This CAG may Pitch for Pol­icy, not Paral­y­sis

Will Cit­i­zens for Ac­count­able Gov­er­nance be dis­banded or are its mem­bers gear­ing up to play a more pow­er­ful role?

The Economic Times - - Front Page - VA­SUDHA VENU­GOPAL

In the past nine months, nearly 200 young In­dian pro­fes­sion­als from top schools and com­pa­nies have dili­gently car­ried out Naren­dra’s Modi’s mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign — the chai pe char­cha dis­cus­sions, 3D ral­lies, marathons, con­claves and so­cial me­dia pro­grammes — to ful­fill the task given to them: “Take Modi to the dark zones of the coun­try, where the party and the man him­self are un­known.” These young­sters quit com­fort­able bank­ing and con­sul­tancy jobs to be part of Cit­i­zens for Ac­count­able Gov­er­nance, set up by Prashant Kishor, a 36-year-old for­mer UN health spe­cial­ist who be­came one of Modi’s trusted strate­gists. Their work played a big role in mak­ing Modi pop­u­lar. But with the elec­tions over, what will this band of young­sters do? Will the group be dis­banded or are its mem­bers gear­ing up to play an even more pow­er­ful role, as­sum­ing that the exit poll tally is borne out and Modi be­comes the next prime min­is­ter at the head of a BJP-led NDA govern­ment?

A two-day meet­ing in Gand­hi­na­gar of se­nior BJP lead­ers with this team that be­gan on Wednes­day is set to an­swer these ques­tions. “The de­lib­er­a­tions are on about the fu­ture of the group. We are look­ing at what op­tions the party has to give us. We would like to con­trib­ute to na­tion build­ing even af­ter the govern­ment is formed,” said Rishi Raj Singh, a IIT-Kan­pur alum­nus and part of CAG. Of the 200, over 120 have ex­pressed a de­sire to con­tinue work­ing in the so­ciopo­lit­i­cal space and are hop­ing, if the BJP forms the govern­ment, that the party will recog­nise their con­tri­bu­tion.

Many of the pro­fes­sion­als have been told that they would get to work with MPs, in ad­vi­sory bod­ies to the Cabi­net or as part of a think-tank on fi­nan­cial mat­ters that an NDA govern­ment would set up. “Even Mr Modi knows that if the party achieves good re­sults in states where the BJP was not strong, it is not be­cause of his party work, but be­cause we put to­gether strate­gies, op­er­ated on strict dead­lines of reach­ing out to peo­ple, de­ployed tech­nol­ogy, worked on back­ground re­search on which ar­eas could be tapped, and more im­por­tantly, is­sued ground re­ports ev­ery day. The party would not let go of us,” said one CAG mem­ber, an IIM alum­nus, who was work­ing as an in­vest­ment banker in Europe be­fore this. Led by alumni of for­eign uni­ver­si­ties or the IITs and IIMs who took sab­bat­i­cals or re­signed from com­pa­nies such as JPMor­gan, Deutsche Bank, McKin­sey and Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group, CAG took Modi’s cam­paign to new heights in terms of anal­y­sis, lo­gis­tics, plan­ning and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, evok­ing com­par­isons to the back room that helped send Barack Obama to the White House in 2008. Among its tasks was the re­cruit­ment of thou­sands of sup­port­ers, re­search­ing ideas for Modi’s speeches, giv­ing him feed­back, de­ploy­ing ob­servers at polling booths, send­ing 400 video vans to the vil­lages and send­ing daily ground re­ports to state party heads. “We came to­gether to work for Modi even be­fore he was de­clared the PM can­di­date. We as a group want ac­count­able and stable gov­er­nance and we re­alise that doesn’t end with him be­com­ing the PM. There is much more to do,” said the CAG mem­ber. There are some ap­pre­hen­sions that the group could be dis­banded. Many agree that the BJP is al­ready swamped by claimants to var­i­ous po­si­tions and may not be keen on of­fer­ing them any work. The fact they got to play a big role in the cam­paign is largely be­cause of Modi him­self.

“Ini­tially, we found it dif­fi­cult to work with se­nior BJP lead­ers, es­pe­cially be­cause the tra­di­tional cam­paign was so un­or­gan­ised. It was Mr Modi’s per­sonal in­ter­est in our group that made our cam­paign suc­cess­ful,” said an IIT-Bom­bay alum­nus and a fi­nan­cial con­sul­tant, who didn’t want to be iden­ti­fied. “Ear­lier, Modiji would meet us once in a month, but once he saw our pro­posal for tak­ing his 3D image to the vil­lages, he was ec­static. He saw it a num­ber of times, even sit­ting in one of the back rows, and af­ter that, gave us a free hand, meet­ing us ev­ery week, tak­ing our ideas for­ward. In a way, he saw the CAG as re­flec­tive of his fu­tur­is­tic think­ing,” he added. Sources in the party say it is think­ing of set­ting up a con­sul­tancy with these pro­fes­sion­als, as Modi thinks well of CAG’s mem­bers. Some of them have been told that pos­si­ble roles in pol­i­cy­mak­ing and last-mile de­liv­ery are be­ing con­sid­ered se­ri­ously. “Con­sid­er­ing they come from var­i­ous back­grounds such as law, me­dia, man­age­ment, soft­ware tech­nol­ogy and bio-sciences, they may also be roped in as con­sul­tants for in­di­vid­ual projects such as MGN­REGA or even the up­com­ing Ganga pro­ject,” said a party mem­ber. How­ever, many CAG mem­bers be­lieve it is best for the group to work with the govern­ment and not as part of it. “Pro­vid­ing con­sult­ing ser­vices to the new govern­ment on how to im­ple­ment new poli­cies on the ground will be chal­leng­ing and ex­cit­ing. That is some­thing many of us would look for­ward to,” said Ash­wini Anand, a Stand­ford Univer­sity alum­nus and found­ing mem­ber of CAG.


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