Campaign Managers: Backroom Boys Who Script the Mega Poll Show
Made famous by the likes of Prashant Kishor, the poll strategist whose campaigns for PM Modi, including the seminal 'chai pe charcha', these campaign managers design, schedule and execute the strategy of the candidates.
A worker pulls out a roll of cloth to be made into flags for the Trinamool Congress (TMC) party. (Image: Reuters)
Kolkata: They are the chisel and hammer that sculpt the public persona of contestants, keep them fighting fit playing nutritionists, and plan their every move for that mega democratic event — the general elections.
Meet the backroom boys who toil tirelessly behind the scenes, hardly in the public eye but always seen and heard through the protagonists whose shows they script.
Made famous by the likes of Prashant Kishor, the poll strategist whose campaigns for Narendra Modi, including the seminal 'chai pe charcha' and '3 D rallies', these campaign managers design, schedule and execute the strategy of the candidates.
Consider Rudradeep Banerjee, a partner in a talent management company who is handling the campaigns of actors-turned-Trinamool Congress candidates Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan.
Banerjee's hands are full. He wakes up at 7 in the morning to plan the days action for the two celebrity candidates, who have spiced up the elections in West Bengal with their glamour quotient.
"I along with my team manage all backhand operations to ensure that the rallies are held on schedule and the candidates get to reach out to the maximum number of voters.
My day ends sometimes around midnight. In between, I take small breaks for refreshments," the 33-year-old Banerjee said.
Chakraborty is contesting from Kolkata's Jadavpur constituency and Jahan from Basirhat, bordering Bangladesh.
For Partha Chakraborty, the campaign manager of former India footballer-turned-BJP's Krishnagar candidate Kalyan Chowbey, a series of rallies and door-to-door meetings are followed by daily assessment of the programmes undertaken during the day and planning for the next day.
"Chowbey ji maintains a strict diet regimen to stay calm and fit. I make it a point to keep him hydrated while he is busy meeting people and addressing rallies. Apart from that, I take care of his social media handles," Chakraborty said.
The 34-year-old manager, who also runs his family business, said he is always on the lookout for innovative campaign ideas to create a stir among the electorate.
"In remote areas, where there is no power supply, we arrange for angan baithak (patio meetings) at the residences of local people where Chowbey ji interacts with voters without a microphone. The idea is a big hit in the constituency," Chakraborty added.
In a departure from the past, not all campaign managers owe allegiance to any party. Like Chakraborty and Jahan, candidates often hire agencies which provide political consultants for advice and also take care of their diet charts.
Some political leaders, however, still depend on their party members to run the show for them.
When not shadowing Babul Supriyo, Union minister and BJP's Asansol candidate, his Man Friday Dharmendra Kaushal is supervising a team of social media experts on online initiatives and coordinating with local leaders to draft a route map for the day's campaign.
"I am with him (Supriyo) all day. We start with a roadshow around 9 am, followed by meetings with booth presidents. During lunch breaks, Babul ji usually eats at local party workers' houses or shares his home-cooked food with them," Kaushal, who once worked as the art editor of BJP's 'Kamal Sandesh' magazine, said.
He said Supriyo was a stickler for discipline.
"At this juncture, when the campaign has hit a fever pitch, there is no time to waste. I have to see that itinerary makes the most of the time that is left at hand as Supriyo ji is very particular about his campaign schedule," Kaushal said.
According to political analyst Udayan Banerjee, the campaign managers often present an image of a candidate that camouflages their darker side for enhancing their public acceptability.
He, however, contended that no amount of public relations exercise can work in favour of a candidate if their party does not wield influence in the constituency.
Unlike most candidates, who have a support team behind them while they sweat it out in the electoral arena, Raiganj MP and CPI(M) candidate Mohammad Salim goes stumping with just his driver for company.
He banks on Uttar Dinajpur party secretary Apurba Pal for scheduling his roadshows and preparing his itinerary, but does not necessarily take him along for his programmes.
Pal, who coordinates with local CPI(M) leaders and those of other Left Front constituents before finalising programmes, hands over a route map to Salim's driver and guides him on the day's roster.
"I thrive on puffed rice and work till midnight, coordinating with local leaders to find out which areas need maximum attention. Accordingly, we plan for the next day.
Salim ji is a self-dependent man, but at times some of us do accompany him for his rallies and public meetings," Pal added
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