This is a season of “change”.
People across the world seem to have embraced the idea that “Change is the only thing that does not change”. Barack Obama campaigned and won on the plank of “Change”. His opponent John McCain also was forced to change his campaign slogan to “Real Change”. Now someone in our country is chanting the mantra of “Change”. Guess who? It is Mr. L K Advani.
Let us pause for a flashback. On July 11,2008, the US newspaper Washington Post published an article titled “India’s Unlikely Obama“. The story in Washington Post started like this “An 81-year-old Hindu nationalist who wants to become India’s next prime minister has chosen an unlikely model for his election efforts, the Internet-based campaign of Sen. Obama.
For a few months, a small team of political strategists, computer specialists and management graduates in New Delhi has been studying Obama’s speeches and slogans, Web site, campus outreach and rhetoric of change “.
The article went on to say that Mr. Advani’s campaign plans to use modern technology tools exactly the way Obama did.(“Replication, No; Inspiration, Yes” says one of his aides).The campaign team is planning to use text messaging, social networks, emailing, and a website to start mobilizing young people to bring to their fold. They wanted to create a bottom up participatory movement just like Obama did.
Mr. Ramachandra Guha, political historian, had this to say
That particular campaign style worked for Obama because he is a young, fresh-faced, charming man who promises change. But Advani has too much baggage, both good and bad, attached to him. It strains one’s credulity to imagine the austere, unsmiling Advani being rebranded like Obama.
Now, back to the present.
Today (Nov 8, 2008), IBNLive had this news item “Advani follows Obama, launches a website.”". I was curious about how L K Advani is executing this “Change” strategy and hence I took a look at his website. It has both Hindi and English versions.
The viewer is welcomed by a message from L.K.Advani himself. He talks about his “dreams” of the country, “aspirations” of the Indians and, the usual suspect, “change”. In his welcome speech of a little less than 2 minutes, he used the word “Change” 4 times.
The website then provides the viewer information about Advani’s vision of India, videos of some of his speeches, stance on issues, details about his memoirs, press releases and links to his party. It also has interactive features like forum and options for netizens to provide suggestions and ideas for NDA’s governance.
This “Change”strategy worked in US. But will it work in India?
It could work because
- Like Advani says, India has a lot of young population with around 100 million new voters. This voter segment is more technology savy and can make a difference in the election.
- The party with the most strong cadre base usually has a good advantage. Technology allows wider reach, speed of execution and enhanced fundraising capabilities.
It might not work because
- Just like the “India Shining” campaign, the reach of this campaign might be restricted to the urban areas where the party is already strong. The election campaign in rural areas which are untouched by these advancement in technologies will continue the old-fashioned way.
- Obama’s support was broad based – white, black, Hispanic, Asian, native American, male, female, etc. Will Advani be able to bring voters of all castes and religions to his fold?
- L.K.Advani’s age.
Now what about Indian National Congress and Rahul Gandhi? According to the article” Rahul’s office said that while it, too, has “flooded” the YouTube and Flickr Web sites with images of Gandhi, such campaigns cannot go far in India, where Web reach is limited and a quarter of the population lives in poverty, ..”.
I found this very ironic considering the fact that INC’s young leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot and others who are educated abroad do not have confidence in technology. Particularly at a time when INC’s hold on the urban and more educated voters is waning.
A more relevant question for INC is, who can first time voters better relate to – 80 year old Advani or 38 year Rahul Gandhi? Perhaps, INC is not realizing their strengths.
It will be interesting to see how this “Change” strategy plays out.
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