Assembly Elections Results : Communication is the Key to BJP Success5 min read
By : Prof. (Dr.) J S Yadav
NEW DELHI : The Assembly Elections 2022 results are out. Communication is the key to the comfortable victory of BJP in four states-Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa and massive success of the AAP in one- Punjab.
The BJP fights elections seriously with full power and force at its command. In the assembly elections, the Party has deployed the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Home Minister Amit Shah along with almost the entire Central cabinet and the State cabinet and most Chief Ministers of BJP ruled States and their cabinet colleagues. The RSS (Rashtriya Sawyam Sewaksewak Sangh) cadre also has spread to mobilize support in favor of BJP. The BJP takes politics fulltime involvement in public affairs, pushes its ideology and culture year-round, and molding people’s perception in their own favor. For this, they use all forms of communication to connect with people. This includes Interpersonal Communication by the cadre and workers and use of mass media as well as new media technologies. They have been making maximum use of Information Technologies, especially WhatsApp, to malign the opponents and build positive image of BJP; its ideology and governance.
Further, the organizational structure and style of its functioning the BJP leadership was more effective in communicating with the Janata (voters) than its Opponents and win the electoral battle. This would be evident from the remarks of the Manipur Chief Minister’s that the BJP central leadership listens to our local concerns /difficulties and resolves them timely as contrast to our earlier experience with the Congress leadership.
Another defining feature of BJP is discipline and unity of the party. The Prime Minister Modi could reshuffle his cabinet and drop many of his senior colleagues and replace the entire cabinet in Gujarat or changes in leadership in different states without any apparent dissent or revolt. Despite media talks about competition and conflict of interest for prime minister ship between Modi and Yogi, the BJP fought the assembly elections as a united team. In contrast the change of leadership in Punjab, though a master stroke in strategy in making first time a SC (scheduled caste) the chief minister of the state where about 32 per cent population is SC, resulted in fierce in-fighting in the ruling Congress that continued right through the entire election campaign and so its vanquishing in the electoral battle.
The story of massive victory (92 out of 117) of AAP at the husting is mindboggling. Mr. Kejriwal the chief minister of Delhi was able to sell successfully his model of governance and development of Delhi to the people of Punjab. But his challenge begins now in fulfilling the promises made; hopes and aspirations of the border state of Punjab.
Be that it may, perceptions are more important than reality in deciding voters’ choices of party and candidate in electoral battles. Experience and research evidence suggest that the ‘fear’ and ‘hope’ messages in election narratives generally work. The BJP narrative of (‘gathbandhans’ / Lal Topiwala/ khatre ki gandhi) striking fear about the law & order in the state if the Samajwadi Party (SP), the main opponent in Uttar Pradesh comes to power in 2022 state assembly elections. Further, the fear of Muslims becoming dominant political force in the state and India as a whole is being fanned by BJP and its supporters through continuous low intensity communal rhetoric about Pakistan, love Jehad, protection of gau mata, lynching of Muslim on suspension of eating beef, and harassing of young students on wearing Hijab, not only during election campaign alone but over the years. The banning of cow slaughter in U.P. led to the issue of stray cows and bulls (sandh) and damages of farmers’ crops. It became a major political issue during the assembly elections.
For SP the ‘fear’ narrative was the of end of democracy in India if BJP wins 2022 assembly elections; the semi-final to the Parliament Elections in 2024. The party made many promises as a part of its ‘hope’ narrative.
In addition, the election campaign narrative of BJP revolved around ‘development’ based upon the performance and achievements vs unemployment, price rise and economic stress were the main narrative of the SP. Voter’s identity (caste & religion), access to contesting candidates (from my locality), and ‘interest’ also influenced their behaviour.
A large number of U.P. voters, estimated to be around 14 crores ‘Labharthis’-of free rationing and money transfer to bank accounts, the beneficiaries of BJP’s Double Engine Ki Sarkarkar- are said to have voted for BJP in assembly elections as a gratitude for the salt they consumed- namak khaya hai.
The BJP has advantage of having the Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the key campaigner. He is a great communicator and is master of the art and science of communication. He spins narratives that turn adversity into advantage and turns people’s perception into his/party favor. He weaves Hindu religion and nationalism into supernationalism. He promises sab ka vikash sab ka saath sab ka vishwas caught the imagination of masses.
Even so, the assembly elections were not a cake walk for the BJP. Many factors have contributed to BJP’s difficulties. About 18-month long agitation of farmers at Delhi borders made a major difference. Alliance with Rashtriya Lok Dal and with a large number of smaller political parties and groupings, and last-minute defection of some BJP leaders to join SP, made SP a major political force in U.P. and a challenge to BJP.
The BJP being currently in power in U.P. for the last five years and at the Centre for the last seven and a half years (double engine ki sarkar) had advantage over its opponents in terms of having resources-both financial and manpower. They successfully used both manpower (leaders, cadre, & workers) and financial resources in publicizing its policies, programs, actions and achievements. The BJP has perfected the art of converting select ‘event’ into mega events and thereby worthy of media attention and its tracking resulting in wide spread awareness among masses. Above all, Prime Minister Modi making headline news almost every day, sets the public discourse /political agenda. To sum the BJP succeeded in convincing voters in their favor not withstanding less than expected achievements in many areas and developing widespread a kind of syndrome; ‘there was no choice better than BJP’.
As such, with leadership of Mr. Modi, strategy by his team, commitment & hard work by his colleagues, there is no alternative to BJP communication machinery in electoral politics in near future.
Dr. J. S. Yadav is former Director Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi-110070 & Sr. Consulting Editor-ICN.