IPRCCC: 'Internal & external communication is a critical function of political parties'

A panel discussion with political leaders on how important communication is for political parties especially when the country is under a grip of anti-CAA protests

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Dec 21, 2019 10:40 AM
IPRCCC Political Party Panel

Words are a powerful tool in the hands of politicians. When used correctly they can help them conquer while a simple slip of the tongue could have far-reaching consequences. There can be no other arena where communication is more important than in politics. It was therefore apt to host spokespersons from top political parties at the IPRCC held in Delhi on Friday. The discussion was especially relevant in the backdrop of severe protests that the country is witnessing over CAA.

Moderated by Dr Annurag Batra - Chairman Editor in Chief, exchange4media & BW Businessworld, the session on “Political Communication: How the internal and external communication is a critical function of parties”, was, as expected, high octane and politically charged. Participating in the panel were Gaurav Bhatia- National Spokesperson, BJP, Shazia Ilmi- National Spokesperson BJP and Ghanshyam Tiwari - Samajwadi Party leader. Each master communicators in their own right.

Opening the discussion, Dr Batra asked Gaurav Bhatia that if someone in the party has a dissenting view, for example on CAB –NRC, do they have the right to have any input or give feedback on how to do it better, does the top leadership listen? Bhatia replied, “We are very fortunate to be serving in the BJP, for the reason that a spokesperson’s job is to finally amplify the view of the party effectively but when that view is formed, you have to abide by it but that does not mean that a healthy organisation like the BJP will not give you room and space to present your own views, to show dissent also, to disagree but as the Supreme Court has said, dissent is fine, propagation of your view is fine, incitement is not fine, what we see sometimes. So, when you’ve presented your view the senior party leaders take stock of your view of the situation, they fine-tune part ideology also but once the view has been decided by the party, whether others like it or not, you have to abide by the party line and put it across effectively. And because we are talking about communication, what is the power of effective communication? If you have the conviction, the right communication, it will ensure that people are with you fighting for the same cause.”

Without mincing words, Dr Batra asked Bhatia a straightforward question- How much would he rate, on a scale of one to ten, his party’s communication on CAB and the NRC issue? Bhatia opined that senior BJP leaders, including Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, were using the public medium to ensure the right message goes down but it was also the responsibility of the citizens and while it was their right to protest but a violent protest was nobody’s right. On being nudged to give marks on ten, Bhatia said he would give full marks but quipped that if Dr Batra insisted he would give nine since he believed that there is always scope for improvement.

Bringing Shazia Ilmi into the discussion, Dr Batra said without getting into the right and wrong of the debate over CAA, how did she feel about the aggressive tonality of the communication from top political leaders and how would she rate it as a party spokesperson, as a woman, as an Indian citizen and a Muslim who lives in India, Ilmi replied, “What is happening now is extremely disturbing and distressing. If I can give a cubist point of view from a communicator, from a spokesperson, being an Indian citizen and a Muslim citizen and a woman citizen. I would say a lot more needs to be desired where communication and correct communication, communication with responsibility is concerned from all sides. Whether it’s the opposition or the party, whether it is genuine misgivings, whether its apprehensions or fears of some of our brothers and sisters, they have to be addressed. It is important for my government, for my party to convene and explain as to what is meant by CAB, similarly, it is an equal responsibility of the opposition, of every teacher of every professional, of every protestor to know what they are up against. So I think honesty and objectivity can never be sacrificed at the altar of politics, at the altar of ideology. That is one sacrifice I will never make in my life. I have never compromised and I never will. There is such a short attention span, there is such a need to jump at everything that is being said that nothing can get said with depth and gravitas.”

She further added that we need to take stock as a society and cease to be Hindu and Muslims and men and women, BJP and Congress and instead reflect on what are we doing to our intelligence and acumen.

“Yes, it is the duty of my party and like I have said CAA has nothing to do with any Indian whatsoever, Muslims, and Hindus alike.” While admitting to receiving calls from a concerned family about the present situation she said, “Please do not jump the gun, please read, take stock, sleep over it and then know what you are up against. More often than not we are too ready to believe, sometimes perception is bigger than reality. So, right now it’s shadow boxing, we don’t even know what we are fighting.’

Asking Ghanshyam Tiwari about how he and his party would have communicated the CAA and what would he have done differently if he had to communicate it to the people? Tiwari instead highlighted the communication failures on the part of the government, he said, “There are many things that can be said but some things stand out, one, the PM saying from a stage that you can look at the protestors by their clothes, I don’t think anyone misunderstands what the PM meant, the second Govt releases a document on ANI which is a FAQ on CAA, NRC, unsigned, released by sources, unnamed. Third, not a single minister in this govt said why students were attacked in a library? Fourth, the entire CAA and NRC, the moment anyone says the CAA has nothing to do with us and then speaks of NRC in a different chapter is a miscommunication assuming people don’t read.”

In a scathing attack on the communication policies of the government or the lack of it, Tiwari added, “the communication has been irresponsible, it has fanned fears, people don’t want to look at those fears because for a long time the government has gotten used to piggybacking communication on the back of a friendly media that has obliged them.”

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