The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sequel to Ronnie & Tony show
- BJP to borrow campaign ideas of comeback specialists
Reagan (top), Blair

New Delhi, Feb. 29: In the age of globalisation, the BJP is going beyond national boundaries in search of campaign inspiration. Party strategists are picking ideas from Ronald Reagan and Tony Blair’s campaigns when they ran for a second term.

Reagan asked Americans if they felt better after four years of his rule. Blair’s message, in a nutshell, was: “You voted for change in 1997, you made it happen. So, thank you.”

BJP sources claimed the campaign blueprint they have readied will combine elements of the Reagan-Blair strategy and come through as “positive” and “soft-focused” without the drum-beating and flag-waving frenzy of the Ramjanmabhoomi and Kargil eras. Nor will they try to project an “inflated” image of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “We will show him as the tallest leader in the Indian polity who is backed by a wonderful team,” the sources said.

Apparently, a set of dos and don’ts emerged after the strategists had discussions with the Prime Minister and BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu. These are:

• Talk only of positives and avoid darting “cheap jibes” at political opponents;

• The message should be: “We performed well, we intend to do better”;

• Attack Sonia Gandhi only if you must. Say the BJP “respects” her as the leader of Opposition, as a woman and as Rajiv Gandhi’s widow but that she is “unfit” to be Prime Minister. Question her ability to lead the country;

• Do not bring in Priyanka and Rahul;

• Go easy on the government’s “urban successes” like GDP growth and foreign exchange reserves. Focus on less-publicised rural schemes like the road connectivity programme and the income insurance scheme for farmers;

• Don’t sound arrogant;

• “National pride” should be placed in an economic context, no room for jingoism.

The campaign will emphasise how from being “just another Third World country”, India is now taken seriously by the superpowers, how “Made in India” labels are no longer looked at with contempt.

The sources said the reason for “sobriety” rather than “screeching and screaming” about Vajpayee is: “We are speaking from a position of far greater strength today than in 1999. We were in power for just a year, of which six months was a caretaker government during which Kargil happened. Kargil was the only plank. Five years later, we have many more significant and substantial achievements to talk about.”

Vajpayee wants the thrust not so much on “highways and telephony” as rural road connectivity and schemes for farmers, they added.

“This government has constructed 40,000 km of village roads. This is a far larger effort than the Golden Quadrilateral. Interest rates for farmers are considerably low and on easier terms because gone are the days when they have to pledge their land to borrow money,” they explained.

The other “achievement” the BJP’s campaign will highlight is the income insurance scheme for farmers, which will not only protect them against natural calamities like floods and drought but against market fluctuations. The scheme has been enforced in 21 districts across the country and will cover another 100 by the end of March.

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