Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Similarities in Modi’s and Obama’s campaigns

Borrowing from the Obama campaign?
Obama’s victory in the presidential election in 2008 was a watershed movement in world history. It captured the imagination of the world. It was a play of the classic story of the under-dog, the David who dared to take on the Goliaths of the world and won! While it has been described as a victory of multi-culturalism and of the “American Dream”, many analysts believed that the victory was the result of an “outstanding campaign”.

The Obama campaign was the first to discover and utilize Web 2.0. It drew on millions of fans from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace. It didn’t matter where in the world you were, you could still support and participate in the Obama campaign!

It was also a very shrewd and pragmatic campaign. “Race” was consciously kept out of the campaign, while everyone on the outside was constantly talking about it. The tensions and desperations were more visible on the Republican side with their campaign denigrating in to a vicious and vociferous “keep ‘em out- PLEASE” type of campaign. The Obama team was thus also able to capture the moral high-ground.

The campaign focused on the weak economy, the state of the nation and simple plots of the same nature where it was obvious to one and all that the current administration had failed and therefore deserved to be booted out. The Obama team was smart to place itself as the better alternative to the most pressing issues.

Obama drew on the media. He was everywhere, all the time. And this constant barrage broke in to the American consciousness. He was no longer just some random senator from Chicago but a very “real” and a very "serious contender" to the top job of the land.

Team Obama also made full use of the momentum that was in their favor. Right from the primaries and the face-off with Hilary Clinton (who would have given Obama a chance with her in 2007?) to the final elections, each victory was milked.

We also had Obama masks, Obama T-Shirts, Obama coasters, Obama with Hollywood A-listers, Obama in a pop song etc etc. all with the idea of creating an aura around “the chosen one”.

Modi and Obama represent two opposite ends of the political spectrum. However, Modi’s team seems to have taken many leaves out of the Obama campaign book. Readers would have seen the many parallels to the Obama campaign.

He’s omnipresent in the web. His campaign has been using technology to the hilt. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs- you name it, he’s there. He has an army of fans online.  I’ve even seen a video where Modi and his audience chant- “Yes- we can!”- borrowing from the famous Obama refrain. Modi masks have become a famous and standard feature at all his rallies. 

“Religion” has been consciously kept out of the campaign. The focus has been on the “mis-goveranance” and “massive corruption” of the current dispensation. There’s also been a very smart and calculated way of tackling with the media. Even if the campaign hasn’t been directly sponsoring any air-time, Modi seems to have found a way to be constantly in the news. The attempt has been to target the young- urban-educated middle class, the same group that took Obama to the White House. And Team Modi misses no chance in attributing any victory anywhere to its mascot.

The two key questions to be asked here are:

1.       Is this campaign working? And,
2.       Is the Urban-educated middle class in India big enough to influence the outcome of a national election?

There has been massive attendance at all Modi rallies, especially in urban areas, even in cities such as Hyderabad where the BJP is not all that strong.   

The results of the state-elections have come out today. Modi fans will be quick to take credit for everything.  I will ignore the verdicts in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. The two questions above would be more pertinent to Delhi and from the verdict the answers are still not clear.