BJP on mission to build Brand Shivraj as Plan-B

Chouhan has been around on the social media for less than a year. The response to his tweets is far from encouraging.

Chandrakant Naidu January 31, 2014 20:35:28 IST
BJP on mission to build Brand Shivraj as Plan-B

Bhopal: Around this time last year Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had acquired the reputation of a chief minister who did not let the ninth year in office affect his demeanour of a humble and steady worker of the BJP. Many senior leaders saw Chouhan and his Chhattisgarh counterpart Raman Singh as the ideal future leaders of the party—grounded, level-headed and hardworking.

However, a certain Narendra Modi from Gujarat upstaged them and upset other senior leaders supporting the duo. Media hyperbole and networking through social media was Modi’s mantra for success while both Chouhan and Singh weren’t so good at blowing their own trumpet. Modi acquired a strikingly opposite image. Chouhan realised the disincentives on modesty were pretty high. Corporate-backed Modi fast-tracked his career to force RSS to impose him on the party as the prime ministerial candidate.

BJP on mission to build Brand Shivraj as PlanB

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. PTI

Chouhan found himself being pushed back. The reconstituted BJP central parliamentary board under Rajnath Singh jolted him. Rivals, whom he had successfully kept off, bounced back just when Chouhan started gearing up for state assembly elections. Shivraj who was touted to be a certainty in the CPB missed the bus because Modi, the new star on the horizon, wanted his trusted aide, Amit Shah by his side.

To compound the matters Chouhan cast his weight around the leadership of LK Advani. Both Advani and Sushma Swaraj made no secret of their disapproval of Modi's prime ministerial candidature and lavished praises on Chouhan who also gave expression to his reservations about Modi’s development model. In a tweet Chouhan said, "High growth and accelerated investments have no meaning unless the benefit reaches the poorest in the society."

Chouhan preferred direct connectivity with the "non- tweeting" strata and addressed more than 30 congregations of rickshaw pullers, domestic help, washer men and cobblers liberally distributing largesse. His government wooed the poor by promising to provide the poor families wheat at Re 1 per KG and rice at Rs 2 per kilogram. This move targeted 3.5 crore beneficiaries. The results were salutary and the BJP defied all odds to drub the Congress and for the record third term. Even the Congress conceded that the popularity of Brand Shivraj was the single important factor behind the BJP. The others in the state just rode to power on his image.

Chouhan’s supporters, however, felt he had not done enough to increase his social media outreach. Modi who campaigned extensively in the state got more credit than was due for the party’s comprehensive victory.

Chouhan has been around on the social media for less than a year. The response to his tweets is far from encouraging. His blog would show how Modi supporters from Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha have hijacked the space and swamped it with abusive messages against other parties. Their messages are steeped in hate which is quite contrary to Chouhan’s disposition.

While a liberal and inclusive Chouhan praises Bohras saying real Ramrajya could be seen in that community the messages from Modi supporters spew venom against all Muslims. On an otherwise sober site Modi brigade aggressively runs down the rivals. The Aam Aadmi Party is the favourite target and the messages often posted in Hindi come along with Bing or Google translation that make it nearly impossible to catch the original message.

Sometimes the results can be counter-productive.

Now that Chouhan is mentioned as prospective prime ministerial alternative if Modi fails to get requisite support for the NDA his supporters want him to aggressively storm the social media. Modi and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal's success has forced Chouhan’s bureaucratic team to reposition Brand Shivraj. The idea is to connect with the younger audience. The team of bureaucrats assigned to execute the idea includes the principal secretary in the chief minister's office Manoj Shrivastava and secretary Vivek Agrawal.

The chief minister’s earlier forays on social media have not yielded the desired results.

The mainstream media picked up selective tweets but the youth was far from enthused. The staid content and form lack appeal for the youth. This time around the effort will be directed to throw up youth related issues like employment and career opportunities, entrepreneurship and sports and adventure to catch the target audience. The idea is to invest in the 18-35 age groups where popularity could yield long-term dividends.

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