As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) kicks off its nationwide door-to-door campaign to garner support for the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), advertising experts feel that government’s muddled strategy on communicating the idea has led to a severe shortfall in trust around the Act.
“There’s a credibility deficit that this Act is facing," said Ambi M.G. Parameswaran, brand strategist and founder of Brand-Building.com. “I’m not sure how scalable and effective a door-to-door campaign is at this point of time. With all the news floating around, one needs to go to a credible source to communicate about the Act highlighting both sides of the story."
The objective of the on-ground campaign, launched on 5 January in New Delhi by home minister Amit Shah, is to reach out to 30 million families across cities, busting myths and seeking support for the Act. Earlier, BJP had launched a toll-free number asking citizens to extend their support under the #IndiaSupportsCAA campaign by simply giving a missed call to that number. However, soon after, several Twitter accounts went into a frenzy spreading rumours that the toll free number can get one a free Netflix account. Shah ended up clarifying that the number belongs to the BJP and not Netflix.
“This is the first time when I have seen BJP flounder with the CAA missed call campaign being hijacked and falling through the bottom. I don’t think the party and government understand the depth of anger that exists in the people so they are trying to gloss over it by launching a back-to-back campaign across platforms," said Naresh Gupta, strategy head and managing partner at advertising agency Bang in the Middle.
On 30 December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s NaMo app announced the launch of a Twitter outreach campaign with the hashtag #IndiaSupportsCAA. Under the campaign, the government said that it is creating content, graphics and videos which people can check using the hashtag on the NaMo app. This was followed by Modi leveraging his personal Twitter account, with its 52.4 million followers, to push a video created by spiritual leader Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev who explains why CAA and National Register of Citizens are not against minorities.
“Honestly this issue needs an open conversation rather than an ad campaign. In any crisis it is always the head of a corporate firm that solves the issue by coming out and clarifying the doubts. With the PM himself being largely silent on the Act and not openly clarifying doubts using his personal Twitter account is making this campaign flounder," said Gupta.
The lack of strategy, absence of window for open dialogue with citizens and confusion around the effective usage of media platforms has further pushed the possibility of creating a positive narrative around the Act, experts said.
According to Bobby Pawar, chairman and chief creative officer, Havas India the campaign seems reactive in nature and not proactive. “… It should have come before the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was tabled in the Parliament. You get the support and then you do the deed not vice versa. It’s too late. They might be able to stir some conversation but the tide against it is overwhelming," he said.
However, Kuljeet Singh Chahal, general secretary, BJP, Delhi, who is also a national council member of the party believes that direct communication with the citizens through door to door campaign will work. “People of India are with Narendra Modi and we are getting their support for the Act as well," he said.