Successful political leaders are mostly gifted demagogues who ensure support by rabble-rousing and appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people and rhetorically exploiting issues for political purposes in a calculated way.
For instance, in the 1992 US presidential elections, Bill Clinton won against incumbent George Bush by taking advantage of the economic recession thereby immortalising the phrase ‘the economy, stupid’. Have you ever wondered why Narendra Modi is more popular among the youth than any other political figure in India? What is it that enables him to connect with them so easily? The answer is the story he has created about himself that has resonated with the hearts of the masses and people look up to him for inspiration.
We all know that Modi started his journey as a chaiwala at a railway station. We haven’t gone to the extent of verifying his origin but we accept it on face value. That is the power of his story. This holds true for other political stalwarts as well, be it Mamata Banerjee or Didi in West Bengal or Arvind Kejriwal at Delhi.
To understand how to create the perfect story that resonates across all the voters you need to go back to the basic structure of a story. Every story is set in a background, has a climax and then an anti-climax. What makes a good story is the emotions with which it connects to its readers. Emotions like threat, opportunity, fear and hope are common throughout the world, though the context varies from place to place.
Take for instance in India, the story of Arvind Kejriwal who left his job as an IRS officer to make an impact in politics through the India Against Corruption movement upturns the narrative that only the ones with family legacy stand a chance of winning elections in India. Here, the apathy of the Congress government is portrayed as a villain in contrast to the heroic figure of Kejriwal who is resolute to stand tall against corruption and bring in change.
Moreover, it is also important to know the pulse of the voters, their needs, problems, and insecurities, to write the apposite narrative. When people voted for Modi in 2019 they did not do so based completely on his track record of good governance. You might remember how the economy was brought to a standstill through his reckless decision of demonetisation. However, people chose to believe the motive behind such a step as presented by Modi himself. In his Gujarat campaign he urged voters to give him a month’s time to get things settled and look at the results in the state assembly as well as the general elections.
In the age of digitization, storytelling has become the means to win elections. Political leaders active on Twitter choose to engage with the voters to feel the pulse. Moreover, it is necessary to keep the zeal intact. You cannot just read out a script. You need to sound convincing and be consistent with your story. Throw in some anecdotes from your personal life or narrate some instances from your recent past, repeat some key words, and borrow some examples from epics like Ramayana, – and your voters think you are one of them. They start identifying with you.
There is another aspect that proves to be a turning point in driving the voter’s attention – talking about their insecurities. You may create a common external enemy on whom the voters can place all blame. In the recent past it has been used by Modi when he ordered the air raids at Balakot in Pakistan and got his voters convinced of his firm determination to “teach Pakistan a lesson.” We may remember his interview on television where he said that the Indian Air Force could benefit since it was a cloudy day. His story was an instant hit!
The recently concluded elections in West Bengal, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held her campaigns with a broken leg and consistently upheld her narrative of ‘Banglar Nijer Meye’ (Bengal’s own daughter) for months, yielded delightful results with TMC winning absolute majority and forming government for third consecutive time with Didi at the helm.
Power of story cannot be gainsaid in today’s political reality across the world. The module in a nutshell goes like this – Know the people, frame the strategy and start the campaign!