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Powered by communication skills

Powered by communication skills
The Aam Admi Party (AAP), after a keeping everybody on the tenterhooks, is finally going to form the government. The party leadership claims that they decided to take the plunge following the ‘overwhelming’ affirmative response they received in the consultations they carried through the internet, cellphones and mass contact programme asking people for their opinion whether they should join hands with a ‘corrupt’ party like the Congress.

The drive was undertaken after the Congress pledged unconditional support of its eight MLAs following a fractured verdict in the polls for Delhi assembly, where the AAP with 28 MLAs emerged as the second largest group after the BJP. The AAP agreeing to come together with the Congress is a big shift in the stand that they all took of not joining hands either with the Congress or the BJP in government formation. AAP leadership has justified the shift claiming it to be ‘desire of people’ to see them in the government.

Nevertheless, despite the major shift in the stand, the AAP has managed to keep it’s holier than thou image and nobody except for their ‘once upon a time benefactors’ in the BJP like leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley is blaming them of starting the ‘end of alternative politics.’ Jaitley, who is generally heard with attention for his worthy articulation, on this matter has not been able to cut much ice with people, who don’t mind AAP getting a chance.

What makes AAP such an infallible force in public perception for now despite public retribution from their one-time mentor Anna Hazare and even a sting operation against some of their candidates during the just concluded polls? If Arvind Kejriwal and his party truly should get an award, it’s for the communication and the public relations skills. The whole campaign of the Aam Admi Party has been a carefully crafted drive to effectively communicate with people through various forums and tools and neutralise the political adversary through sheer use of appropriate words and symbols.

First the ubiquitous ‘cap’. It’s a symbol borrowed from Anna Hazare, who wears the cap like several other farmers from rural Maharashtra. This cap was also first used by Mahatma Gandhi in the early 20th century to identify with the India peasantry and subsequently it came to be identified as Gandhi cap.
During the Lokpal movement in Ramlila Ground in 2011 this cap came to be adopted as the headgear of the volunteers. The entrepreneurs from walled city were quick to make these caps in hordes from the fabric which has come to replace polythene as the material for the carry bags in the city. Nobody objected to the fact that the cap was not made of khadi, the fabric Gandhi used to oppose British imperialism.

The punch line for the volunteers, scripted by Kiran Bedi, ‘Main bhi Anna’, was quickly printed on these caps and became a rage with the anti-graft movement volunteers. After the vertical split in the movement and formation of the Aam Admi Party (AAP), the later decided to adopt the headgear as a major tool of their identity. This made their volunteers stand out in the crowd and they made it a point to make their presence felt in public places like the Delhi Metro, the Delhi Transport Corporation buses and also public events like the annual trade fair at Pragati Maidan.

The second effective tool of communication was the carefully chosen name of the party – the Aam Admi Party. If the idea of the cap was inspired by Anna Hazare and Kiran Bedi, the name of the party was chosen taking a leaf out of the Congress campaign for 2004 polls – Congress ka haanth aam admi ke ssath (Congress’s hand, their poll sysmbol, is with common people). The acronym – AAP – sounded well to mean ‘you’ in Hindi. Again establishing an extra-ordinary connect with the people.

The third tool was the use of taxi-scooter rickshaws. Printed fabric carrying message of the party and its leader Arvind Kejriwal was stitched on the plastic hood of these three-wheelers, taking its message and presence far and wide. It also created camaraderie with the families of those who operated these 60,000-odd rickshaws. This tool was cheap as it escaped the specification of an advertisement as prescribed by the civic agencies and it still managed to advertise most effectively.

This did not end here. The real genius of the ideologues, or should we call them image managers, of the AAP was visible in the selection of the poll symbol – the broom. The broom did not just signify the tool used for cleaning but also identified with the Valmiki community, the steadfast supporters of the Congress party for all these years. The AAP managed to win 10 of the 12 seats reserved for the scheduled caste candidates.

Printing the broom symbol on the by now popular cap was like putting the people of the Dalit community at the helm of affairs. They responded in hordes and voted in en bloc for AAP with just one of the Congress candidates from the community – Jai Kishan – managing to retain his seat. Even veteran Valmiki leader Sardar Buta Singh’s son had to bite dust as the community deserted Congress lock, stock and barrel. In a nation, where the traditional political parties still make plans largely on the caste and community equations, Arvind Kejriwal value added to these time-tested methods using modern methods of communication propelling them to the seat of power. However, communication skills will now have to be complemented with administrative acumen to retain the trust and tempo that they enjoy as of now.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post
Sidharth Mishra

Sidharth Mishra

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