In this day and age, winning an election is the closest one can come to feeling like a conquering king. Winning 22 seats more than your nearest competitor in a 117 member house makes the victory much sweeter. However, making history by being the first incumbents to retain power in Punjab in over 40 years is just priceless.
In the past few years, Badal administration has propelled the state into a new era of development with substantial improvements in infrastructure, agro-supply chain management, women and child welfare, education etc. However, a large chunk of the clear mandate victory that the government won to retain power has to also be attributed to its unconventional communication strategy.
1) Optimum utilization of Social Media: 60% of voters registered in Punjab are under the age of 30 years. Over 70% of these voters have access to internet through, PC’s, mobile phones and cyber cafes. While the Congress was caught up in the rut of launching their manifesto in traditional print booklet, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) gambled with an unprecedented online launch via Youtube videos (Charo aur Badal hai: Can social media PR help the Badals win the Punjab elections?). 90 – 120 seconds videos of the Chief Minister, highlighting achievements of the administration were categorized and uploaded for user convenience. Other social media platforms were utilized to maximize the reach of these videos and touch base with target audience. As a result, SAD which has traditionally been considered weak in non-agrarian, urban & semi-urban population areas such as Doaba and Majha performed substantial well.
2) Positive Messaging: Since EC’s announcement of the elections, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee’s President and former Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh was busy getting caught up in a mud fest with the SAD+BJP government. Alleging corruption, irregularities and non-issue issues Captain Amarinder Singh’s communication plank for the state elections campaign was merely focused towards highlighting the incumbent government’s shortcomings. The Congress manifesto focused on rectifying the wrongs done by the government rather than portraying their vision for the state. SAD on the other hand, focused on the developments achieved and policy decisions made during their tenure in power. A pledge to keep up the pace of development and promise to adopt Singapore pattern of development depicted SAD’s clear vision for Punjab.
Lesson from Punjab 2012:
The effectiveness of social media campaigns in politics through its reach into the homes of people, without intrusion or imposition of representatives of political outfits onto the voter’s privacy, is a great success story for contemporary Indian politics. More parties across the political spectrum should take heed and follow suit.