Who were the greatest political leaders in modern history across the globe? If you are determined to find the common minimum factors, the one aspect would be: those who were great orators were also great leaders. If not in terms of wise leadership, certainly as great mobilizers. You name the person and you will find that the person had great communication abilities, at least superior to his or her counterparts. From Lincoln, Martin Luther King to Obama, from Hitler to Mao, from Churchill to Stalin and from Mahatma Gandhi to PM Narendra Modi. All of them had great skill of mobilizing people, making them believe in leadership and producing astounding results which were never imagined. It was their effective communication skill that created history. It is their great ability of communication that produced great political results for them. It only underlines the fact that political communication is integral part of political journey of a leader, party, movement, country or of any entity. Evidences show that like other things, communication too, flows from the more powerful to the lesser ones. May it be from a person or nation.
The term political communication encompasses vast meaning and activities. Every action, every symbol, every word and every notion can communicate politically and create impacts. For India, Mahatma Gandhi was a superb exponent of such effective political communication. He chose great symbols for his movements and conveyed those to lakhs of Indians during the ‘less media availability period’. He walked down many kilometers, bent down on the sea shore and lifted a handful of salt; the entire country stirred up. Salt became the symbol of rebellion against the Britishers. His Khadi, Charakha, Upawas everything was a perfect example of successful political communication. In Indian freedom struggle, using Swadeshi and Boycott and burning of foreign cloths publically, became a part of the political message conveyed to the Britishers, and almost every prominent leader in that era used it.
Media has used symbolism abundantly to convey political messages. As a child, I used to see an image of a violent faced man having saffron strip on his forehead. That image was attached to condemn the Ramjanmabhoomi Andolan that had stirred up the entire nation and the subcontinent. Similar faces were shown by media selectively during the Godhra riots. Times changed, and so has the symbolic representations too. The same Ramjanmabhoomi Andolan saw a 360-degree shift and just recently, Prime Minister Modi made a strong political statement by attending the bhoomipoojan ceremony of Shri Ram temple at Ayodhya. Again a perfect example of communicating the message through actions.
The present generation of world leaders has chosen to highlight their strength, masculinity and hardliner image. There is a trend of such leaders across the globe and hence we can see the pattern in their communication style too. While, Mr. Modi talks about 56 Inches, bare chested photographs of masculine Vladimir Putin, shot somewhere in Russia, are made public. For some, Trump is the most foolish amongst all, while many believe this outspoken person as the torchbearer of American interest. On the other hand, Xi Jinping takes the world upfront and does not hesitate to exhibit aggressiveness. So, the aggressive postures and communication has become the prevalent notion exactly opposite to some of the sober looking leaders like Barack Obama or our own Mr. Manmohan Singh.
Apart from symbolism, even acts and slogans can create magic politically, and we have so many examples of that. Mahatma Gandhi and then Sonia Gandhi brilliantly used the ‘Inner Voice’ concept to create an aura of their acts which can be considered as their political failures too by some. Slogans such as ‘Tum Mujhe Khoon Do’ by Subhashbabu or “ Garv Se Kaho Hum Hindu Hain” also were the successful examples of great political communication which produced the best and long-lasting results. And how can one forget Balasaheb Thackeray?. He used every bit of himself to make strong political statements; may it be his attire, the Rudrakshs he wore, the royal chair he used or his direct and fiery words. And you need not be explosive all the time for successful political communication. A sober PM Lal Bahadur Shastri also put in vigour in our countrymen with his slogan ‘ Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ and led a successful war for India.
Political Communication has been an ever-going aspect of human race since ages. While some destructed worship places to indicate the advent of a new and superior power, some others built huge monuments to exhibit another kind of wealth, power and supremacy. In the past, if Rakhi was used for political tie-ups, today a tweet can indicate political happenings. Social media has brought in revolutions in political messaging. Why only messaging it has created an entire revolutionary movement in Egypt. While history is full of interesting political messages, social media is all set to give next level dimension to political communication in India and across the world too. We need to learn to find meanings from such gestures. And that’s quite an interesting stuff!