Modi’s win is a PR triumph: The anatomy of political PR

Forty five days of hard campaigning has led to this moment. The BJP, or should I say, Narendra Modi has swept the elections reducing the Congress to its worst ever performance and lowest vote share ever at the hustings. The BJP is the first party since 1984 to get a complete majority on its own – pushing away three decades of coalition politics and powerful regional satraps.

The Congress is still struggling to come to terms with its loss, in fact if it gets less than 55 seats it will not even be eligible to be the main opposition party. Key Congress ministers are trailing and Congress party leader Salman Khursheed is way behind at number five in the Farrukabad constituency.

Rahul Gandhi, who was away and has just returned (once again prompting remarks about his leadership at crucial moments), has a slim lead at the time of uploading this story.

One of the most remarkable results in the elections is the BJP sweep of Uttar Pradesh – the political heartbeat of India. The man from Gujarat has managed to win Uttar Pradesh as well.

Modi ran what is probably the best political communication campaign in recent history. Let’s take a look at 6 aspects of the Modi campaign ever since he announced his candidature as Prime Minister in September last year:

  • The BJP  found a central brand message in the personality of Narendra Modi

The BJP refreshed its entire messaging through the persona of Narendra Modi. Modi’s self–projection as a man of action, a man with answers, a man of development and a man of progress was extremely successful. All of his campaign messages came down to a hard sell of a central message of aspiration as opposed to the Congress party’s message of poverty alleviation hand outs.

  • A Thali of messages

Modi’s messaging was both broad and specific to various audiences – much like a Gujarati food thali. Depending on the audience he talked about development, jobs, progress. The caste issue was used successfully and the “neech jati” comment strategically used to silence the growing charm of Priyanka Gandhi.

  • Sticky issues were handled well

Even as the Congress party struggled to deal with issues such as dynasty politics and dual centres of power, Modi and the BJP handled the Gujarat riots issue well. He did not apologise, but instead offered an alternate messaging comprising development, jobs, 24 hour electricity supply and growth. In the absence of a fresh message from the Congress that would meet the growing hunger among Indians for material comfort, the Modi messaging behemoth managed to dim the Gujarat riots issue. The politicisation of poverty as a message no longer works in India – Modi was the first to get that.

  • Modi won the personality battle

Even as the Congress protested that parliamentary democracies are not about individuals’, Indians were looking to lock on to a messiah who would solve their issues. Helped by a supportive media – the Modi personality cult thrived. The old guard was eased out – helping him present his own priorities. While Rahul Gandhi looked weak, indecisive, boring and evasive about committing to the ultimate responsibility of leading the Congress, Modi looked like a man of action who would take responsibility, there was no doubt who was in control of the BJP. Gandhi loyalists have not helped by continuing to attempt to insulate Rahul from the responsibility of their worst ever performance – sending out a message of a party who still hasn’t understood what the consumer wants.

  • Modi most branded leader in history

Whether it was the chai pe charcha or the 3D rallies and live chats, Modi used every medium possible to stay in touch. Reports say that Modi stamped clothing was sold out and several biographies written on him. He has emerged as the most branded Indian leader in history – the Modi masks a visible sign of that branding.

  • Too much projection of perfection

If there is a flaw in Modi’s communication strategy, he has been over projected as the perfect messiah. As most brand managers would know too much perfection is bad for the brand – there is no room to fail. As Modi has the numbers to push whatever reforms and changes he wants – anything less than a change in the lives of India will cause a backlash.

Written by Paarul Chand

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