The papers on Tuesday morning were rife with articles about the UP elections and the landmark success of an unlikely party coming to power. The Samajwadi Party’s (SP) surprise comeback has captured media attention around the country. The party’s young visionary Akhilesh Yadav and his team of rag tags is seen as the driving force behind the rise of the party, against more prominent political rivals like Mayawati, who led the BSP and the Congress.
Although Mayawati has been both loved and hated for her governance, she was touted to continue her reign. The same however, can’t be said about the Congress, which followed Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadera on a wild goose chase through a state which in literal terms, can be referred to as the wild-west of India. The success of Akhilesh Yadav lies in the fact that while his competitors were rallying to receive media attention, he was building a strong state-wide network of party workers, coordinators and student politicians who eventually helped to bring the ball home.
What needs to be done now is to create a dynamic leadership focused on development and establishment of better institutions and civic order. For that matter the SP will have to avoid any kind of negative attention like the way it got, right after the election results. Attacks by SP party workers on journalists at a counting centre provoked headlines in mainline media such as ‘Return of ‘goonda raj’? Youth injured in SP – police clash dies’ (reported the Daily Bhaskar). This is something that the party should try to curb and strive to create a more mature image. With capable men like Abhishek Mishra (a Phd. from Cambridge and an ex professor of IIM-A) and Tej Narain Pandey (a former student union vice-president at Lucknow University and winner of the iconic Ayodhya seat) by their side, the SP should vouch for a stable and peaceful governance. Here are some public relations tips for Akhilesh for the coming times:
1. Highlight pro-development stories in press: Claimed to be a Santa Clause Manifesto by some watchers, the SP election agenda spoke of many reforms in industry, administration, education, health, infrastructure et al, with a special focus on women and minorities. Now it’s the time to make the promises a reality, but always remember to act smart. Just as Narendra Modi never fails to mention the development and growth in his state, the new SP government should put a communications team in place to publicize its good work to the media and the State.
2. Brief the party workers on code of ethics: SP party supporters interrupting a ballot counting process and pelting journalists and police with stones, is the last thing Akhilesh and his team want, this early in their term. Consequently the news of their win was marred by the stories of hooliganism. The SP needs to ensure that the party’s agenda is taken seriously by the party workers across the state. We understand that UP is too far removed from Delhi and its lawlessness is legendary, but with its young leadership we expect there to be some democratic modernity in the governance. Over the course of time there should be sessions organised at every party office to create awareness about the party’s code of conduct. The party can’t implement its developmental ideas unless its supporters are tamed and trained in ethical behaviour.
3. Engage with key media regularly: The media is a vehicle to spread the government’s agendas and progressive stance. The SP should engage with the media early on to avoid developing a media apathy that becomes difficult to reverse later. The government should take on a board of advisors including media experts and communication specialists to create the right kind of messaging strategy to handle the media properly. The party should not only rely on a spokesperson but rather should have a media evangelist who proactively takes rounds addressing the online and offline media about the government’s pro-growth activities.
4. Be visible to the industry forums: The chamber of commerce, CII, FICCI and local chambers of various industry associations and regulatory bodies are the places where governments can hope to engage with industry leaders, investors, capitalists and corporates to push their developmental projects and acquire funds. Bringing transparency in the governance can attract investments that can propel the state out of its industrially backward image.
5. Be a facilitator and not a evil genius: By this we mean that rather than reconsidering or rolling back all the past ongoing developmental activities to implement completely new ideas, the SP led government of UP should take all good things into account and maybe tweak them to suite the all over development plan. In due course the SP government will get its fair share of opportunities to implement its own projects. Most new governments go through a disruptive process where they try to discredit the previous government for their work. Largely it is done as a self gratifying measure and to purge the administration of the loyalist of the earlier government, but these efforts essentially take away the real message and borderlines on ghost hunting. Hence avoid being caught in ideologies and facilitate the change that UP deserves.