Can the NaMo magic work for the BJP?

13 Jun,2013

 

By Johnson Napier

 

The Congress party in India may have been doing all it can to stay away from the negative noises created by Opposition. Led largely by the BJP, the foes from the other end are leaving no stone unturned in making sure that the Congress faces its toughest test yet as the country heads into election mode in 2014.

 

While this may have been a daunting task until five years ago, led by the man of the moment, Narendra Modi, the BJP is set to face the task ahead. After silencing his critics and assuring his huge fan following that he has what it takes to rule the country with an iron fist, the NaMo chant has been growing louder as the days pass.

 

The immediate impact of his appointment as head of the BJP’s election offensive was the resignation of party leader LK Advani and the consequent withdrawal of the same. But with news of infighting and internal differences being the order of the day, the picture may not be as rosy as it seems. MxMIndia spoke to a few professionals who have been associated with image-enhancing initiatives or track the way politics is run in the country and presents the viewpoints.

 

Sushil Pandit

Sushil Pandit, Director & CEO of Hive Communications, which has done campaigns for the party in the past, sounded optimistic as he said that Narendra Modi has today emerged as a locomotive for the BJP; the engine for the party’s growth and acceptance. “He represents the best of BJP – its potential, its performance and credibility. He brings a lot of incremental approval to BJP’s existing support base. So brand Modi complements brand BJP and is all set to propel it much further from where it is today,” he said.

 

Highlighting the game-changing dynamics being witnessed, Mr Pandit asserted, “Today, a whole host of key determinants have changed in Indian politics including the way the youth of today perceive the leadership, their aspiration, their demand, their definition of what kind of a leader they expect…it has risen far above from the earlier narrow consideration of dynasty, caste, etc and has focussed more on the performance aspect and what is possible. Narendra Modi therefore has emerged as a huge force in converting such aspirations into approval and work for the party.”

 

According to him, with a year left before the elections in 2014 there is a great deal of hope and a lot of fervour amongst the masses – factors that should see the party through in the 2014 elections.

 

Sanjay Mehta

Sanjay Mehta, Founder & Joint CEO, Social Wavelength, put forth a prudent outlook for the party as he said that the happenings at BJP are a natural outcome of a major change. He affirmed, “It was always suspected to be a challenge for Narendra Modi to move into top position, and be the party’s PM candidate, given his legacy in Gujarat, from 2002. That over the years, he has managed to create a change in the manner in which he is perceived and reached a point where the party sees their best hope in projecting him as their leader, is a huge achievement.” Adding further he said, “In the face of this, to enable the change from the old to the new, and one which is largely acceptable within the party, still has its share of friction, and the Advani resignation etc. are a part of that. All these are an integral part of Indian politics and I do not believe that these impact the party’s brand image to a large extent. It is unlike major corruption or other scandals that have plagued parties too in recent days! More importantly, this has happened several months before the elections,” he reiterated.

 

Presenting his stance on the impact being created on brand BJP, Mr Mehta highlighted, “What I hope is that the short-term impact on the BJP brand will not affect the longer term prospects. Assuming that the necessary compromises are made within the party, and thereafter, as a whole, the party is willing to position Modi as their leader, unanimously, that is a strong plank for the party to take forth, into the 2014 elections.” But sounding a word of caution, Mr Mehta said that with LK Advani taking back his resignation, “the only fear is that closer to the elections, he doesn’t again raise his ambitions for the PM position, and create a ruckus then. If that happens, it will hurt BJP much more than the current hiccup.”

 

Harish Bijoor

Not holding back his thoughts, brand consultant Harish Bijoor of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. was forthright as he said, “I do believe brand BJP is hit for sure. The hit is seen clearly in television footage of the leaders of the party and their really overtly saddened faces. This is not good for morale.” However, Mr Bijoor does believe that this is a temporary setback. “The party will bounce back with vigour after the dust settles and the old guard has given way to the new. Modi is a brand man in reality. He is a very savvy leader who uses every modern tool there is in branding. I do believe he will revive the morale for sure.”

 

Knowing what it takes for a brand to enhance its image offering, Sridhar Kondiparthi, Chief Creative Officer – India Sub Continent of Leo Burnett asserted that everything that is happening within the BJP and RSS, including a sulking Advani, will only benefit the BJP and Narendra Modi. But sounding a caution, Mr Kondiparthi said, “A reluctant old guard will have no sympathy with the younger voters; India wants a younger and more ambitious leadership.”

 

Naresh Gupta

While it is still early days, there is a lot at stake for brand BJP for it to win back the confidence of the masses. It could begin by getting its basics about branding itself right. As Naresh Gupta, Managing Partner, Bang in the Middle, asserts, “Elections and political branding are a bit different from usual brands and consumers do consume them differently. The perceptions are transient and a lot depends on how the competition plays the game. Currently it is affecting the brand. The controversy is not adding to the appeal of BJP. What matters now is what does the market do?”

 

As for the way ahead for the party, Mr Gupta affirms, “The elections are still some time away and we can’t say what may happen by then, though going by what’s happening now it will strengthen the brand in a small core but weaken in large potential audience.”

 

Mr Gupta may be critical of the party’s success as yet but for the ardent believers of brand NaMo, also the driving force behind brand BJP as of now, the moment certainly seems to be favourable for it to make an impression in the minds of the people.

 

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