The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong builds where BJP failed to shine

New Delhi, July 12: The BJP had showcased the sensex and flyovers; the Congress will talk of village roads, water and jobs. And where India Shining had failed, the Manmohan Singh government hopes Building India would succeed.

The United Progressive Alliance has decided to start its 2009 election campaign from September this year, with a Bharat Nirman blitz that should be a world apart from the National Democratic Alliance’s Bharat Uday ad assault.

Unlike the NDA’s target group of the urban middle class, Bharat Nirman would try to influence what it believes is its core support bank, the aam admi.

And whereas the Vajpayee government “shone” from newspaper pages and TV screens, Manmohan’s will “build” its appeal through village field campaigns, too.

The Indian Shining campaign, based on economic growth that appeared to have benefited mainly the haves, bombed spectacularly when India’s poor handed the NDA a stunning defeat in the May 2004 polls.

Manmohan, a bigger sensex icon than any in the NDA ministry, set the tone for the UPA campaign recently by ruing the failure of the economic reforms to benefit the common man and warning the rich to lay off crude displays of their wealth.

The UPA campaign is likely to showcase the various components of Bharat Nirman — a four-year plan launched by the UPA government in 2005 — as well as other pro-poor initiatives, widely credited to Sonia Gandhi.

These include the rural job guarantee scheme, the laws on the right to information and forest land (for tribals), the Other Backward Classes quota in higher education and the follow-up action on the Sachar report on minorities.

Bharat Nirman seeks to bring an additional 1 crore hectares under assured irrigation, and drinking water, electricity and telephone connectivity to every home by 2009. It promises all-weather roads to every village with a population of 1,000 (or 500 in hilly and tribal areas) and 60 lakh new homes for the rural poor.

The September kickoff — that is, immediately after the presidential and vice-presidential elections — gives the government nearly a year and a half before the next Lok Sabha polls are held in early 2009.

The NDA, too, had launched its Bharat Uday campaigns about a year before the May 2004 polls.

Sources said the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is monitoring the campaign blueprint. The plan was discussed by the secretaries of the various development ministries on July 6.

Information and broadcasting secretary Asha Swarup presided over the meeting, attended by the joint secretary in the PMO, Gopal Krishnan, and the secretaries of the rural development, human resource development, health and minority affairs ministries.

These ministries have been asked to prepare notes on what exactly the campaign should highlight and list the publicity material they possess.

The directorate of audio-visual publicity will hire a professional agency that will help develop the concept for the campaign. The sources said the agency would suggest ways of taking the government’s message into the villages — something the NDA had failed to do with India Shining.

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