The power of a good story

Three learnings from the general elections: strong messaging, an ear to the ground, and involving the cadre pay off

Founding Fuel

[BJP supporters. Photograph by Al Jazeera English, under Creative Commons]

Dear friend,

If there is one factor that stands out as I read the many articles analysing the outcome of the 2019 general elections, it is the stories the BJP told and the ones the Congress and the Mahagathbandhan failed to tell.

With its sophisticated communication strategy, the BJP was arguably successful in speaking to the hopes, aspirations and emotions of a cross-section of Indians. Whether it was about its welfare schemes (cooking gas, low-cost housing, health insurance for the poor), or tapping into the nationalist fervour after Balakot—it carried the day despite concerns about joblessness and a slipping economy. And the failure of the opposition’s narrative played to BJP’s advantage by emphasising TINA—there is no alternative.

Having an ear to the ground is, of course, the other side of knowing what stories to tell and getting your message across. Jaganmohan Reddy’s win in Andhra Pradesh exemplifies this best. He is reported to have walked 3,648 km across 13 districts of the state, interacting with about 2 crore people. 

Another common element in the BJP’s strategy and Jaganmohan’s is the role of the cadre and the party organisation. Ten crore BJP party workers are the eyes and ears of the organisation, as this DNA report says. “They provide feedback on government schemes, probable candidates as well as play a key role in reaching out to the voters with achievements of government.”

As for Jaganmohan’s YSR Congress Party, the party’s organisation was built up right from the booth-level structures. (See here and here.)

All of which contributes to crafting good stories. I would argue, a good leader has to be a good storyteller who can fire up the imagination of his or her people and consumers.

I’ll leave you now with a story about how this could translate into a lasting impression. This is a story about a cruise down Malacca River, which runs through the eponymous state in Malaysia. This was more than a decade ago. The river was smelly, and dilapidated shanties encroached the banks—objectively seen, it wasn’t a particularly impressive sight. And yet, none of it registered. What I saw instead in my mind’s eye was a beautifully restored riverfront, lovely walkways and picturesque bridges. All thanks to the cruise guide who told us a vivid story of how the river rehabilitation and beautification project would transform the river.

Happy reading,

Sveta Basraon

For Team Founding Fuel  

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Founding Fuel

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

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