The Union government is yet to announce the setting up of a world-class All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home State Gujarat, but some State Bharatiya Janata Party leaders are already fighting over its location.Gujarat BJP leaders and legislators from Rajkot and Vadodara have been fighting over the venue of the facility, which is likely to be set up in the State. Recently, Gujarat State BJP president Jitu Vaghani said in Rajkot that the AIIMS would be set up in Rajkot to cater to the healthcare needs of the people of the Saurashtra region.Mr. Vaghani said this while campaigning for the recently held by-election for the Jasdan Assembly constituency in Rajkot district. Mr. Vaghani’s impromptu announcement caught even State Ministers off guard. Deputy Chief Minister and Health Minister Nitin Patel feigned ignorance over an AIIMS in Rajkot.“I am not aware of any development regarding the AIIMS in Rajkot,” Mr. Patel reportedly said. Legislators meet CMSubsequently, a group of eight legislators from the Vadodara district called on Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in an attempt to persuade him to select Vadodara as the venue for AIIMS.“We want AIIMS in Vadodara as was promised earlier. Now, they cannot change the location and pick up Rajkot,” said the party’s veteran legislator Yogesh Patel, who led the delegation of legislators from central Gujarat to the Chief Minister.According to Mr. Patel, there are tribal pockets like Chhota Udepur, Narmada, Godhara and Dahod near Vadodara, so a world class medical institute can cater to them, too, besides Vadodara city. Another legislator who was part of the delegation said that the CM himself was not sure whether Rajkot was being picked as the location for the AIIMS, as was suggested by the State party chief.
The women’s wings of the three major political parties in Odisha have become more active since the State Assembly passed a resolution unanimously for providing 33% reservation for women in the Legislative Assemblies and Parliament on November 20 last year. Ahead of the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the State, the number of meetings and demonstrations by the women’s wings of the ruling Biju Janata Dal and Opposition Congress and BJP has also started multiplying after Chief Minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik took up the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 4. Mr. Patnaik had urged Mr. Modi to initiate necessary steps for passing the Women’s Reservation Bill for reservation of one-third seats in Parliament and State Legislatures for women. “I assure full support of my government in providing women their rightful place in the decision-making process,” Mr. Patnaik wrote to Mr. Modi.The Chief Minister, who has been focussing on women’s empowerment, has not stopped there. Senior party leaders have been meeting top leaders of different parties across the country seeking their support for passage of the Bill in Parliament.Positive signs In fact, the three major parties have also strengthened their women’s wings in the recent months. While the BJD and the Congress have appointed new presidents in their women’s wings, the BJP has inducted some prominent women to add strength to its women’s wing. Such has become the political atmosphere that women leaders of these parties from far-off districts have started frequenting Bhubaneswar hoping to get party tickets. They are of the view that more women will be given tickets to contest the coming elections even if the Bill is not passed in Parliament. “This is a positive sign that more and more women are coming forward to actively participate in politics. Odisha has produced many women leaders, including former Chief Minister Nandini Satpathy, in the past and the current trend should be encouraged by different parties,” said political analyst Rabi Das. Buoyant by the developments with regard to women’s political participation, transgender rights activists too have become active in their work with the hope that they may also be given tickets by different parties. “Time has come for all parties to give tickets to transgender people to ensure their participation in the decision-making process,” said Meera Parida, chairman of the All Odisha Transgender Welfare Trust.
“Never start a press conference at 7:30 PM. That’s when TV news channels run sports shows. They will not cut out of cricket to show your press conference. Avoid live briefings at 2:30 PM, that’s when Hindi news channels run Saas-Bahu shows, which get very good ratings. Channels will not break out of their Saas-Bahu shows.” These are amongst the gems of insider information that Team Anna has relied on to outsmart and outmanoeuvre the government’s much-vaunted media managers.In an era when TV channels are forever ‘Breaking News’, Team Anna has shown great mastery in using the TV camera to communicate its message and keep the heat on the government. Compared with a government that takes several hours, some times days, to communicate its stance, Team Anna has been able to ensure that it sets the news agenda, forcing a desperate government to play catch up.Team Anna formulated its media strategy using the help of some former TV journalists. The likes of Manish Sisodia, who worked with Zee News as a producer, and Shazia Ilmi, who was one of the lead anchors at Star News for several years, help Team Anna get an insider’s perspective on how TV channels run and how to stay on top of the news cycle.Here are some of Team Anna’s Dos and Don’ts when it comes to the media. “Never kick off a major protest on a Sunday or a holiday, that’s when TV channels have a lot of pre-recorded shows and space for live news is limited. Plus, all the big anchors and editors take the day off. Stories get played up more when the top editors are present in the news room.” Sample another, “Unlike the government, do not make the mistake of neglecting Hindi channels and regional media, since most of the audiences are actually watching news in vernacular languages and not in English.”advertisementIn just the same way as editors conduct a news meeting every morning, key members of Team Anna too hold their own media strategy meeting. In this meeting, different ideas are discussed. The team then comes up with catchy headlines, like “Joke Pal not Lok Pal”, headlines that these professionals from their past experience know the media is likely to lap up.Talking points are circulated to members who will be appearing on TV debates or giving print interviews. The instruction is clear, don’t get bogged down by the noise of a TV discussion and regardless of what the anchor asks or the other panellists allege, ensure that what you say does not stray from the key issue of Jan Lokpal and corruption.The strategists also realise the importance of keeping the message fresh to ensure that ‘Breaking News’ is supplied at regular intervals. Letters to the Prime Minister or Sonia Gandhi, or photo opportunities like Anna sitting at Rajghat on Independence Day are part of this strategy. Team Anna has realised the importance of symbolism, which is how Anna’s image in front of Mahatma Gandhi’s samadhi became the defining image this Independence Day, instead of the Prime Minister speaking at Red Fort.Not just is the importance of communicating the right message understood, attempts are also made to ensure that there are no deviations from the central message. When Anna Hazare spoke out in favour of Narendra Modi, the media strategists quickly understood that this comment could end up alienating apolitical supporters and fuel allegations that Anna was the BJP’s B-Team. Very quickly, it was clarified that Anna only praised Modi’s development work and did not condone state-sponsored riots. When allegations were levelled that the RSS was sponsoring Anna’s campaign, attempts were made to rope in faces from the Muslim community to give the movement an inclusive feel.Team Anna has even engaged an external media tracking agency that pores over every line of news carried in newspapers and TV channels. If the team feels the media is drifting from their message, meetings are immediately convened and course correction strategies chalked out.Attempts to leverage the media are not restricted to TV and print, social media too is given a major thrust, which is what explains the large turn-out of youngsters at places like India Gate and Azad Maidan. A dedicated team of volunteers constantly updates India Against Corruption, Facebook pages and Twitter handles, which is how the youth know where to assemble and when. Communication is localised down to every city so that the campaign is not restricted only to Delhi and Mumbai.Compare Team Anna’s cutting edge media strategy with that of the UPA government. For 72 hours after Baba Ramdev was unceremoniously evicted from Ramlila Maidan in the middle of the night, the government made no effort to explain to a horrified nation, what prompted the police’s mid-night crackdown. Even in the case of the PM’s faux pas on Bangladesh in the Editor’s roundtable, it took the PMO more than 30 hours to remove the offending remarks from the PMO website. In the intervening period, serious damage had been done to the government’s image and media consumers had formed their own opinion on the government’s actions.advertisementIn the United States, successive Presidents since John F. Kennedy have turned media management into a fine art. An entire industry of spin doctors thrives and is growing with every passing year. Barack Obama’s successful presidential run in 2008 is often credited to deft handling of mass media and the ability to communicate a message of hope, which resonated with users across all media platforms – TV, print, radio and online.Rattled by a series of PR disasters, the government has now formulated a Group of Ministers on the media, whose job is to communicate the government’s viewpoint to the people in real time. But in comparison with Anna’s message which seems earnest, the government’s spokespersons often come across as being condescending, confrontational and arrogant.At every stage, Anna has shown that he is three steps ahead of the government. When it became clear that the government would arrest Anna Hazare on Tuesday morning, Team Anna recorded a message for the people of India. Government sources dismissed this tactic as being inspired by slain terrorist Osama bin Laden, but the video message helped Anna generate sympathy even amongst fence sitters who did not support his campaign before this. The recording also had a graphic plate with the names of people who would lead the movement in Anna’s absence – a key mass communication strategy to ensure that people know whose voice to listen to.In an era when 24-hour TV is a reality that cannot be wished away, Team Anna has shown how even with limited resources, mass media can be channelised to amplify the message. The government, despite the innumerable resources at its command, still comes across as confused and chooses to blame the media for creating the Anna phenomenon. A classic case of confusing the message with the messenger. No wonder Anna is winning and the government is bound in shackles.
As a mark of respect for the life and work of the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, His Excellency Hugo Chavez Frías and notably his contribution to the development of Jamaica, Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller has announced the following:1) Wreaths will be laid on Thursday afternoon, March 7, at 4 o’clock at the statue of the Great Liberator, Simón Bolívar by Senator the Honourable A.J. Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; the Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, the Honourable Phillip Paulwell; the Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Her Excellency Maria Mendoza Ortega and the Chairman of the Petro Caribe Development Fund and Financial Secretary, Mr. Devon Rowe.2) On Friday, March 8 – the day of the funeral of President Chavez, the Jamaican flag shall be flown at half-mast from sunrise to sunset. The protocols with respect to flying of other flags shall apply.3) High level government officials will sign the condolence book that has been opened at the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.4) On Friday, Prime Minister the Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller will lead the delegation attending the State Funeral of President Chavez. Other members of the delegation are: Senator, Hon. A.J. Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; Minister of Science, Technology, Energy & Mining, the Honourable Phillip Paulwell; Her Worship Senator Angela Brown Burke, Mayor of Kingston and Vice President, People’s National Party; Senator Robert Montague, Opposition Representative and Chairman of the Jamaica Labour Party, Ambassador Clifton Stone, former Ambassador to Venezuela, along with the Prime Minister’s support and security team.