October 6, 2004
The mazdoor Shiv Sena leader from Central Mumbai’s Mazgaon constituency, Bala Nandgaonkar, was once a private security guard. He mingled with mill workers organising gully cricket matches and Ganesh mandals to become the popular MLA of Mazgaon.
But today, even a grassroot leader like him has succumbed to the sophistication of ‘‘spin’’ and hired a public relations firm to manage his image and political campaign for Assembly polls.
‘‘For the first time in my political career I have got a PR firm to handle my publicity, as I am pitted against Chhagan Bhujbal’s son,’’ says the 45-year-old Nandgaonkar.
‘‘There are so many TV channels along with newspapers today that politicians need professional help for publicity. Also, due to strict poll restrictions, it is always easier to outsource campaign work,’’ says Sumanth Kumar, CEO of Taurus Public Relations Pvt Ltd.
So the spin doctors at Taurus have been guiding Nandgaonkar on what to say, how much to smile, where to look while on padyatras and during press interviews. ‘‘But, of course, an experienced politician like Nandgaonkar does not really need any advice from us, just subtle tips like smart body language can make a difference,’’ adds Kumar.
Meanwhile, a US-returned electronics engineer, Gaurang Damani, is helping BJP candidate from Matunga, Babubhai Bhawanji. ‘‘Normally when a politician is being interviewed, he looks at the journalist instead of the camera. Honest eye-contact is very essential to win over voters,’’ says Damani.
Public relations has become so vital that the Congress spokesperson for North-West Mumbai district, Krishna Hegde, has hired Spin Communique PR to take care of three candidates — Baba Siddique (Bandra), Shashi Prabhu (Borivali) and Dr S. Ahmed (Nagpada). One of the rare politicians who does not believe in PR is Shaina N.C., BJP candidate from Bandra. ‘‘Even as a designer, I have never used a PR to promote my shows,’’ she says.
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