May 23rd will go down in history as a red-letter day in the modern political history of India. Several things happened as counting of votes progressed and concluded.
- Narendra Modi was slated for a thumping win and a solid second term. First time ever for a non-Congress PM that two five-year terms have been mandated.
- The only other national party was decimated once again with Rahul Gandhi having to cut a sorry figure.
- Most regional parties who were hoping to cobble a coalition called the third front were also left in tatters.
- Two non-aligned parties (YSR Congress and Trinamool managed to get around 22 seats each and DMK aligned with the Congress got around 23 seats). Among these the former led by Jagan Reddy stands out.
- In the largest state UP, the BJP managed to retain its hold with about 64 out of the 80 seats leaving the grand alliance in shambles.
Well, one can write pages of such facts and trivia but I’m sharing just five for now. This column links the learning one can get from the campaigns of the parties that won and lost to everyday public relations.
I had written five years ago that Public Relations had won but this time I have no hesitation in saying that the Narendra Modi Template of Public Relations was victorious.
What are the takeaways for PR practitioners from this grand product called Narendra Modi?
- Be seen and be heard- Narendra Modi ran a campaign for 2019 from the time he was sworn in in 2014. Inviting heads of state from neighbouring states was an innovative idea and that scene is still etched in millions of minds.
- Rockstar style- Everything Narendra Modi sets out to do is fashioned around how rock stars carry themselves. Large arenas, loud speeches, memorable lines and fan hysteria. We can dispute whether this is right or wrong, but this has led to a second term.
- Position of Strength- Ensuring that there was no scope for oldies, dynasts and slow coaches at the top-most levels of power throughout the first term made for a great story to contrast with how rival parties were going about.
- Playing to the galleries- While rivals showed themselves to be a disparate and unorganised bunch in total disarray, the BJP managed to stick to key alliances and went out in full force to show voters that they were the real thing.
Additionally, two tactics that are not recommended were used generously.
- Running down the opponent- I’m not a subscriber to this style of campaigns but it is widely used, and it was part of the playbook in both sides of the aisle. Rahul and Modi abused each other. The latter went t the extent of bringing in Rahul’s dead father – the former PM into campaign narrative.
- Creating a major incident – The massacre of paramilitary forces in a terror attack in Pulwama due to an intelligence failure and followed by the much publicised surgical strikes on the enemy was cleverly used to build a sense of nationalism when the chips were down after a rout in the assembly polls.