“Politics and war are remarkably similar situations” – Newt Gingrich.
I agree with Mr. Gingrich, in both situations winning is all that matters and the only thing one has to do is identify a target, aim at the target and fire with all you’ve got. The rest, is beyond anyone’s control. All one can do is to sit back and hope for sweet victory. War has its weapons – guns, tanks and missiles; and likewise, politics has its own – campaigns, media & events.
In Indian politics, rallies have been the most effective mode of reaching out to one’s target – The Voter. While grassroot workers and locals ensure presence, in hordes, it is the leader who is raised or razed at these congregations through their ability/inability to connect with the masses.
A politician’s success lies in understanding the demographics of the audience at a rally, by shooting a quick glance, whilst taking the podium or by smelling the crowd on his way to the stage. Having an understanding of the audience helps politicians structure their approach and alter their strategies last minute, if required. It helps leaders decide on the issues to speak about and choose the right words to use as a connect with the masses. While on a campaign trail during the 1971 general elections; Mrs. Indira Gandhi used the following phrases as and when best suited the target audience
- “Apke aanewale kal ka sawal hai” – when the rally was held with a larger uneducated OBC population (OBC votes constituted 41% of the UP electoral)
- “Apke mustakbil ka faisla hai” – used with an Urdu speaking population (Muslim votes constituted 18% of the UP electoral)
- “Apke bhavisha ka nirnay hai” – with Hindi speaking upper caste (Hindu upper caste votes constituted 7% of the UP electoral)
As you may have observed, the above three phrases are quintessentially the same. However, based on the audience attending her rally, Mrs. Gandhi would alter her words in order to reach out and appeal to their hearts and minds. The congress won that election with a land slide victory of 352 seats, with an addition of 93 seats to its previous tally.
In the current UP elections, both national parties (Congress & BJP) have portrayed a dearth of versatility in their strategy and communication approach. Their lack of understanding of grassroots issues and demographic makeup of the population has been exposed in these elections. As a result, the Congress & the BJP take up the no. 3 & no. 4 positions in the state electoral race.
As Indian media and population evolves, in the world of fast news – Sadak, Bijlee aur Pani, the three traditional agenda’s of political campaigning seem to be on their way out. Politicians and political parties will have to cull out region specific strategies and a communication framework biding adieu to their standardized approach.