After more than three years in office, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is critical of the media’s attitude towards his government. For Akhilesh, the media does not highlight his good work while negative aspects are blown out of proportion. Akhilesh also got a taste of how branding can work in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls where the BJP gave the Samajwadi Party its worst drubbing in two decades.
Akhilesh often complains that his government is miles ahead in work but lags behind in publicity. ‘Kaam mein aagey hain, prachar mein peechey hain’ — says Akhilesh during meetings.
If there is any wrongdoing in the state, news reports run with his picture. Another irony is that during official functions in remote districts, beneficiaries failed to even recognise Akhilesh while he distributed cheques to them.
To counter such poor publicity, the SP government has launched a massive PR building exercise projecting Akhilesh as icon of ‘development’. Though there is no official figure on the sums involved in the advertisement blitz, sources claimed that it runs into hundreds of crores.
After the 2014 Lok Sabha defeat, Akhilesh had learnt his lesson and has revised the branding strategy with a focus on development in UP. Indeed, he has changed the set pattern of publicity for his Samajwadi Party. In 2012, he had finalised the unique advertisement campaign and slogan Ummed Ki Cycle followed by composing the party song Man Sey Hain Mulayam on lines of Billy Joel composition`We didn’t start the fire’.
Akhilesh hired Bollywood musician Nikhil and singer Javed Ali for it. Now the slogans have changed to Rising UP, Land of Unlimited Potential and most recent–Pure Hotey Wadey, Ab Hain Naye Iradey. In the past Akhilesh has said that UP failed to even project the Taj Mahal to the world and thus he is now positioning UP as `Home of Taj’.
The focus is on projecting Akhilesh as a brand, showcasing the development and positive aspects under his tenure.
Every advertisement medium has been touched—for FM radio there is a special programme `UP Ki Kahaniyan’ which narrate the common man’s development under Akhilesh’s regime; for TV more than 150 promotional films have been shot each with a duration of 5-10 minutes, each highlighting developmental work by every government department. In the print medium, full page advertisements are released every day covering not only national but even international newspapers.
Social medium and internet haven’t been ignored. Akhilesh’s government has already signed up with Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL) to establish the state’s first, round-the-clock, Social Media Communications Hub (SMCH) in Lucknow. Its major role will be to follow social media and other websites about UP government and Akhilesh Yadav.
Akhilesh himself is active on Facebook and Twitter reacting to various queries.
Akhilesh already has launched a dedicated news website of his government — upnews360.in — which provides information about the latest development in almost all 75 districts. Another innovative mobile app Samajwadi Akhilesh has also been launched which provides information about SP, socialist ideologue Lohia and Mulayam along with the achievements of Akhilesh government. Another song¯Yuva Soch, Yuva Josh focussing on young CM has been made the official caller tune of all government CUG mobile phones.
Though assembly polls are in 2017, Akhilesh understands that hardly a year is left during which he can project his achievements to paint a pro-development image to counter the `Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas’ by the BJP. In the past three years, most of the time was lost with reports highlighting his submissive attitude towards SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav and senior ministers. Now to break the shackles and stereotyped image, Akhilesh has sanctioned the PR exercise where he is highlighted along with welfare schemes and major landmark projects.