of corruption, crime, backwardness and communal unrest.
While the BJP seems to be taking no chances in exploring various political alliances and ties-ups, it is its failure in utilising advanced electioneering techniques that might make things difficult for the saffron party in the 2022 polls. It seems the BJP wants to prove that professional election management teams using modern marketing techniques have little influence on the voter.
Most BJP elections are nevertheless managed by dedicated party workers, but let’s face it they are no match to professional election management techniques used by the likes of Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) plush with hundreds of crores of rupees. Most political parties have realised the strength of this propaganda-type of electioneering management and hired some of the top talents in the country using advanced technologies to capture the minds of voters.
Elections are a perception game.
It is not about what you did but what voters perceive what you did. It is about capturing what is in the mind of voters and giving the impression that you will address them in full earnest if given their vote. This is not to say the money power used to woo voters by corrupt politicians has no influence.
But with nearly half of the Indian population using smartphones today, especially young and aspirational voters, there is enormous influence that can be made with the use of technology. In fact, technology and sophisticated marketing can be used to affect the thinking of every section of the public.
With smart memes, catchy phrases, video songs and arduous reaching out to voters in every nook and corner through road trips with video walls, while using the latest big data and AI techniques, these professional election outfits are doing just what a product marketing team would do.
Just look at the activities of I-PAC in the recent elections in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, and it is not a rocket science to emulate and even do better than them. A simple reading of articles shows the level of planning and perfectness of execution of elections in these states.
It shows that it matches any well-run, high-blitz multi-million dollar marketing company trying to market a product. Just one song “Ravali Jagan, Kaavali Jagan”, released just before the Andhra elections, got more than two crore views. There is no doubt that events such as temple trips of YS Jaganmohan Reddy and TMC’s Nusrat Jahan’s participation in a Durga Puja festivity are well planned and orchestrated.
No one understands the use of technology and perception games better than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is known to be one of the earliest adopters of technology and his use of digital technology whether it is Narendra Modi App for smartphones, constant interactions with sections of society through Mann ki Baat, et al, is well known.
Modi himself travelled lakhs of miles criss-crossing the country during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections which was professionally managed by people like Prashant Kishor along with technology entrepreneurs like Rajesh Jain. Amit Shah himself orchestrated a brilliant campaign in Uttar Pradesh in 2014, reaching out to every part of the state that led to stupendous success.
All these are seemingly being jettisoned with only Modi being used as a sole campaign star. This is while the adoption of technology has immensely increased in the country and there are an increasing number of young as well as older voters who are using technology in every aspect of their lives. When elections are won by thin margins, this becomes even more important.
What is stopping the BJP from creating a Yogi Adityanath app, or coming out with powerful songs/memes on what the UP Chief Minister has done in the last five years, how it was before he was chief minister, and how it has improved. There are 300 MLAs who should be campaigning, bringing attention to voters with video walls on how bad things were and how much it changed in every village. There are many such ideas if we involve bright minds and develop them.
In the 1984 US presidential election campaign, Ronald Reagan, who was seeking his second term, used just one line that propelled him to easy win: “Are you not better than you were four years ago?” Yogi Adityanath has well during his five-year term and it is a matter of shame if the BJP cannot capitalise on that.
Will the party step up its campaign now? If not, it will have only itself to blame.
The writer is a US-based activist who has played a critical role in the introduction of paper trail for India’s Electronic Voting Machines called VVPAT. Views expressed are personal.