Jan Lokpal, Resignation, Middleclass, Enchantment or Disenchantment

Arvind Kejriwal ‘s resignation over his not being able to table the anti-corruption Jan Lokpal Bill in the state legislature has sparked speculation about erosion of his support base. Both the BJP and the Congress legislatures were very visible on media in their vociferous attempts to block AAP’s efforts to get the Bill approved. All the three parties played out their strategies guided by their intentions to create right effect on electorate.  The Congress and the BJP defended their actions on the grounds of constitutional violation of the Bill’s direct introduction but expressed support to the idea of establishing  anti-corruption ombudsman. AAP accused both the national parties of collusion to thwart their attempts to get the Bill approved.


After 49 days of AAP’s rule in the capital and Kejriwal’s resignation, two extreme kinds of opinions seem to be circulating. Some believe that AAP’s support base would increase and they are likely to perform better in Delhi and it will establish firmly in forthcoming Lok Sabha elections by leveraging the anti-corruption sentiment.  However there are also people who believe that the Kejriwal’s 49 days of power has damaged his support base, especially the middle class voters (thinking voters) for his dharna, populist moves and now resignation.

How would these unfolding of event affect voter behavior? These events are unlikely to have any significant effect on hard core supporters of both the national parties (brand loyal). It is because their perception of reality is filtered through commitment to the ideas and ideals of the parties of their choice.  Hence the core constituencies of the Congress and the BJP will see CM’s resignation going in their favor, a bias created by perceptual mechanism (perceptual defense, distortion and filtration). They would end up picking that portion of reality which supports and reinforces their initial attitude/ liking for their political brand.  That is the reason why, the argument is raised so vociferously against AAP for violating constitutional procedure. The point of constitutional invalidity is likely to resonate well with loyalist of both the Congress and the BJP for its congruence with their initial attitude (you see what you want to see).

AAP has carved out its voters from support base of both the national parties.  How is the CM’s resignation likely to influence them? Heider’s  Balance theory can provide some insights here.  He distinguished between two types of relations between separate entities (e.g. attribute-high calories, brand-Pepsi and consumer): unit and sentiment relations.  Separate entities become a cognitive unit when they are perceived as belonging together like Abhishek and Amitabh or Suffola and heart and now AAP and anticorruption. Sentiment connection or relation indicates feeling or valuation that someone gives to an entity (positive or negative feelings towards Amitabh and Abhishek).  

A balance state for a person is when relations among the entities fit harmoniously fit together.  For instance, if I like (+) Amitabh and I don’t like (-) Abhishek and both are perceived as a unit (+), this is an imbalanced state.  Imbalanced states are stressful and cause friction. Therefore it will push me for moving towards balanced state by some mental (further thinking) and physical effort.  Thus Kejriwal’s resignation over Jan Lokpal Bill is unlikely to create erosion for people who see anti-corruption and Kejriwal or AAP as one unit (+) for they will have positive sentiment towards the both Kejriwal (+) and Jan Lokpal (+).  But if these event have altered the unity between Kejriwal and anti-corruption (-), he may be seen as wanting to become PM or escapist or populist or regressive (new unity between Kejriwal and escapist/populist etc, it would subtly produce tensions and people would move towards achieving a balanced state by revising their attitude towards AAP. This is likely to result in erosion of AAP’s voter base.

The strategy therefor for Kejriwal is to not this unity not get diluted. This is the reason why he has resigned as Delhi’s CM. Secondly do not let the issue of corruption move out of the center of the national debate in coming elections.

What should BJP camp do in this situation? Mounting attacks on Kejriwal is likely to make his brand stronger for he has preempted and appropriated the issue of anti-corruption singularly. The issue of corruption can only be decentered by not attacking AAP (it will create negative sentiment against the attacker).Rather place a bigger issue next to anti-corruption in voters’ perception which will create dwarfing effect.  BJP is right in focusing on growth and governance but it must avoid attacks on AAP for it path to majority in Parliament goes though AAP’s voter base.


Tarang Singhal, Narendra Modi, Congress and Patel


Wish you and your family a happy and prosperous Diwali and Dhanteras
i have been following your blog ever since you began posting and havent missed a single post. the idea of conflating the concept of brand with real world constructs which are more visible is something you do effortlessly. Since you have written about Narendra Modi already, i wanted to point my take on the idea of Vallabhai Patel and modi from a branding point of view. Below is my opinion on the same. 
Narendra Modi in national politics is an outsider, consider the polls for PM in the last 8 years. NM began featuring only in the last three, the TOMA for him was really not there. The NAMO brand had to mean more. So here comes the first story ” Gujarat being the crown jewel in an otherwise ailing country”. The brand creates its first meaning in the mindspace. The story resonates, the dissemination on social media ensures that a restless young generation eager for sweeping changes laps it up and , there he takes a first mover advantage. 
What does the Congress do ( from a pure strategic point of view) ? It is well known that people are more likely to be swayed by body language and appearences rather than content. ( reference: Kennedy Vs Nixon TV Debates). So while both brandish the Nehry style jackets and are eager to burnish their “sons of the soil” tags. In the mind space the idea of what Rahul Gandhi stands for as a leader versus what narendra modi stands for is really the question. So here comes congress calling him a regional leader. A rhetoric that questions his ability. My hypothesis is that by using Sardar Vallabh bhai patel’s legacy Narendra Modi is trying to create the second anchor ( phyically as well as mentally). The Nehru Gandhi narrative has ensured that there are only certain “tall leaders”. Leaders with immpeccable credentials, sacrosanct ( something akin to founding fathers of US). Leaders such as Ambedkar ( used briliiantly by mayawati for another “market” segment) or Rajendra Prasad, Madan Mohan Malviya ,C. Rajagopalachari have lost their appeal. Yet there is something relevant about Patel. Like Apple which used the idea of think different to pitch for people who defied conventions. Patel and the way his legacy has emerged in these years has ensured that he be labelled the unsung hero. It is this audience he wishes to capture by aligning with Patel ( forgotten by Congress, adopted by Modi) a narrative that in my opinion will only strengthen his appeal and also delay the fatigue that his bilitzkrieg may create in the mind of the audience.

Ordinance for Criminality, Chameleon, Morality and Rahul Gandhi

Government and business are organized entities.  The very act by which they are created is likely to create power asymmetry between the ‘creation’ and ‘creators’.  There are abundant instances to show how consumers have suffered on account business’s misdemeanor (unsafe products, misleading ads, price discrimination). Even in democratic systems, power transforms politicians in to lords and citizens become subjects, denied of their genuine rights.

Both business and government are formed for their role. They assume positions of decision makers. In an ideal situation, their rationality must stem from their instrumentality.  Government exists for citizens and business satisfied customers. But this often does not happen. Firms produce dangerous products and make money or government passes an ordinance that favors criminal politicians. These decisions lead to uproar and protests ‘outside’ but insiders justify their acts. Failure to do the ‘right’ thing does not vanish without effects. Disrobing of Draupadi led to war called Mahabharata.  It invites reaction.

Consumers have a long history of protests against corporations starting with Ralph Nadar who penned a book titiled ‘Unsafe at any speed’ to expose car makers of Detroit and Rachel Carson wrote ‘Silent Spring’ exposing damage to environment.  The oppressive governments are challenged by peaceful or violent citizen movements including Indian freedom struggle, civil rights in the US, and French revolution.   

The sudden ‘U’ turn by Mr Rahul Gandhi is appreciable, after all everybody is entitled to revisit a decision, question his or her ethics. But what has transpired between the passage of the ordinance and the press conference that a decision earlier constructed to be ‘right’ has become ‘wrong’.  If it is political calculus, this is not going to go too far. But if it is an act coming of enlightenment, then Rahul Gandhi in new avatar is welcome.

All acts require code or standards or normative framework to judge their ‘rightness’.  Some politicians including Anil Shastri and Jay Panda expressed rejection while others supported it either silently or with voice. This demonstrates how different people ‘look at’ things by applying different norms/standards and arrive at moral judgment. There are two broad categories of theories of ethics: deontological and teleological.

Deontological theories focus on principles that guide behaviors. Kant talks of ‘universal imperative’ which means actions do not count rather the principles that govern those. What is right for one should be right for all.  Actions must be judged on the basis of their inherent ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’ (intrinsic good or bad) regardless of its consequences. The teleological theories are also called ‘consequentialists’, the morality of an action depends on its consequences.  Accordingly acts do not have intrinsic value rather they must be judged on the basis of their outcomes. Utilitarianism (Bentham) employs criteria of the greatest good for the greatest number. Ethical egoism proposes maximization of your own interest-how beneficial an action is to an individual. Within ethical egoism is a theory of ‘enlightened self- interest’, that self- interest should be viewed from long term perspective.  

Rahul Gandhi’s recommendation that the Ordinance should be torn and thrown away raises interesting questions:

Is he doing it because it is ‘intrinsically’ good?

Is he doing it because it is going to bring ‘the greatest good to the greatest number?’

Is he doing it because it is in his ‘own interest’ (most favorable consequence for himself)?

Is he doing it because he is considering the ‘long term effect on his decision on all others’ (society)?

Political Parties, Competition, Positions and Strategies

Conflict is an inescapable aspect of business. The firms compete with each other when they target the same potential customers or employees. Competition is common to people, animals and companies. When a resource cannot be shared organisms compete. And the natural outcome of this is application of mind to outmaneuver or outwit the opponents. Politics comes very close to what transpires in a business situation. And there arises a need to craft a winning strategy in to action. One of the important starting points in strategy formulation process is analysis competition. Just as HUL fights P&G in dandruff shampoo space or Lenovo competes with Dell, Acer and HP in laptop market, political parties like BJP share the competitive landscape with other parties like the Congress, CPM, Samajwadi Party, JDU or AAP.

One of the important starting points in strategy formulation process is gaining a sound understanding of competitive landscape. This involves identification of players and their strategies. Logic demands that conflicts with the powerful must be avoided. And running into a conflict with a dominant player without a smart plan to dodge is an exercise in self destruction. Apple did not engage IBM directly in computers and Micromax did not create a conflict of interest with Nokia. Sun Tzu, a Chinese military strategist and general wrote that war is about planning and positioning. He emphasized the importance of knowledge: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself,you will succumb in every battle”. But he laid supreme importance to winning without fighting: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

There are many ways in which competitive landscape can be analyzed and competitors can be identified. One such method is framework looks at players based on their market positions and strategies as: market leader, market challenger, market follower and market nicher. This framework can be useful diagnostic tool in uncovering the competitive dynamics of political landscape in India. It will be a good idea to develop strategies based on this analysis.

Leader: this position goes to the firm that enjoys highest market share, for instance Nokia and Titan are market leaders in mobile phone and wrist watch market. Congress enjoyed the largest vote share close to 28% (182 seats) in the last elections. A good leader does not rest on its laurels; rather it takes to a higher level by attacking itself and reinvention. By leading it leaves behind the follower. A good example is Intel or Gillette. Congress is taking it agenda forward by not letting the discourse on minority (Muslim reservation), oppressed (possible reservation in private sector) and poor (NAREGA) die.

Challenger:  it is a position that goes to a firm that is next to the leader and enjoys strong position but not as strong as the leader. It is this reality causes this firm to challenge the leader. The BJP is the second largest party with a vote share of 19% and seat share of 116. Challenging is all about attacking the weakness or finding weakness in the strength of the leader. Jerry does not attack the weakness of Tom, rather converts his strength into weakness by shifting the place of fight. Nirma attacked HUL from the flank (economy detergent) and Ujala hit Reckitt Benckiser’s strong brand Robin by mounting a ‘by pass attack’ strategy. The current regime led by PM Manmohan Singh shows many chinks in armour of Congress led UPA which include inflation and corruption (governance deficit, trust deficit), which can be potential targets of criticism.

Follower: Like a challenger a follower is also a strong player but lacks dominance. As the name suggests its style of functioning is to join the ranks and not challenge the equilibrium.  Political parties that do not differ much in their ideologies with a dominant party (inclusion, secularism, backward and minority class considerations) come in this category. For instance parties like Samajwadi (UP) Party or JDU or BSP or NCP share political discourse with the Congress. 

Nicher: A niche brand or company is the one which concentrates its efforts on a space which is left out by major players for some reasons.  In the political context there are parties which focus on a small market segment (geographic or identity group). Some of the examples include TDP in Andhra Pradesh or BJD in Odisha or INLD in Haryana or Shiv Sena in Maharastra. Niche firms build their success on the basis of narrow specialization. For instance Rolex operates in super premium niche of watch market and Thorogood makes shoes for fire fighters. Anchor toothpaste occupies niche comprising of vegetarians and Creative Line woolens brand is aimed at women group of customers. Sticking to knitting is the best way forward for niche brands. Ambition to move on to a bigger market may come at the cost of their specialization which will have a corrosive effect on their core. For instance Trinamool’s active participation in Centre’s politics has shifted its centre to the periphery. Naveen Patnaik’s singular focus on Odisha exemplifies true niche strategy.

The battle for the next general elections is all set to begin and traces of minor skirmishes are becoming visible. With the Congress and the BJP pitted against each other in leader and challenger positions, the most obvious and move of least contemplation is to attach each other. But this is unlikely to yield outcomes significantly different from the outcomes of the last round of fight. The strategy does not lie in mounting more and bigger attack on each other, rather creating a paradigmatic change in the way people arrive at their preferences.