The audacity of Advani

L.K. Advani, of India's BJP party, is better known for fiery, nationalist, partisan rhetoric than he is for unity and change. At 80 years old, he's more McCain than Obama. However, as he makes his bid to be India's Prime Minister, he's trying to poach from the Obama playbook:

For a few months, a small team of political strategists, computer specialists and management graduates in New Delhi has been studying Obama's speeches and slogans, Web site, campus outreach and rhetoric of change.

"About 100 million first-time voters will enter the election landscape next year. That is a staggering number of young people. And the Indian youth is impatient for change," said Sudheendra Kulkarni, who heads up strategy for the campaign.
...
"We want to project the image of Advani around the idea of change the same way that Obama's message resonated with people's hunger for change," Kulkarni said.

More than two-thirds of India's 1 billion-plus people are younger than 35, making it one of the youngest emerging economies in the world. Rising income and aspirations, along with rapid urbanization, are forcing political parties to reimagine their old, top-down style of election campaigning.
...
"Like the Obama brand, we need to create a buzz around Advani-ji," said Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a BJP member of Parliament and a key campaign official, attaching the Hindi honorific "ji" to the veteran leader's name. Naqvi recently returned from a leadership program at Yale University with a notebook full of observations from the presidential primaries.


As the article notes, the default communication medium in India is the cell phone/SMS rather than the web. The Advani campaign will have to genuinely innovate, since while the Obama campaign did make use of text messaging as one of its communication channels, SMS plays nowhere near the same role in US elections as the Internet does. That dynamic is totally inverted for India (and most Asian countries, since for most of them, cell phones were the vanguard of phone access rather than land lines).

If any campaign figures out a way to let a user make a micropayment to their candidate on their cell phone, then that's going to be enormous.

The other thing to be skeptical about is just how well the concept of "grassroots" is understood in the Indian setting. As the article notes, political parties there are very used to top-down, centralized campaigning. Will the Advani campaign be willing to let the grassroots have a genuine voice?

Whether the Advani team understands the principle behind Obama's model, or whether they are just aping Obama in cargo-cult fashion, remains to be seen. But the critique of Obama from the right has been that he is all message and no substance. If that's true, then that's good for Advani, assuming he faithfully reproduces it. If however, the success of Obama is not just the method but the man, then I don't think Advani is going to get much traction at all. Obviously I think the latter case will hold.

Tags: Advani, India, netroots, obama (all tags)

Comments

11 Comments

cross-posted to Nation-Building -nt

by azizhp 2008-07-11 08:11AM | 0 recs
Re: cross-posted to Nation-Building -nt

The other thing to be skeptical about is just how well the concept of "grassroots" is understood in the Indian setting.

I believe there was man named Gandhi who managed to overturn the British empire , its vast army, its nearly a century of reign over India- by a simple grassroots NON-VIOLENT movement.

That nation has a history of having youth movements.

Most of the east indians I know are younger and more so republican. I know why that is but I won't waste time speaking to it.

by roxfoxy 2008-07-11 09:13AM | 0 recs
Re: cross-posted to Nation-Building -nt

clever, but really we are obviously talking about two separate things. Or are you underestimating the level of oppression which India suffered under the British, by simplistically equating that to mere political disenchantment?

by azizhp 2008-07-11 06:55PM | 0 recs
Very interesting development in India. Please

keep us posted.

by louisprandtl 2008-07-11 08:45AM | 0 recs
Advani is repsonsible for mass murder

He was supposedly the minister responsible for internal security in India when large scale massacre by his partymen was being committed in Gujarat. He also led the attack that demolished an Islamic place of worship in Ayodhya in 1992 which led to riots and resulted in deaths of thousands (yes you read it right) thousands of people. I am not sure that trumpeting Advani as the new Obama will do the great senator from Illinois any favors.

by ann0nymous 2008-07-11 09:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Advani is repsonsible for mass murder

The ayodhya issue was done by extremist fanatical Hindu elements. It had nothing to do with Advani.  Advani reign was similar to Bill Clinton and I dare say 100X better.  

The country and its economic growth blossomed to such an extent that you might as well call him the father of the modern India.

by roxfoxy 2008-07-11 09:17AM | 0 recs
Similar to Bill Clinton?

You got your facts all wrong--Advani was never the chief executive of India. And yes, he led the crowd which demolosihed the mosque. He belongs to jail; not lead a democratic nation.  

by ann0nymous 2008-07-11 09:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Similar to Bill Clinton?

Sorry, the Prime Minster was Vajpee ( spell check that) under BJP

But advani did not lead the charge. He was largely responsible for opening up the free market fro India. Thus began the economic boom under the BJP party.

Muslims were threatening to destroy the Hindu temple and that's was what lead to a mob frenzy to destroy their mosque. The only people wanting him in Jail were the Muslim leaders and the Muslim community--- because they like to blame the National Govt for every lunatic fanatical group acting on its own.  

by roxfoxy 2008-07-11 01:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Similar to Bill Clinton?

I suppose those muslims in Gujrat really had it coming, too, eh?

by azizhp 2008-07-11 06:56PM | 0 recs
You again got the facts wrong

There was no temple and no Advani had no hand in ``opening the markets''. The person chiefly responsible for it is the current PM of India Manmohan Singh who did it way back in 1991 when Advani was leading the fundamentalist movement in India.

by ann0nymous 2008-07-13 07:42PM | 0 recs
And he is the leader of the extremist party

He is W times 1000 X

by ann0nymous 2008-07-11 10:00AM | 0 recs

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