Elections across the world has become very technology driven, there is data collected for every possible permutation and combination of voters and their voting preferences. You can have voting preference data by gender, by age group, by ethnic groups, by location, by dwelling size. There are many many organizations which are collecting such data on a regular basis all across the world and providing it to leaders. These days data is supposed to be the panacea for winning the elections. Relying on data and making strategies based on them seems like an easy way of winning elections. Many armchair politicians are now building war rooms and social media warriors to ride on this data to craft strategies and win elections. They are losing.
Elections is not about data, elections are about controlling the narrative. If you control the narrative that is close to your persona, you win, end of story. In West Bengal, Ms. Mamata Banerjee was on a weak wicket, her proteges and advisors were leaving the party and her strategist was telling her not to be combative and stay away from attacking the Modi-Shah duo. Now if Mamata di is anything, she is a warrior, a belligerent street fighter -that is who she is. This is her persona, people like her for that, as long as she keeps fighting and being seen as a warrior who is up against the world, she will keep winning. Staged or otherwise the attack on her gave her the opening she was looking for, the chance to play victim — a woman affronted by the Modi-Shah duo. Up went the plaster, out came the wheelchair and she donned the role that she has perfected over the years — a victim. She created the narrative that if BJP were to rule Bengal, violence would be common place and women will not be safe, the Jai Shri Ram was a threat to Joy Maa Durga. The women came out and created a landslide in her favor. You can go into details, assembly by assembly, ward by ward and do all the analysis, but it will be of no use. She was the government and yet she portrayed herself as the opposition, the narrative was hers and everyone else had no answer to that. Interesting thing to note is that all the winds of change and ‘hawa’ can change almost overnight if you are able to create a strong narrative. It’s never too late in the day to do this.
In Kerala Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan controlled the narrative —we (not I) know how to govern. When the whole of India was reeling under the Corona second wave and people were scrambling for beds and oxygen and plasma, the Kerala Government had a call center working round the clock, helping people deal with the issue. Even if lives were being lost, people were not feeling orphaned, abandoned. Governance was the narrative and the opposition had no leadership, no comeback no nothing. It was almost as if the opposition didn’t know what to say, what to attack and what to claim! An un-charismatic person won with a 2/3rd majority and created history by becoming the first chief minister ofKerala in more than 40 years to not lose. However it is rare in India that governance becomes a narrative. In Kerala that happened.
In Tamil Nadu the ruling dispensation was clueless, did not believe that their administration was liked, people liked their governance. They gave up without creating a narrative. This lack of narrative from AIADMK gave space to DMK to win the election without creating a narrative of their own. They rode to victory on a very flimsy ground of not being affiliated to the BJP. Had AIADMK worked hard on creating a narrative, though being in power for 10 years and not having their charismatic leader Ms. J Jayalalithaa in their midst anymore, they would have won the election. The voters saw them as efficient in governance even if low key, but they erred in not creating a narrative and paid the price for it.
Narrative usually has to be combined with some great ground level organization working to take the message to the people in every nook and corner of the state and country. However sometimes a strong narrative can overcome the deficiency of not having a grassroots level organization working over time to make sure that the party wins. This election should serve as a reminder to the Congress party run by the Gandhi siblings and the matriarch that time has come to start creating a narrative that can help them in winning elections. So far they have failed.