Monday, December 29, 2014

Managing BJP Supporters well

BJP and Stakeholder Management

Stakeholder management is a recent addition to the ‘Knowledge areas’ for professional body such as Project Management Institute, most respected body for Project Management professionals. It is only understandable that BJP has to learn more on identifying Stakeholders and then managing them.

In his book “A journey: My Political Life” Tony Blair stresses that politician be, in part, Project Managers as well. Stakeholder management is managing people who will be able to influence the ideological objective, to achieve which, a party has been elected. There is nothing new said in that but, history is full of instances of failings, caused by forgetting its lessons.

In more than one way, running a Government is a Program, consisting of multiple projects, often at loggerhead with each other. The success of a political party in running Government depends on how well the various stakeholders perceive their interests are met by the mandated party.

Stakeholder Martix

Slotting the Stakeholders - PMI

At a high level this is the recommended strategy.  It is easier said than done.Basically you analyze each Stakeholder by the power they wield (Y Axis) and the interest (X Axis) they have in the project. For example opposition will have low power but lot of interest whereas interest groups will have high interest as well power.

Congress Vs BJP: Organization Style

A political party like BJP is very different from Congress the other main party, at least till May 16 2014. Congress is more like Church, institutional, central command, organized (no pun intended)and also brooks no dissidence. Differences are settled by central command with little tolerance.

There were two instances I recall to drive home my point. I am sure most will remember the infamous incident involving  AjayMaken and Rahul Gandhi. See this link to refresh those memories.

People like Ajay Maken is routinely rendered spineless toadies in Congress. Ajay Maken re-establishes his credentials as Congress worker by effortlessly making an U-turn around, so as not to be seen as contradicting Rahul and suffers no shame or lack of self-respect in the process.

In Congress, the only thing you need, to be part of the party is high intensity sycophancy. One’s view, political morality, principles, and ideology count for nothing. You just need to fall in line or fall out of party. 

Ramesh Jairam is a very well educated man, having graduated from the top two institutions in India, IIT (B) and IIM. But that does not make him person of ‘free will’ who can express his view and then stand by it. Education is not a constraint for servitude to high command. All you need is required quantum of sycophancy, sufficient to subdue one’s conscience’s call.

Here are two links which tells the story of the sycophancy trumping education.
After the infamous ISI comment by Rahul Gandhi, Ramesh Jairam chose to have a different view from his master and of course, high command brooks no dissent. Soon after the earlier comment came this report that tells, that all is well within the tyranny of Congress.

The IIT, IIM graduate Jairam spoke like any unscrupulous politician and said that the news channels ‘twisted my comment’

But BJP is not like the Catholic Church that INC is. It is more like Sanatana Dharma, consisting of various groups who agree to a common cause but that does not mean that they all are in agreement with each other in all matters, yet know to co-exist.

We have RSS, which is an organization with its own vision, agenda, and ideology. Though RSS supports BJP, both organizations have moments of differences. RSS is very watchful of BJP and ensures that the political compromises of BJP do not seep into its organization while BJP staves off the idealisms of RSS in pursuit of political goals. 

Under RSS, there are various organizations, each with its own agenda, sometimes with overlapping objectives. All the groups speak in their voices and it is quite jarring to the Media which has been sustained by central command type of politics, as well as some in the BJP cadre. 

Let me also recall the comments made by Giriraj Singh (dissenters should go to Pakistan) and how he steadfastly stood by his comments. He never apologized, nor said that he didn’t say so or accused the media ‘twisted’ his words. No high command can wrest a follower's conscience.

That is the difference between Congress and BJP.

From here to stronger BJP

I am not sure if BJP is focusing on managing its varied stakeholders given that the way it manages its stakeholders will have to be different from the approach INC takes.Sooner it realizes that 'central command' approach is not suitable to its politics the better.

From what one can surmise from SM, there are groups that support BJP yet are critical of it, on issues like Kashmir, Smriti Irani, PK, Subhash Chandra Bose etc, to name a few. These groups are already showing signs of disillusionment and at times the criticism that comes out of these sections of BJP supporters is far more ruthless than the ones coming from opposition.

I suspect BJP has not slotted these groups properly. Probably BJP has assumed such groups are high on interest and low on power and hence only respond, infrequently, with actions being taken by BJP. Whereas the various groups think they are high on interest as well as power. The discord in unity is also the result of BJP’s inherent nature as a political party representing these varied interest groups and the compromises it has to make to be relevant in political world.

BJP paid a price in Kashmir as a result of the political compromises it thought it should take. KPs have not voted in numbers as expected and if they had, the tally could have gone up by a couple of seats, effectively nullifying the impact of smaller parties.

It is time BJP paused and reviewed its strategy to manage its friendly stakeholders and have periodic interactive sessions within the organizations to understand the demands better. It also will give BJP an opportunity to explain why certain actions cannot be taken in the given timeline and hammer out a compromise.What is going to be costly is the delay in reaching a compromise with the friendly stakeholders.

No one from these nationalistic groups which support BJP will start supporting Congress in the absence of common ground but they can withhold their support at critical moment, like KPs did. BJP seems to have mistakenly taken the Pareto approach to objectives which work well in commercial organization and parties like Congress with a central command, focusing on things like 'Economics' sidelining aspects of culture and self-esteem. That narrative is not applicable to BJP. BJP will have to adapt to the Indian way of politics, taking all with them, not neglecting any section of the supporters. All its friendly stakeholders have worn their shoes off during last election to get BJP into power. All stakeholders do not want everything of their demands to be met immediately, but BJP’s neglect of the supporting stakeholders seems to be the problem.

In the end, these are all fights from inside and while others may gloat at it, surfacing of these differences and settlement will only make BJP stronger, burying INC deeper. For that BJP should know to play its card better.If they engage the friendly stakeholders more intensely, it is a win-win for BJP, an opportunity they should not lose. 

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