Congress MPs during their 'Save Democracy' protest outside Parliament | PTI
Congress MPs during their 'Save Democracy' protest outside Parliament | PTI
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What do voters want? Very simply, voters want politicians to solve their problems.

Voters want a politician who can get their FIR filed and get them a job too; a politician who can improve the quality of education in schools and make the hospitals run efficiently; a politician who can prevent terrorist attacks and reduce corruption; a politician who can make the air clean and build new infrastructure; a politician who can improve their economic prospects and keep the inflation low.

And yet, when you look at the news, you mostly see politicians finding fault with other politicians. All they seem to be doing is opposing each other, often for the sake of opposing. Much of this has to do with the media, which loves debate and controversy. Everything is a big fight, never a dialogue.

But the media alone is not to blame. Politicians themselves prefer fighting each other over fighting the issues that ail 1.3 billion people. This is particularly true of the opposition leaders, who seem to think their job is merely to oppose.

The BJP is drunk on power, says Priyanka Gandhi. Modi is ignoring people’s bread and butter issues, says Mayawati. Nitish Kumar is disconnected from the ground reality, says Tejashwi Yadav.

Even before the budget is presented, you know the opposition is going to stand up and say it is anti-middle class, anti-poor, anti-farmer. Playing opposition has become banal and predictable. You can guess what opposition leaders are saying without bothering to see the news. Making statements against the government has become a formality. Rahul Gandhi says the opposition’s job is “easy and enjoyable”. The difficult part, he forgot to add, is to move from the opposition to the treasury benches.


Also read: Why India’s opposition parties don’t have good orators

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Positive always wins

Most of the messaging from the opposition leaders is negative. Voters instead want the opposition to explain what they would do if in power, and how they would make things better. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, the opposition needs to propose more than it wants to oppose.

Most successful political campaigns, at least the wildly successful ones, are positive. As UPA-2 became a ‘lame-duck’ government, the Lokpal movement wasn’t simply about protesting against corruption. Instead, it offered a solution. If only the government would create an independent ombudsman, corruption would go away, the movement said.

Then came Narendra Modi, declaring his ambition to be the Prime Minister. It would have been easy for him to say that he should be the Prime Minister because the UPA-2 government is insufferable. That might have brought the NDA to power. But Modi went a step ahead, and did a positive campaign. I’ll build bullet trains and the world’s tallest statue, he said. I’ll take the country to new heights, create crores of good jobs, and make our education system so good that we’ll be exporting teachers to the world, he thundered. The good days are about to come, he promised. Ironically, Modi in power has been doing negative campaigning more than Modi in opposition did.

Once again, a positive campaign succeeded so wildly that Modi became the first Prime Minister with a clear majority since Rajiv Gandhi in 1984.

Arvind Kejriwal became the chief minister of Delhi by persuading people that he’ll keep electricity and water bills in check. The Congress won Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in 2018 by promising a farm loan waiver. Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh ran a mostly positive campaign for about 21 long months, starting July 2017. He said these are the nine things I want to do when I become the chief minister. And, he became the chief minister.


Also read: Modi shoots Urdu poetry at ‘negative’ Opposition, throws EVM & Sardar Patel taunts


Agenda-setting

Positive campaigning helps politicians set the agenda. The government looks weak and defensive responding to the opposition’s agenda – or not responding to it. Either way, the opposition carries the day. Public discourse moves to whether Lokpal is a good idea or not, whether Modi’s promises are realistic or not, whether Arvind Kejriwal did the right thing by climbing the electricity pole, whether Andhra Pradesh has the money to implement Jagan’s nine big promises.

If you look at how the national opposition just opposes Modi and does nothing else, you can see why Modi alone sets the agenda for public debates. If the opposition were to set the agenda with a positive campaign, it would take the focus away from Modi and help it gain all the limelight.


Also read: Congress today doesn’t need a leader or an election win, it needs an ideology


Selling trust

A positive campaign helps politicians sell trust. A politician seeking votes is asking people for five years of trust. Any politician can say he or she will create jobs, why should voters trust you in particular? To even begin making people trust a politician, you need to start with a positive campaign.

Modi sold trust using the Gujarat model — I did it in Gujarat, so I can do it across India, he said. But another way of selling trust is by simply sticking to a positive agenda. If you keep saying for five years that you want to do this and that for the people, voters might give you a chance in the next election.

Sick and tired of politicians making empty promises, voters today need to be persuaded that you actually know how to implement them. Showing people the process is important. A politician who goes on a mass outreach campaign saying this is how jobs can be created will likely become the darling of the masses. People want leaders to think of the next generation, not the next election.

I have a dream, said Martin Luther King. Yes we can, said Barack Obama. Make America great again, said Donald Trump. Positive campaigning gives people hope. Negative campaigning makes them despair. And people prefer hope.

Views are personal.

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8 Comments Share Your Views

8 COMMENTS

  1. It is good to see that the journalist Shivam Vij now thinks of looking what the voters want. Before election his articles were mostly telling
    voters what he wanted them to do. But they disregarded his advice. At least now if he takes a more balanced view his observations will get better response.

  2. What made you see the change Modi government brought. They not only promised but delivered from cooking, housing, banking, toilets to security and it yielded them results which none of you sitting in close doors and don’t understand the basic issue a poor common man suffers. Hopefully, u would learn more in coming times.

  3. It is so much easier to do a negative campaign than do a positive one . As Kejrival himself must have discovered , born of the anticorruption movement , so many members of the AAP itself have been tarnished .As Modi himself must have discovered after the ‘Ache Din’ campaign , if you make specific promises , the time will surely come when you will be held answerable .
    What Politicians generally try to do in India is to ptetend to be the least worst option and they generally suceed , they are n number of criminals and corrupt in the parliament . The benchmarks in India are low and you have to be a tad higher without appearing to be cimpletley insincere .

  4. Govt. has tied up with various NGOs to work on education, health, environment etc. The Think tank of India :- Niti Ayog has set-up 48 indicators on which these NGOs are working precisely. And I am also working on the ground to improve quality of education but these Indian voters who want the above mentioned development don’t want to step out of their comfort zone, they don’t cooperate, some of us are pushed out of the schools. No government will do spoon feeding until people themselves start taking ownership for education, health, environment, employment or anything.

  5. But, they have NOTHING else. And, they are totally bankrupt in ideas. The worst of them all is RG himself, who has fancy notions of becoming the PM of this country. Lol.

  6. Where was Vijji when BJP was in opposition. If he had given the same advise to them, we could have been better situation. Yes opposition needs to tell how they would be better, but people like Vij has to take on ruling party. In states where BJP is not in power they are behaving worst than Opposition parties. BJP which has no member in AP assembly is asking the ruling party what they have done after forming. Why opposition in Delhi cannot ask the same from BJP in Delhi

  7. Do you know or remember that Voters of India has never given Congress party even simple majority of its own after voting for rajiv gandhi in 1984 under emotions on death of Mrs I .Gandhi Ji . verdict of 2014 and 2019 are not fluke events. Once assured of the credentials of the Prime Ministerial candidature of Shri Modi Ji people never had to evaluate Pappu as contender even. So be assured what ever lament by dynasty supportive journalists Congress is on path of extinction. Nature and history never like and maintain vacuum .. A new dispersion will appear after some political churning at appropriate time in future.

  8. Very true. However, the Opposition should also do full justice of that part of its job which requires it to oppose the government credibly, responsibly, asking questions, pointing out failures and shortcomings. In Parliament, pin drop silence, barring an occasional symbolic walk out or spell of shouting. Keep the questions coming, the debates well researched and sharp. Easy and enjoyable are not attributes people expect from serious politicians.

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