Arjun Modhwadia, president of the Gujarat unit of the Congress party, is having sleepless nights NOT because he will be taking on popular Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the assembly elections but because he will have to counter Modi's huge power of communication.
Leaders of the Gujarat Congress think that Modi will use his government's budget for various ministries in the coming six months to propagate himself and his government's achievements. It can be done legally and, Congressmen know, it will also be done smartly.
The Congress's estimate is that before the elections, Modi will unleash material for his publicity and propaganda like never before. A senior Congress leader told rediff.com, "Our estimate says it will be anything in the range of Rs 200 crore."
But Modhwadia puts the figure much higher. He says, "Modi will use various budgets in the range of Rs 500 crore to gear up for the elections. Only when the model code of conduct comes into effect will he use party funds."
According to a senior Congress leader, who is a member of the his party's counter-strategy team, it is very difficult to segregate the government's publicity and Modi's personal and political publicity.
It is believed that Modi has massive plans to publicise his achievements both before and during the elections.
The entire publicity of the Gujarat government which ALWAYS means Chief Minister Modi's publicity -- is being supervised by his most trusted bureaucrat and principal secretary, Kailashnathan.
It has been found that Modi's office has smart plans, in this election year, to promote Modi on YouTube.
The online video channel MAY sign an agreement to insert a 10-second video clip of Modi in millions of videos listed on its site. If this agreement is signed it, will be a never-before-done kind of political campaign on an international platform by an Indian leader.
Unconfirmed reports claim that the agreement may cost upward of Rs 3 lakh a day and it will run for weeks till the election. It is well-known that Modi has accounts on Facebook, Twitter and many other sites, and that he is one of the most popular political leaders on social media sites. His account is believed to be run by Hiren Joshi, who was previously working with Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan.
Modi's office in Gandhinagar is one of the most smartly operated offices as far as news, information and reference material collection is concerned, where he takes the help of most trusted techies. Modi also has studios and supportive technology to make publicity material both in Sachivalay block 2 in Gandhinagar and at his home.
The chief minister has a full-time expert to make his films, videos and documentaries. Modi's office is also in negotiation to award a massive order for a Vikas Vatika booklet showcasing his achievements.
Not well known, or appreciated, is the fact that Modi is a first-rate copywriter with a folksy and populist style. He loves writing slogans and prose for posters and political graffiti etc.
The Gujarat government has special plans for a publicity blitz in the tribal districts of Gujarat. Tribals comprise around 14 per cent of the population and are equal in number to the Patels. Huge LCD screens and mobile vans have been ordered, at a daily cost of Rs 45,000, for travel to tribal towns and villages to publicise the government's achievements.
Congress leaders allege that the Modi government spends money even to get 'Likes' for Modi on social media sites. One of the Congress leaders involved in his party's publicity and planning complains, "For every click on 'Like' Rs 17 is spent."
It is already known that APCO Worldwide, the US-based multinational, has been engaged to do publicity work for Modi. And for advertising and marketing in New Delhi, the Gujarat government has engaged a professional woman with a background in marketing at an extraordinarily high cost. The Gujarat government has a resident commissioner in New Delhi, Bharat Lal, an able bureaucrat who operates smoothly and diligently among the bureaucracy, media and legal professionals in the capital.
Rediff.com tried to contact the Gujarat government for its version but could not elicit a response.