By Biswaraj Patnaik in Puri, December 21, 2017: Prime Minister Narendra Modi was never an humble ‘Chaiwala’ as the BJP poll-marketeers projected to woo ordinary masses by provoking sentiments. Much research has gone into the controversial issue and the findings in hand says Modi may have passed by a tea shop as a momentary helping hand sometime in life somewhere not known clearly to the world.

It seems most people in India so not know that Amit Shah, with his keen sense of business marketing and salesmanship used the best available brains to devise market strategies to entice voters. Over the months, nearly 200 young skilled marketing professionals from top schools and companies carried out Narendra Modi’s marketing and advertising campaigns — the chai pe charcha discussions, 3D rallies, marathons, conclaves and social media programmes — to fulfill the task given to take Modi to those dark zones of the country, where the party and the man himself were unknown.

A few of these youngsters quit comfortable banking and consultancy jobs to be part of an organisation called ‘Citizens for Accountable Governance’, set up by Prashant Kishor, a 36-year-old former UN health

              Modi with Prashant Kishor

specialist who became one of Modi’s trusted strategists. Kishore’s strategies worked miracles for Modi and the saffron party achieved unbelievable results in BJP-weak states. Assam is a bright example. Exceptional bright brain, 30-year-old Rajat Sethi with degrees from IIT, MIT and Harvard had played a vital behind-the-scenes role in the last general election campaign to end up with the landmark win in Assam.

Led by alumni of foreign universities or the IITs and IIMs who took sabbaticals or resigned from companies such as JPMorgan,  Deutsche Bank, McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group, CAG    took Modi’s campaign to new heights in terms of analysis, logistics, planning and communications, evoking comparisons to the back room that helped send Barack Obama to the White House in 2008.

Punjab was won due to strong anti-incumbency factors the same way as BJP won in Uttar Pradesh.
But in the just concluded Gujarat elections, everyone including the pollsters and the leading media houses forecast a kind of landslide victory for the BJP as Modi, as son of the soil, is Prime Minister the Modi-wave, blowing over India, was more intense than the Odisha super cyclone of 1999. Somehow or the other the Congress party had sensed some anti-incumbency factor and believed to just only save face with 50-60 seats. They had also known the BJP reputation was dwindling among the dominant communities. But only a rare few political analysts had forecast a shameful number for BJP like in Goa and Manipur.

Gujarat remained in focus until the shocking results were out. The marketing geniuses used all kinds of hypes to garner votes from the gullible voters until the Gujarat elections happened. The business tricks worked just for once. The super brains fell short of ideas as people don’t like the same dishes a second time.

But what really caused the BJP the big damage was the devilish proportion of arrogance and defiance displayed in public behaviour by both Shah and Modi. Both talked as if the world was permanently won and they would rule India for ever. BJP president Amit Shah defied convention on Gandhi Jayanti when he announced in Porbandar at a party rally that the Gujarat assembly election was scheduled for the first week of December when the Election Commission was yet to officially announce dates.

Shah sounded the bugle before the election commission. Shah kept on harping about the least understood “Gujarat model of development” and attacked Congress scion Rahul Gandhi for not being able to see this because of his “Italian glasses”, a direct – if somewhat tired – reference to Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s country of origin. At a time when the Congress is banking upon perceptible anti-incumbency against the BJP, and the BJP’s support from among the state’s dominant communities is dwindling, Shah’s opening comment struck observers as being arrogantly defensive.

The BJP had come into power by stitching together the OBC caste groups like Patidars, Thakors and Rajputs and successfully weakened the former Congress chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki’s formula of getting the Kshatriyas, Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims together under the party’s umbrella. But lately, the

                                    Hardik Patel

Patidar and Thakor agitations, although apathetic to each other, had targeted the state government for rising unemployment and an unprecedented crisis in the agriculture sector. Both these dominant and affluent communities command a substantial section of votes in the Saurashtra region.

Fortunately for Congress, the campaign strategists did a good job. In all his speeches, RaGa targeted the Rupani government for failing to procure groundnut and cotton – two significant cash crops in Gujarat – on time. Poor procurement by the state government resulting in a steep fall in crop prices has led farmers – belonging mostly to dominant OBC communities – to agitate over the last few months.

At the same time, he attacked the Modi government’s hasty implementation of the goods and services tax to cut some ice with traders, who form a significant population in Gujarat and have historically supported the BJP, but have been protesting against GST for having lost so much in business for lack of clarity about the GST. The Congress masters had come to know that the anti-incumbency sentiment against the BJP was quite perceptible on the ground, but the lack of a credible state-level face was the big problem. If Sonia had gone to Gujarat instead of Rahul, BJP would have suffered a conclusive defeat.

So, BJP seems to be in trouble. The next location is Rajasthan where the party may bite dust for the anti-incumbency factor is getting stronger by the day. Modi magic has lost much of its tinge.
Odisha and Bengal are going to remain a ‘No No’ to BJP for quite some more terms for sure.

It seems as if the big national party ruling India has to wake up to realities. Its leaders better learn humility more than ever before.