Narendra Modi has climbed over multiple obstacles in his bid to become the 14th Prime Minister of India. Building his appeal on the platform of development and growth, he has been offering the example of his state, Gujarat as a shining example of governance and efficiency for the rest of India. But perhaps the most difficult obstacle he finds in his pursuit of the 7, Race Course Road address is getting enough support from UP.
We garnered views, opinions and sentiments of Indians from all walks of life as part of the BAV 2013 study, a proprietary brand diagnostic tool from Rediffusion Y&R. We put forward 15 political parties for their consideration and responses. We interpreted political parties as brands and tried to delve into the traction these brands have in the minds of the voter.
BJP trails SP and BSP on the power grid, while Congress is languishing well behind. It's interesting to see that the voters see the three main parties in very different ways. While the incumbent SP is seen as Arrogant, Unique and Social, the other significant regional party, BSP is perceived as Obliging, Different and Arrogant. The main challenger, BJP is seen as Trustworthy, Authentic, Simple and Socially Responsible. It's interesting that Arrogance is associated with the regional parties and this provides an opening for Mr. Modi and BJP to capitalise. BJP's high Esteem can be gauged from the perceptions the voter holds for it, but the need of the hour is to showcase Dynamism in its leadership and Innovation in its agenda, which could add a much-needed differentiation to the simple trusted imagery that it already enjoys. This could be the most significant step that BJP can take to correct its low Differentiation.
To build these cues, BJP could take a two-pronged approach:
(c) Focus its agenda on Development and Growth of UP and stay away from issues like Hindutva, Caste-based politics and Secularism.
(ci) Project a leader to position the party as a positive change agent in the state.
Why would such a leader be essential? Delving deeper into the demographics of the UP voter, another interesting fact was the eroding image of BJP and BSP in the minds of the youth (18 to 24 year olds). BJP seems to be losing out heavily in Differentiation and Relevance with this audience and SP is best placed with this demographic. This is probably because of the very young Akhilesh Yadav in whom the youth find resonance. Recent developments of Mr. Modi standing from Varanasi should ideally take care of these considerations as multiple opinion polls indicate the affinity the youth have for Mr. Modi.
While the voter knows best and is the only one who can decide, as a brand we find BJP having significant traction in UP. To win UP, BJP has to clearly position itself as a 'Party with a future-facing innovative agenda'. BJP's candidature of Mr. Modi could well be the political masterstroke that tilts the balance in BJP's favour. BJP seems to have all the cards to play for in this round of election poker but ultimately, this game is not played by having the best hand, but by playing your opposition and your strategy.
The author is head of Brand Asset Valuator (BAV) division at Rediffusion Y&R.