UPA’s ad campaign only draws attention to its years of silence and passivit
Even as it is buffeted by controversies over corruption and disrespect shown to institutions,the UPA has splashed out on a Rs 180-crore publicity campaign,ahead of the next election. Its Bharat Nirman campaign attempts to showcase its big ideas and trumpets its rights-based approach. The government appears to have woken up to the need to communicate with citizens. But it may have come too late. Perceptions have already been locked in,and advertisements,by their very nature,are one-sided and opportunistic. They allow no talk back,they are not open to challenge by ground realities. At this point,the UPAs outreach only sounds like a needy pitch. Having consistently failed to level with citizens,even at points when they desperately needed to hear the governments voice,the UPA is now selling to them,employing the exaggerations and appeals of an advertising campaign.
UPA 2 has been a remarkable failure at keeping up the conversation. Its silences,at the level of the prime minister and the UPA chairperson,have been actively damaging. On key matters of economic and social policy,the heads of party and government have not expressed their stands openly,creating a haze of uncertainty and misinterpretation,allowing ministries to work at cross-purposes. The Congress presidents personal investment in certain legislation is made clear mainly through the National Advisory Council,not by her interventions in Parliament. The prime minister is as reticent. Not only have they failed to actively shape the discourse,they have let the agenda be set by civil society,by the courts and sometimes by a belligerent opposition. Whether it was on corruption or violence against women,they did not sense the popular mood and respond. They spoke only when cornered into situations. This reluctance to speak has affected the relationship with allies (a coordination mechanism was set up late in the day). It has affected the investment climate not knowing which way the political wind is blowing is certain to cramp business enthusiasm. In its silence,the UPA has been politically self-destructive,failing to argue its case on matters like coal block allocation or CBI independence,to take the most recent examples.
This newfound initiative to convey its efforts to the people through targeted ad campaigns draws attention to the aloofness of all these years,when the government behaved as though even a minimal level of communication with those who voted it to power was too much to ask for.