Rahul Gandhi should adopt Modi’s scripted political communication style

 

By Shivam Vij for ThePrint, 30 April 2020

Rahul Gandhi’s 30-minute chat with ex-RBI governor Raghuram Rajan on a video call has made the former Congress president look better than any interview or press conference he has ever done.

He would do well to engage in many more such interactions on video call chats and put them out for public consumption. He could have such chats with Congress chief ministers and workers, with experts around the country and the world. This format suits Rahul Gandhi for many reasons. For one, it is not designed to make him face tough questions. Continue reading “Rahul Gandhi should adopt Modi’s scripted political communication style”

How Narendra Modi uses narrative as a political tool to retain his voters and win over new ones

(This essay has appeared in the July 2019 issue of the journal ‘Seminar‘ under the title ‘Modi was the message’.)

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Narendra Modi’s use of narrative as a political tool is akin to how a versatile batsman plays cricket. He can deal with any kind of ball thrown at him, exploiting opportunities to score sixes and warding off threats to remain on the pitch. Continue reading “How Narendra Modi uses narrative as a political tool to retain his voters and win over new ones”

Everything you wanted to know about social media in Indian politics and elections

By Shivam Vij

(This article first appeared in The Telegraph on 31 March 2019.)

Sometime in the late 2000s, a young software engineer who voluntarily ran social media propaganda for the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party got an opportunity to attend a BJP social media meet in Bangalore. Among the people who saw this young man speak there was the then Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi. “Why don’t you do something for me,” Modi said to him, encouraging him to promote Modi on social media. Around the same time, the Congress party was telling Shashi Tharoor to go easy on Twitter.

Today that young man is arguably one of India’s most important people, part of a select group of people informally used by the top echelons of the ruling party and the government to influence the online narrative. He’s regularly trying to make this or that trend

on Twitter, running WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages that reach millions of people. When he met Modi during the 2014 campaign, the PM-to-be told him, “Keep it up. We have to make mainstream media irrelevant.” Continue reading “Everything you wanted to know about social media in Indian politics and elections”

The inside story of what Cambridge Analytica actually did in India

(First published in ThePrint, 27 March 2018.)

Alexander Nix and others of SCL Laboratories tried working in India on a project in 2011, but it collapsed in 2012 as Nix’s secret plan was accidentally outed. 

New Delhi: Cambridge Analytica, the controversial UK political consultancy, claims on its website that it worked on the Bihar assembly elections in 2010, and its clients won a landslide victory.

Formed in 2013, Cambridge Analytica’s parent firm is Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL). It has worked in India through an Indian company called Strategic Communication Laboratories Private Limited. Company records show the firm has four directors: Alexander James Ashburner Nix, Alexander Waddington Oakes, Amrish Kumar Tyagi, and Avneesh Kumar Rai.

The first two are British citizens who were among the four co-founders of SCL in the UK in 2005. Amrish Tyagi is the son of Janata Dal (United) leader K.C. Tyagi. He also runs the firm Ovleno Business Intelligence, which now works with Cambridge Analytica in India.

But who is Avneesh Kumar Rai, the fourth director of SCL India? Continue reading “The inside story of what Cambridge Analytica actually did in India”

Narendra Modi’s new book ‘Exam Warriors’ is an extension of his grand plan to woo first-time voters for 2019

By Shivam Vij for Firstpost, 3 February 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s book Exam Warriors may perhaps win him more votes than his election budget that shied away from disbursing sops.

To be released on Saturday by Penguin Random House India, the author’s bio on the book is five paragraphs long. The very first paragraph reads, “His victory was propelled by historic support from India’s youth, particularly first-time voters.”

That is factually correct. A data analysis by political scientist Oliver Heath in 2015 found that the BJP’s unprecedented victory in 2014 was propelled less by the votes it snatched away from other parties and more by new, first-time voters. Continue reading “Narendra Modi’s new book ‘Exam Warriors’ is an extension of his grand plan to woo first-time voters for 2019”

Why Demonetisation’s Failure Didn’t Benefit The Opposition

[This article first appeared in HuffPost India on 2 September 2017.]

It is easy to give post-facto explanations for anything. The Delhi commentariat consensus is that demonetisation’s real intention was political — in other words, the Modi government knew the economic disaster it would beget. Secondly, we are told demonetisation helped the BJP win the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Continue reading “Why Demonetisation’s Failure Didn’t Benefit The Opposition”

May We Ask Just One Question About Modi’s Permanent Campaign?

By Shivam Vij

Governing with political approval requires a continuing political campaign, wrote a pollster for US President Jimmy Carter in 1976. This gave birth to the theory of permanent campaign.

Reliance on political patronage and the party organization gave way to pollsters, campaign strategists, data and technology. By the time the Bill Clinton era arrived, this had given way to the idea of the permanent election. The administration behaved as though an election was always round the corner.

Narendra Modi’s 2014 election campaign was never over. He’s always campaigning, always pitching, as if an election is always round the corner. An election is indeed always round the corner in India, and every state election is seen as a referendum on Modi.  Continue reading “May We Ask Just One Question About Modi’s Permanent Campaign?”

In Punjab Face-Off, AAP Seems To Have Fallen Into A Congress Trap

(This article by me first appeared in HuffPost India on 18 April 2016.)

Did the Aam Aam Party yesterday fall into the trap of giving the Congress what it wants: moving the political discourse from everything else to the persona of Congress leader Amarinder Singh?

Continue reading “In Punjab Face-Off, AAP Seems To Have Fallen Into A Congress Trap”

Amarinder Is ‘Punjab Da Captain’ To Remind Voters Where Kejriwal Comes From

By Shivam Vij

(This article first appeared in HuffPost India on 11 April 2016.)

It’s a sketch of a blue turban, a yellow inner turban prominently revealing itself through it. The background is white; there is no face. It’s the logo of ‘Punjab da Captain’, Prashant Kishor’s campaign to project Congress leaders Amarinder Singh for the chief minister’s chair. The idea may seem obvious, but there’s more to those three words and the sketch than meets the eye.

Continue reading “Amarinder Is ‘Punjab Da Captain’ To Remind Voters Where Kejriwal Comes From”

Our political pandit-ji: A profile of Prashant Kishor

(First published in Mumbai Mirror, 6 March 2016.)

After an incident of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in Punjab last year, the Congress legislator for Khadoor Sahib in Taran Taran resigned. A by-poll was held. The Aam Aadmi Party, which has taken Punjab by storm, said it wouldn’t contest. The Congress party wasn’t sure if it should. What if it lost? Yet, not throwing a hat in the ring could be taken as a sign of weakness. Will Congress, won’t they, was a matter of political speculation in Punjab for many days. Continue reading “Our political pandit-ji: A profile of Prashant Kishor”