Television

BJP spokesperson M A Naqvi

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From being a junior minister to former information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj few years back, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has come a long way to become one of the young Turks for the Hindu-dominated Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been accused to be having allegedly an agenda against the minorities of the country.

Though many had thought that the political career of this Muslim leader from Uttar Pradesh would be short-lived after he was shunted out of the government to the party, Naqvi has proved skeptics wrong. Not only has he risen up within the party ranks as one of the general secretaries and a party spokesperson, he was also nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the BJP soon after.

As part of an integral part of the media cell of the BJP, Naqvi is hopping from one TV studio to another these days in the run up to the general elections. In this interview with indiantelevision.com’s Anjan Mitra in his Delhi residence, Naqvi discusses some of the issues relating to the party’s media and communication strategy for the elections.

Excerpts:

On the broad media strategy of the party for the general elections...

The party is totally geared up for the elections and though some of the things are yet to be fine-tuned, our strategy this time embraces both traditional and new media. Some of the initiatives can already be seen. The total strategy hinges on issues like development, foreign affairs, national security and a sound economy. In short, India Shining. This time we’d fight

the elections from the sky (through satellite channels) as also on the ground.

On the people behind the media strategy...

Every decision is taken with the consent of Prime Minister AB Vajpayee and his deputy LK Advani. But there are certain senior leaders who are core to the strategy. People like party president Venkaiah Naidu and leaders like Pramod (Mahajan), Arun (Jaitley), finance minister Jaswant Singh, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and Sushmaji (Swaraj). Of course, there are inputs from every nook and corner of the party, but the details are fine-tuned by these people.

On the type of media spend that has been that has earmarked for the general elections.

The full budget is not yet ready and it’d be difficult also to put a figure to it. In our party such things work at various levels. There is a central media budget, while the state units have their separate funds too. Full information on this is still to come to the party headquarters.

But I must point out that media speculations on the BJP’s advertising and media budget have put figures on the higher side.

(A recent news report in a business daily had stated that BJP alone may end up spending close to one billion rupees on its media and communications plan)

"Technology has made us feel that Internet is a medium that should be tapped"

On whether TV channels too would form an integral part of the plan...

TV channels certainly would form an important part of the plan, but we feel that satellite TV’s reach is between 30-35 per cent only. Keeping that in mind, we’d have to use the medium innovatively. Moreover, there is a feeling within the party that taking airtime on news channels only would not serve the purpose. The mass-based entertainment channels too would have to be added to increase the reach of the message.

But, at this moment, the details of the channels have not been finalized as we are still awaiting a directive from the Election Commission and would also have to wait for the final outcome of the issue of advertising on the electronic medium.

On the break-up of media share of various segments

Roughly TV would take up 15 per cent of the media budget, while another 25 per cent would go to the print medium. The rest would be made of other media and initiatives like the Internet, SMS (over cellular phones), promotional stuff aired via video vans, outdoor hoardings (wherever permitted), audio cassettes and cinema halls. The last would be tapped in a big way and some 200 cinema halls round the country have already been identified for this purpose.

On the two major new areas being tapped for media...

Technology has made us feel that Internet is a medium that should be tapped. The hows, whys and whens are being worked upon by the techno-savvy ones. (Pramod Mahajan and his team, including his one time OSD, Ajay Singh and Sudhanshu Mittal, are said to be the techno-savvy ones who are coming up with ways to exploit technology and the Net.)

The second major area could be TV, if the controversies are ironed out.

On outside professional help being taken this time...

As always, the core idea comes from within the party that is given a shape and articulated by advertising agencies. There are several of them, including a Mumbai-based firm headed by one Mr Khandelwal, working with us. But most of the catchy lines have been coined in-house till now.

On whether surrogate advertising, targeting opposition politicians like Sonia Gandhi is in good taste...

I think everybody is to be blamed. The opposition too has been flooding the media with surrogate advertising questioning the government’s achievements. Whether something is good or bad is subjective and depends on various factors.

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