Strategic dissonance: Strategic Play in Indian Politics
Decoding the Strategic Dissonance Play in India Politics #wolfSIGHTS #wolfSIGHT #strategicdissonance @wolfzhowl
If I had to summarise the objective of creating this strategic dissonance in marketing terms, as a working example (supposition): "The core/credible source for nourishing hair is coconut oil till now, finding a relevant, believable and culturally embedded alternate source for nourishing hair by introducing mustard oil". Hence creating dissonance with coconut oil and infact going VACNO (value added coconut oil with other ingredients - here the other ingredients are local). Credible core source = coconut oil (Gandhi Family Name for Congress) and Mustard oil (Sardar Patel LB, JP Narayan etc;) for BJP - with VACNo ingredients being (Veer Savarkar etc;).
Strategic dissonance: Strategic Play in Indian Politics
Decoding Strategic Dissonance
Indian politics & the strategy at play (re-structuring
of the past as a way to ensure
future foot holds):
While a lot has been written about the
communication, branding and campaign skills
of our Prime Minister Modi, what I also see at
play is a legacy dissonance strategy. Since
Independence India has only seen the Gandhi
family leading the nation.
Hence contextually, the average Indian
associates Indian governance with Gandhi,
Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Sonia
Gandhi/Manmohan Singh. Lal Bahadur
Shahstri is occasionally remembered, PV
Narasimha Rao all but washed away from
If you check with any Indian below 25years of
age, they will hardly remember LBS, PV and
most definitely not VP singh & others.
Congress/Gandhi name is synonymous with
governance and owns TOM & aided recall.
Any other party which after its 1st term has to
face incumbency in India. However, in the face
of concerns about that government, the
average voter seeks security & comfort in the
Gandhi name and hence nostalgia is a huge
threat for any non-congress party.
For the Indian voter...
"Return to default settings" = elect a Gandhi's
Brands & branding experts would love to have
this kind of strategic muscle. It is a strategic
dream, not even realised in the lifetime of a
Enter Modi, large mandate...total control in
decades. While "culturally progressive &
economically aggressive" have been his
winning mantras and he has been busy
brandishing economic agendas and social
agendas...for the first time ever, we see
strategic dissonance at play.
The Strategic dissonance steps:
(1) The father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi
is left completely untouched. In the branding
hierarchy he is higher than Nehru, hence a
direct association with the original source is
being crafted. Mahatma Gandhi & Gandhi
political family name are different is being
subtly pushed. Also it makes sense to
leverage the ahimsa global image of the
(2) Subtle shadows are being cast over
chacha Nehru (via comparisons of somebody
else could have possibly been a better 1st PM
of India - however taking great care not to go
beyond that and accuse in any direct fashion).
(3) Alternate political giants from India's past
are being resurrected and built in the public
eye & the mind, those whose
legacy percolates down to the BJP more than
to the congress. Hence constructing an
alternative narrative of the past. Sardar Patel,
JP Narayan etc; are just some of the past-stars
being deployed for this cause. We also
see this being done at a regional/ethnic level
with Veer Savarkar being another example.
AM sure this is just the beginning.
(4) There is a huge trend of re-discovering our
buried or erased past that is happening at a
people-level. The British have manipulated our
history and attacked our culture, making us
feel it is inferior are some of the opinions
floating around. Immediately post-independence,
the average India was hungry
for survival, progress and status. If we map
India on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, after
20years of economic liberalisation - a good
chunk of Indians have reached Status and are
now looking for self-actualization. Self-actualization
stage starts with the discovery /
re-discovery of self. Re-discovery of self
usually starts with the examination of the past
(collective & individual) and India currently is
enamoured with re-discovery of its past...with
a strong bias towards the glory part of it (with
strong rejection of anything which is not so
good/great about it). India is in search of an
Identity again. Hence the change in syllabus,
the re-discovery of leaders from the past etc'
will be consumed with a voracious appetite.
Hence the timing for this strategic dissonance
creation, could not have been more apt.
(5) In this context, if we do a brand mapping
based on people perceptions, the Congress
shall definitely not have strong foot print in
cultural & local heritage of India. BJP has a
much larger footprint. Congress is seen as a
party with more western values and hence
rediscovery of past heritage cannot be owned
by them as powerfully as by the BJP.
Hence for the first time since the history of
the colonially independent India, a mammoth
strategic initiative to create dissonance and
hence ensure a strong alternate narrative is
Since the Nehru family appropriated the name
"Gandhi" for themselves and hence superbly
activated their brand core with the imagery of
the father of the nation and gave themselves
an indomitable advantage...there is a counter
strategic initiative at play.
As a strategist, the play & the counter play are
simply breath taking to observe. Behaviour
change practitioners such as me working on
brands feel dwarfed at the richness, depth and
scale of this play and in a way are envious of
the strategists who get to do these kind of
Brand & consumer strategy seems "mere",
compared to the sheer pleasure of crafting
something at this level. Tsk!
Well, I am neither for the Congress or the BJP
in this instance & this is purely a piece from a
Strategic Planner observing and admiring the
strategic play and nothing else.
For the love of finding patterns, connecting the
dots and discovering larger strategic plays in
motion...for interesting times ahead.