Home >Politics >Policy >NDA keen to talk its walk

New Delhi: The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) is aptly named, a wag once remarked, because it is Not willing to Disclose Anything.

Over the next few days and weeks, in the run-up to and soon after completing a year in office, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government will be working hard to dispel that image.

The process has already started with dinner meetings at finance minister Arun Jaitley’s residence for editors—there have been two thus far—where Prime Minister Narendra Modi put in an appearance and, at least on one night, got extremely chatty.

Sure, the meetings themselves were off the record.

Now, the government is ready with a 15-point publicity blitz to highlight its achievements.

Some ministers have been urged to write articles, even online posts, for a few media companies.

Others will be requested to grant exclusive interviews.

And there will be formal press briefings. Many of them.

Like one would expect with a party that came to power on the back of an impressive and aggressive communication campaign, everything has been planned—the government has issued a circular on the various elements of its campaign.

The plan will be implemented by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), which falls under the purview of the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B), which will supervise the exercise.

The circular issued by the bureau mentions that ministers will speak at press conferences, hold background briefings and grant interviews—targeting national and regional media.

It also said publicity officers of ministries should “endeavour to rope in news websites and web portals for carrying interviews". And it added that the government would consider video-conferences to ensure ministers got to communicate with journalists across cities.

The social media cell of the PIB will create a Twitter hashtag that can be used by other media wings for releasing “news items/success stories concerning one year of government", said the circular. Video and audio clips will be sought from Doordarshan and All India Radio to be put up on the PIB website and social media platforms.

According to the circular, officers of the bureau and those from the ministries would ensure the government’s point of view is publicized across rural India. Ministers will participate in “regional level interactions" on “state-specific issues", it said.

The aim, a government official involved in the exercise said, was to dispel the notion that this government is “pro-industry" and “anti-farmer".

The Indian Express reported on 29 April that the I&B ministry has asked all ministries to list their achievements, with an emphasis on those aimed at the man on the street.

“A lot of work has been done for people in the past year but it seems the government still has a pro-industry (and anti-farmer) image. While highlighting the achievements, this issue will be kept in mind," added the official who asked not to be identified.

A second government official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the government had unfairly received a lot of “bad press". He cited recent examples, including the controversy involving the taxing of foreign portfolio investors (which he said was a legacy issue) and Rahul Gandhi’s intervention in Parliament about the government scrapping a food park in his constituency Amethi (which, the official said, was put on the back burner when the previous United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, was in power).

Besides traditional media, the government plans to use social media to disseminate information. To “optimally" use social media, press officers would explore the possibility of conducting talkathons, Facebook interviews and Twitter conferences with the ministers, the PIB circular said.

Reacting to the imminent publicity blitzkrieg, N.C. Saxena, a former member of the Planning Commission, said image correction could come only through work that benefits ordinary people. “Credibility will come from work, not from publicity," he said. “There is certainly some improvement with regard to stability of the government, but have education, health and infrastructure for common people improved?" asked Saxena, a member of the National Advisory Council under the UPA government. “Governance has not improved, job creation hasn’t as well," he said, adding that once the government gets the basics right, people will show their appreciation.

In the meantime, ministries are sending in details of their key achievements to the I&B ministry for compilation in a booklet which will be unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 26 May, the day of his government’s first anniversary. The Indian Express said that this report would be released in all languages.

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