The dark side of the Bharat Nirman blitzkrieg

The dark side of the Bharat Nirman blitzkrieg

September 24, 2013

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has launched the second phase of the Bharat Nirman campaign, spending nearly Rs 22 crore on an advertising blitzkrieg that will highlight the government's major achievements in a run-up to the 2014 general elections.

The multi-media campaign produced by Percept - 'Glimpses of the India Story', will attempt to showcase tangible benefits that have accrued in sectors like education, health, telecom, rural and urban infrastructure driven by plans and policies such as direct cash transfers, Aadhaar, food security, real estate regulations, the Land Acquisition Bill and the Street Vendors Bill, even as the government tries hard to shed an image tainted by scams and allegations of underperformance.

Conceptualized last year, the campaign has so far seen its creators, film director Pradeep Sarkar and his Apocalypso Filmworks Pvt. Ltd, and advertising agency Percept/H, create 22 commercials, many featuring a continuing character—a young woman, Priya, who is born into an underprivileged background but, through hard work and a helping hand from the government’s policies, travels to Delhi to study engineering from her remote village, becomes an entrepreneur, acquires land in and around her village (at the new rates announced by the government, 4 times the market value), and is an all-round busybody and do-gooder.

Ads have aired across major television channels and FM stations. A similar advertising campaign 'India Shining' unleashed by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government in the run-up to the 2004 general elections had cost the NDA dearly as it was trounced and the Congress returned to power along with the UPA partners and has been in office since then.

The leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, said, "The government has launched second phase of the campaign Bharat Nirman. In fact, it is not Bharat Nirman, it is 'Bharat Pareshan' (India worried)," Swaraj said in a tweet. Tewari retorted tweeting that it was Swaraj's party, the BJP, which was 'pareshan'.

The Bharat Nirman advertisement campaign is expected to cost the exchequer Rs 100 crore. You’d think the Rs 100 crore Bharat Nirman campaign by the UPA government would be enough to highlight its achievements, but the Congress has another advertising blitz ahead of the 2014 polls and given it has Rs 500 crore to splurge, the biggest names in the advertising world and queuing up to make presentations to Rahul Gandhi. The brief to the advertising agencies is simple: play up the welfare schemes, don’t talk about the allegations of corruption.
Ads have aired across major television channels and FM stations. A similar advertising

The UPA government will have more cash to make Bharat Nirman---an ad campaign publicising its achievements during the past nine years---bigger and better ahead of next general elections.

A finance ministry panel okayed Rs. 630 crore for the 12th Five Year Plan for the campaign. Half of the money would be spent till March 2014. Around that time the model code of conduct would come into force, as the current Lok Sabha’s term expires on May 31, 2014. Earlier, an amount of Rs. 180 crore was expected to be spent on the campaign by February next year.

Misusing adspace

The Street Vendors (Protection and Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2013, was passed by the Lok Sabha in the first week of September. But even before its passage in the Rajya Sabha, advertisements about the benefits of the bill have been published in several dailies and aired on television channels.

The Trinamool Congress lambasted the UPA government for taking credit for a vendor-protection bill that is yet to be approved by the Rajya Sabha.

“The way the ads are being floated is absolutely unethical. The bill is half-way…. It is awaiting the consideration of the Rajya Sabha. The way they have advertised it, with minuscule disclaimers at the bottom, shows that they have taken Parliament for granted,” TMC spokesperson informed the media at a press conference.

“If they can advertise a bill before it has got the Rajya Sabha’s consent, they might as well do away with the upper House. They have insulted Parliament by advertising about the bill,” the party spokesperson added.

He added that while Trinamul was in no way opposed to the bill, the party was “vehemently opposed to the unethical way” in which the Centre was publicising it. He alleged that the UPA II government had done the same with the food security bill, too.

Parting Thought

Nine years after the NDA spelt its doom over the India Shining campaign, Congress is treading on the same path. Whether advertisement blitzkrieg can buy votes and wipe off a saga of misrule, governance deficit and corruption, is for the future to tell.

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Comments (4)
Susmita Reply
September 23, 2013
Why dont they spend the money for the betterment of places instead of publicity.!! Greed for vote is the worst thing that is making these happen.
Kunal Reply
September 23, 2013
How can they spend so much unnecessary money on ad making when so many people are starving all around India.. Really shame.
Abhiroop Dey Reply
September 23, 2013
Bharat Nirman is just the Congress trying to gloss over its mistakes. But the voters would respond.
Sanjukta Reply
September 23, 2013
Spending public money on Party campaigns is a criminal offence. Very well written article - educative too.
Arpan Mandal
September 23, 2013
The Congress is doing this now. It didn't learn from BJP's India Shining disaster.
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