Political gaffes and PR faux pas

Political gaffes and PR faux pas:

The election tamasha irrespective of the country in which it is played  is filled with its share of fun, chaos and entertainment. As the US democracy heats up to elections, political drama and mudslinging is at its entertaining best. One of the recent high points of the elections for the media was the inappropriate comment by Republican. Todd Akin, the US Senate candidate from Missouri who spoke about ‘legitimate rape’. Off course, we don’t have to go far to witness such comments, Congress spokesperson, Manish Tiwari while speaking to the media during the northern power grid failure stated firmly, “there is no power crisis”.

Election or no election, another minister needs to weigh his words at all times. Union Minister Beni Prasad Sharma retracted from his controversial stand on Afzal Guru’s death sentence within a day, and not for the first time. Known as ‘foot in mouth’ phenomenon; political gaffes are common all around the world.

Politicians and their PR consultants constantly battle odds to avoid or ensure minimum such gaffes. Following are some of these blunders which may prove detrimental or cause sudden death to a political career.

1)      “What was that…?”    

Long tiring days, surrounded by public constantly and a zillion things to think about are a perfect recipe for word mix-up or temporary memory lapse. Often politicians tend to speak out wrong names, numbers, words causing major embarrassment and a good laugh on YouTube  However, these blunders have not yet claimed anyone’s political career. The understanding heard of voters, is always ready to forgive the mispronunciation, slip of the tongue of their leader.

2)      Say something stupid:

After 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, Congress General Secretary, Digvijay Singh was quoted attributing Mumbai ATS chief, Hemant Karkare’s death to RSS. A rumbustious accusation, which propelled him to news headlines, also got him out of party favors for longer than anyone envisaged. Such gaffes are unpardonable, if one still manages to continue in politics they are often tagged or branded with their unpopular comments and have to carry the baggage throughout their careers.

3)      Testing 1, 2, 3…

A true leader among politicians is assessed by his ability to hold the Janata by his every word. Nothing is more sacred for the politicians than hogging the microphone to speak to Janata. However, these microphones could well be end of one’s journey in politics. Maharashtra Pradesh Congress’s President, Manikrao Thackeray was caught on microphone speaking of party’s finances. Even though Thackeray was able to save his scalp, his partner in the dialogue had to loose his position in the party and eventually dropped out of politics.

4)      Kinsley Gaffe

Named after famous journalist Michael Kinsley, the Kinsley gaffe in Michael’s word is, “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” However, now days it is a potent tool for politicians to maneuver journalists into reporting, unsubstantiated articles about their political rivals.

5)      Sleeping on camera, and off it

Politicians are caught napping during parliamentary sessions, debates and discussions or during public functions. It is humanly impossible to put in long working hours with minimal sleep and rest. Former Indian Prime Minister H.D.Devegowda was infamous for his public naps at various domestic and international summits. However, politicians are used to getting into more trouble when they sleep off camera; most are not able to sustain their careers after such expose. Bill Clinton was able to hold on to white house, however Indian politics is a different animal. Seasoned campaigners such as Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Mahipal Maderna, and N D Tiwari paid the price of primal instincts by sacrificing their public life.

Beni Prasad Verma makes headlines for retracting his controversial statements

6)       Stick to your words

Steel Minister Beni Prasad Sharma changed his statement about three different issues within a day’s time in a span of five months and made headlines.  Going against Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh’s take, Sharma said, “Do not hang Afzal Guru but give him life imprisonment,” on this Thursday. On Friday, he was quoted saying “Whatever the Supreme Court decides, we will respect that, but the BJP should also respect the President’s decision.”

In August 2012 he triggered a controversy by saying “…The more the prices rise the better it is. I am very happy with inflation,”. “Clarifying” his remark the next day, he said, “I am happy when farmers’ income increases. High food prices good for farmers.” In October 2012, Verma had said,” I believe Salman Khurshid could not have embezzled Rs 71 lakh. It is a very small amount for a central minister. I would have taken it seriously if the amount was Rs 71 crore.” Hours later, Mr Verma said he had been misquoted. He said “Corruption is corruption, even if it is for one rupee,”. He added he was sticking to what he had said, mentions a NDTV report. Verma needs to choose his words carefully, or at least stick to them.

Written for Image management by Rishi Vaidya

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