There can be no denying the BJP has wrested the psychological advantage about four years after the 2004 General Election debacle. The swagger is back and this time with a four letter word to reinforce it if this report by the TOI is anything to go by:

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi virtually set the agenda at the BJP national council on Monday, mounting a frontal attack on the Manmohan Singh government over “communal” budgeting in development programmes and a “lack of seriousness” in tackling threats to national security.  The saffron strongman confirmed his standing with the BJP rank and file as some 4,000-odd delegates listened to Modi outline a sharp political critique of the UPA.

As he rolled out a chargesheet against the UPA, Modi peppered his speech with ringing praise for Leader of Opposition L K Advani whose projection as prime ministerial nominee he repeatedly endorsed.

While praising the BJP for getting into election mode instantly Swapan Dasgupta writing in The Pioneer on sunday also lamented on the need for defining brand Advani.

The BJP cannot proceed on the assumption that Advani is a pre-sold commodity or a known brand. Brand Advani 1990 is not Brand Advani 2008. The country knew what he represented 18 years ago. It needs to be told where he stands today.

It is understandable why Mr. Dasgupta would want Brand Advani to be defined for after all the mainstream media, particularly the english media and 24×7 news channels , have a track record of negative branding of the BJP and its leaders.These channels also have a history of attempting to prop up brand Sonia  and brand Rahul while preserving brand Manmohan’s teflon skinned conscience.

While Mr. Dasgupta may be right in this assessment that the country at large may not know what Brand Advani means, he is perhaps overstating the significance of a national brand. The Modi victory in Gujarat has shattered many myths about the media’s power to make and unmake brands and the media’s ability to influence electoral outcomes. In fact more than a branding of Modi in the media it was the framing of the public debate around the no-nonsense persona of Modi and his “I mean business” record that made the difference in Gujarat.

So should the BJP frame its campaign around Mr. Advani’s persona in the run up to the next general election ?

While we have seen how fruitless a national brand like Sonia has been in delivering electoral dividends to the Congress we have also seen the limitations of a hyping up the promise of brand Rahul without a record to show.

Both of these media machinations are good reasons for the BJP to not go overboard in attempting to building new equity of brand Advani.

Offstumped Bottomline: The outcome of the next general election will invariably be determined by the sum of all local incumbencies and mutinies especially given how distant and far removed the Union Government and Parliamentarians are from directly impacting day to day issues of delivery of public services. While the BJP was succesful in peppering over incumbencies and mutinies in Gujarat this nation has not voted on an overriding national issue in over two decades in a general election. Not even the most horrific of terrorist attacks like the 7-11 train blasts in Mumbai have been effective at either triggering a national backlash or sustaining one beyond the first 48 hours of the incident. There is no escaping the calculus of incumbency for the BJP in a general election.

Originally posted here

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