When the Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi announced on March 5 that Kerala would go to the polls on only May 16, politicians, of all hues, were left wondering how they could sustain a campaign over 73 days. Stratagems began getting devised in rival political camps as to how long they could procrastinate, before the launch of the real ticket campaign. The situation began shaping up to be like a classical gun battle in the Wild West, where the opposing gunslingers wait till the last possible second before going for the fabled draw-n-shoot routine. Over a month has passed and neither the UDF nor the LDF, not even the wannabe newbie NDA has blinked, as all the fronts are frozen in a time warp, as it were, waiting for the real action to begin.
Corporate Houses Wary
If all that could be explained away as political vacillations of the ‘To be or Not to be’ genre, at a more prosaic level, the corporate houses in Kerala, sparse as they are in numbers, are caught on the horns of the inevitable dilemma. Fearing the onslaught of fund-collectors from various political parties, many of them did not know whether to grin and bear it or try and do a vanishing act, by claiming their right to take a mid-summer break. Actually, some of them did push off to exotic global locations, but soon realised their folly.
Their business acumen took over and most of them returned soon enough, given that it was not economically sustainable to stay abroad for over two months. Most of the captains of industry have come to terms with the reality and decided to fork out campaign funds to the unavoidable candidates. Some of them, jokingly, and others, in deadpan seriousness, have made it clear that the pay-out would be in EMI-like format — in tranches, to checkmate the likelihood of many returning for refurbishing their sinking funds, given the duration of the campaign.
What has come as a reprieve to most businessmen is the protracted wrangle over the candidates’ list in the Congress, and it is the fond wish of many that the uncertainty should continue. Because, unless the Congress comes up with their list and, by extension, the UDF campaign gets geared up for war, the LDF will hold its horses. Ditto the NDA. Because, no political front would want to fritter away their war chest, before the real war begins. Therein rests the relevance of the Wild West and the quick-draw theory. Till that happens, the businessmen would count themselves a blessed lot. Reason: there are another 40-odd days to go before they can be rest assured that the worst is over.
Smart Advertising: The Way to Go
Meanwhile, the political climate of Kerala seems to have got a move on from the yatra phase, marked by accompanying skirmishes on the social media sites and the days of smear campaigns. Taking a leaf out of the Narendra Modi campaign days of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the two major political fronts of the state have taken to professional marketing gurus to take what they hope would be the clinching line that will connect with the masses.
If the Modi camp roped in legends from the advertising world, like Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Joshi and Sam Balsara, and pulled it off with the Ab ki Baar Modi Sarkar slogan by Soho Square, a part of the WPP stable, the UDF has turned to Push Advertising, while the Bangalore-based PRHUB handles some veteran Congress candidates on an individual basis.
In a multi-pronged strategy, the LDF’s slogan, LDF Varum, Ellam Shariyaakum, coined by the Kochi-based Maitri Advertising, builds on many negatives of the UDF government. To that extent, the campaign paints different scenarios but has the reassuring slogan about the impending arrival of the LDF government as a common thread. Juxtaposed against this is the UDF slogan that initially comes across as uni-dimensional in nature. By reiterating the same message all over again — Valaranam Keralam, Thudaranam Ee Bharanam; Oru Vattam Koodi UDF Sarkar — the campaign managers have made it clear that they do not want to digress from this message even a wee bit. Showing it is no way behind the big brothers in sloganeering, the BJP has come up with a crisp one: Vazhimuttiya Keralam, Vazhi Kaattaan BJP.
It’s another matter altogether that the educated voters may not get unduly influenced by smart slogans, but the three political fronts seem to believe that the youth, that comprise a significant segment of the electorate, could be. And, therefore, they have no option but to cover their bets, even if it means mixing up the old-fashioned yatras with smart slogans from the world of advertising. April may prove a cruel month for many, but the heat of May will scorch all but one political dispensation out of the reckoning for the next five years.