The BJP's new-age spin doctor

Ministers, as a rule, allow themselves to be untouched by their jobs, because they know how fleeting their assignment can be. A B K Khanduri, for instance, got his job as minister for surface transport, because of his background in building roads for the Indian Army.

Similarly, Arun Jaitley holds the law portfolio because of his known prowess as a lawyer. You could argue that politicians rarely have a vocation independent of politics and, therefore, are not equipped with any professional skills.

They are expected to learn on the job. But there are few ministers who can plough to useful purpose all that they might have learnt during their ministership. The exception is Pramod Mahajan.

Consider the portfolios he has held. After a stint as advisor to the prime minister, Mahajan has been information, telecommunications, and electronics minister.

Today, a significant element of the BJP’s campaign is the SMS and phone-messaging part, which conveys to the recipient the immediacy and urgency of the BJP’s message.

A crucial part of the strategy of choosing candidates was to get computerised profiles of constituencies, their caste, demographic and psephological background so that it could aid the process of choosing candidates. This intelligence was provided by Mahajan.

Mahajan’s managerial mantra is simple — delegate, delegate, delegate. He chooses the members of his team with care. He has to be assured of their loyalty, but also of their ability to think outside the box. And they have to be below 50.

Sudhanshu Mittal is one such member of his team, an associate for years and a second-generation BJP supporter, having been the president of the Delhi University Students’ Union in the 1980s. Mittal has been unfairly and unkindly called tentwallah (because of his family’s association with the tent business) and a Mahajan crony.

But it was because of the background of solid hard work by Mittal and his friends that the BJP was able to analyse reams of electoral data, understand voting trends and back up “political instinct” with solid fact.

In the Rajasthan Assembly elections, for instance, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) did not like Mahajan’s team telling it that while its candidates had a good image, they would not win because popular perception did not view them as politicians. In at least five constituencies, the results bore this out.

Another member of the Mahajan team, Ajay Singh, who was on his staff when he was telecom minister, is behind the idea of the telecom campaign and the phone, mobile and SMS messaging. It is significant that these ideas did not occur to Arun Shourie or Ram Vilas Paswan, also former telecom minister. It was Mahajan who put his team to work to get knowledge technology to work for the BJP.

Amod Aggarwal, a chartered accountant by profession and an advisor to Minister for Food and Civil Supplies Sharad Yadav, has not made himself popular with civil servants. But this is because his training makes him see things that others do not.

Aggarwal played a significant role in enhancing foodgrain allocation to below poverty line (BPL)-families and making the government understand that there were some areas where even BPL prices were too high for offtake, so it was incumbent upon the government to evolve some other system to make the public distribution system (PDS) effective. He, too, is part of the Mahajan team.

There are several others, too numerous to detail, who are part of the group. Aware that the BJP is now a conglomerate of interests, Mahajan’s boys are quietly providing new technologies to prod the BJP into trying out new things and going new places.

Like any other party, there are elements in the BJP who are holding their breath and waiting for them to fail. But with Mahajan leading them, this could be tough.

News Source: Business Standard
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