Modi’s victory : Lessons in Election Strategy
May 21, 2014 1 Comment
Very often when it comes down to learning strategy from others, it is the successful corporates that one thinks about. Though strategy plays a significant role in architecting electoral wins, they are more about demographical strategies like caste, linguistic, religion etc..
However in the massive mandate that Narendra Modi and the BJP have got in the General Elections of 2014, I believe there are significant lessons to be learnt on various elements of election strategy.
Modi got the ‘timing’ right : Be it in getting himself anointed as the Prime Ministerial candidate or pacing of his campaign, he got it absolutely right. When he got himself nominated as PM candidate, BJP’s partner for 17 years the JD(U) decided to snap the ties, which again, from a timing perspective worked in favour of the BJP.
- Use Differentiation to your advantage
‘Ab ki Baar, Modi Sarkaar’ became such a great meme throughout the country. It can always be argued whether it is wise to “personalize a government” which is elected in a democratic process. BJP realized that the Brand Modi was more powerful than Brand BJP and despite criticisms’ and barbs, stuck with their decision. The majority that the party got on it’s own without allies is a result of the premium that they derived out of Brand Modi. At the end of the day, If you’ve got it, you’ve got to flaunt it.
- Invest right, Invest in the right people
There are several estimates on how much BJP spent in the campaign. While the extent of investment is not really known, an article that I read suggested that BJP had earmarked around Rs. 400 crores for their media campaign. They also signed on two major stalwarts of the advertising industry, Prasoon Joshi and Prahlad Kakkar, to design their media campaigns.
- Adapt to Technology
Modi used the 3D technology that he introduced in the Assembly elections to great effect. In the run up to the elections, the print media was full of campaign coverage, but nothing succeeds like “putting a face to the campaign”. The illusion created by 3D, of hearing to Modi in person, went a long way in establishing a deeper and far-reaching connect with the electorate.
- Be Alert to Opportunities
Not even the person with the best of intentions for Modi could have predicted the faux pas of Mani Shankar Aiyer, the manner-less, senile veteran from Congress. So when MSA derisively mocked at the humble origins of Modi, BJP was alert enough to swing it to their advantage. The “Chai pe charcha” was a smart, agile and an appropriate counter punch from which the congress couldn’t really recover.
- Strike where it hurts
It had become norm for BJP and other parties, even without a quid-pro-quo arrangement, to skip aggressive campaign in the bastions of the Gandhi family. Though the election of the Gandhi family was never in doubt, by campaigning in their bastion, Modi made it very clear that he’s challenging the ‘legacy’ and he shouldn’t be expected to show any favors.
- Display external flexibility but be rigid on the core
Modi kept reiterating that he’s open to aligning with any party. He may have been secretly confident of an independent majority for BJP, but he ensured that he’s not seen as the one who’s shutting the doors. His willingness to accommodate new partners, proved to be an effective way to quell “internal discontent” within his party on the issue of “acceptability”. New partners were welcome only if they “accepted” Modi.
- Use crowd sourced support
Modi’s clever use of the surrogate support system in the form of Ramdev or Sri Sri Ravishankar was an excellent ploy to consolidate his vote bank. A ‘free run’ to the surrogate group often helps.
- Be Stoic to constant criticism
Modi’s personality was such that he was a cult figure – loved or hated but never ignored. His opponents may not have realized but the accusations against Modi had attained a level of “sameness” that any criticism, abuse was washed off like water on a duck’s back. Reacting to constant criticism would have meant providing new axe to grind. Modi’s stoic reaction to “same accusations” by different opponents punctured their arguments. They desperately wanted him to react and that’s exactly what Modi didn’t oblige.
10. Develop oratory
Be it the AK47-Antony-AK49 barb or the RSVP model snide remark, Modi outdid all his opponents on oratory skills. India’s demographic structure which uses Hindi as a link language across East to West worked to his advantage, but without the kind of oratory skills that Modi has, it wouldn’t mean much. Delivering comes later, but without talking, one wouldn’t get a good shot at the opportunity to Walk the Talk.
Modi’s elevation to the highest office of the land is a great testimony to clear strategy, thoughtful planning and precise execution. While his fortunes for the next election in 2019 may depend on his performance, I trust Modi and his team to strategize his repeat election 5 years from now.