Is Bharat Nirman India Shining part two? Arati R Jerath If catchy slogans could win elections, the NDA's "India Shining" refrain should have reaped the BJP-led coalition a whirlwind in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls. It didn't . India Shining was felled by the humble Aam Aadmi and to the BJP's shock, a Congress-led front rode to power that year on a wave of disenchantment with saffron triumphalism. Media generated hyperbole proved to be no match for an old-fashioned ground-level campaign by the other side. The mind boggles therefore at the Congress's decision to go down the same disastrous path as the BJP with a pre-election multi-media ad blitz to showcase its "achievements" of the past nine years in government. In a studied bid to avoid the chutzpah of India Shining, the Congress has chosen the more prosaic catchphrase of Bharat Nirman. But, with due apologies to Shakespeare for paraphrasing, does a rose by any other name smell any different? Comparisons are inevitable and the similarities undeniable. If India Shining was a marketing slogan intended to hard-sell the optimism of an economy on the upswing, Bharat Nirman is an attempt to restore the feel good factor of the 9% growth story from UPA 1. The BJP hired leading ad agency Grey Worldwide to design its campaign. The Congress has opted for top names from Bollywood, roping in Parineeta director Pradeep Sarkar for a short film and lyricist and nominated Rajya Sabha MP Javed Akhtar to pen the campaign's signature song: "Meelo hum aa gaye, meelo hamein jaana hai (we have come a long way but we have a long way to go yet)." The most telling irony is that both spin out the same narrative, underlining the disturbing lag in basic socio-economic parameters. The government may have changed but the problems clearly haven't . Both campaigns highlight the same issues. The 60-second video made by the Vajpayee government boasted of the steps it had taken to boost the economy , stabilize prices, expand road and telecom networks , create health infrastructure and promote basic free education. The Manmohan Singh government makes similar claims plus one more, that of restoring "social cohesion" , a reference to the 2002 communal violence that scorched Gujarat. Significantly, L K Advani was to acknowledge later that the India Shining slogan was "inappropriate" for an election campaign. In hindsight, many in the BJP realized that the tone and tenor were arrogant and insensitive and that it glossed over prevailing social and economic inequities that the NDA government had failed to address. The Congress is in grave danger of falling into the same trap. Bharat Nirman may not have the brashness of India Shining but the campaign is a pathetic attempt to sweep the controversies of the past three years under the carpet. A slick film and a lyrical jingle cannot erase the stench from various corruption scandals or make up for non-performance as food prices rise and the economy slows down. Communication is indeed an essential part of politics but can politics be packaged and sold like toothpaste? Surely ad gurus and image-makers are no substitute for grassroots political workers who are in touch with people. Politicians seem to have forgotten that voters decide the issues in an election, not governments or opposition parties. They would do well to put their ear to the ground and listen to the rumblings of a discerning electorate. There is another interesting twist to the current discourse. The India Shining campaign was launched well before the Lok Sabha polls were due. There was nothing political about it, NDA leaders insisted. It was simply meant to attract international investment. The BJP then went on to advance the election by six months and the rest is history. The noises from the Congress are much the same. Elections are one year away, I&B minister Manish Tewari told the media, insisting that Bharat Nirman is simply an attempt to bring an "appropriate perspective" to the people about the UPA government. But with the Congress hell bent on traveling the same road as the BJP, it is difficult to shake off the feeling that the recently launched campaign could well be a precursor to an early general election. Is Bharat Nirman India Shining part two? by Paint it Black : Arati R Jerath's blog-The Times Of India ************************************************* I am sure Manish Tiwari would be livid about this criticism of the pure magic being spun by the Congress! Surely something had to be done to fool the public and throw wool over their eyes so that they are left rubbing their eyes and not seeing the scams and skulduggery that has been the mantra of the UPAII The slogan Congress ka Hath Jagannath will no longer wash!