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Vijaya Pushkarna
Vijaya Pushkarna


Parties' new heroes

randeep-lekhi Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi
  • The spokespersons are not appointed and abandoned. They are trained for the role. From voice modulation to dressing to what they say. They are, in fact, the party's new heroes!

Most of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet colleagues have been spokespersons of the BJP at some time or the other. So much so that many in the party have begun to think that a long stint as a spokesperson will some day lead them to an office in the North Block or South Block.

A few years ago, a young spokesperson of the BJP was upset at having been given some other responsibility when the party leadership changed. No, he was not feeling low or angry because he was given a new job. It was because he was no longer the spokesperson! He probably shared the general perception that the way to a cabinet position is through the tiny, cramped media room or spokesperson room in the party headquarters at 11, Ashoka Road, New Delhi.

But there is more to it than that. It has become an important position in the organisation. A spokesperson to represent every party on news channels' prime time debate day after day ensures huge visibility for those who make it to that post.

To deal with this demand, major political parties have a demand dealing exclusively with TV requirements. Apart from spokespersons, they have quest coordinators, researchers—some read scores of printed publications, some watch channels through the day. The senior ones, guided by leaders, analyse, prepare response, and brief the spokesperson. There are staffers who track the social media, and respond on them—by the minute on Twitter and Facebook. Of course, there are WhatsApp groups on which they forward whatever they want to be trending at any point in time.

The person heading this department may or may not be a spokesperson. But his job is apparently cut out. Almost the first question that he shoots when there is a request for a party spokesperson for a channel is, who is the anchor? Possibly they pick a match from among their spokespersons.

The spokespersons are not appointed and abandoned. They are trained for the role. From voice modulation to dressing to what they say. They are, in fact, the party's new heroes! They have as gruelling hours as filmi heroes. And studio hopping through the capital's chaotic and choked roads to land at the other end looking fresh and relaxed, is an art no less. But one has never heard any of them complain. Quite the contrary, they have only good things to say about the role they see as packed with fun.

But expect to get something more than what the party would want put out, and it is a big no no. Possibly what they say is what they are told to say. No more, no less. And they themselves seem to be given information strictly on a need-to-know basis. They are, at this stage, not really big leaders, but the political party's face on TV channels.

The good ones are given tickets, because the party needs good debaters in Parliament. As they grow in the party, even before acquiring a berth, they will be able to hold small, off-the-record briefings, no questions asked.

The joke in the Congress is that for a party of 44 members of the Lok Sabha, they have 64 spokespersons. In the BJP it cannot be that way for sure. But amidst talk of a possible reshuffle in the party organisation ever since president Amit Shah's current tenure began, there is a long line of people wanting to become spokespersons.

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The Week

Topics : #opinion

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