What didn't shine for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2004 may still help construct a third United Progressive Alliance (UPA) victory in 2014. That's what the ruling Congress-led coalition believes anyway.
Nine years after the saffron disaster of India Shining, the Congress is all set to unleash an advertising blitzkrieg that will remind the electorate of the UPA's achievements and, most importantly, avoid the 'shining' mistakes of their predecessors.
"We are definitely not planning a Shining India type of campaign... the story of UPA is based on evidence and statistics," Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari told MAIL TODAY. "The UPA narrative will be carried to the people and will be built around five benchmarks."
These five benchmarks - tentatively attached to the Bharat Nirman' refrain - are an attempt to define the legacy of nine years of UPA rule, both as a function of their achievements over this time as well as an examination of their record in comparison to the NDA government that came before. This will be filtered out through TV spots, short films, print ads and newer technology like caller tunes and social media.
The first phase of the new campaign features a film by 'Parineeta' director Pradeep Sarkar, and lyrics penned by celebrated poet Javed Akhtar. Significantly, the catchtune - Meelon ham aa gaye, meelon hamen jaana hai (we've come a long way, but there's much to be done yet) - has been coined by the noted Hindi film lyricist, and will also be the signature tune of the cellphone campaign.
The first phase of the UPA campaign will see Rs 35 crore spent over just 15 days in order to calibrate public response and adapt accordingly, thus avoiding the all-out India Shining' blitz that failed spectacularly.
The DAVP oversees publicity for the government with a budget of Rs 600 crore. Between now and February next year, no less than Rs 180 crore of that will be used to showcase the government's achievements.
The February cutoff is significant, because that's when the Election Commission's model code of conduct comes into force if elections happen on schedule. This amount would be larger than the Rs 100 crore the government spent in 2009, and also a bump over the approximately Rs 150 crore the NDA spent in selling 'India Shining.'
The first two selling points in the new campaign are 'political stability' and 'social cohesion,' not entirely appropriate for a government that has seen a great deal of political intrigue. UPA has also seen the most significant public protest movements in decades. As far as the Congress is concerned though, the big picture more important.
"It is not an attempt to extrapolate nor an attempt to inflate, it is story of how India has evolved over nine years," Tewari said about the planned campaign. He also added that the social cohesion portion would make it very clear that the UPA has been more responsibly on minority issues. "In nine years, it was ensured that nothing like 2002 was repeated."
Taking the big picture view is also the approach that the party hopes to take on economic development.
"We have maintained an per cent growth in GDP between 2007 and 2012, at a time when emerging economies across Asia are facing problems," Tewari said. "Notwithstanding the economic meltdown, which decimated global institutions, India's growth remained robust."
Although the minister has admitted that diplomacy hasn't been the strongest point of the government, its significance might be limited in an election that is likely to be focused on problems at home rather than abroad. This in mind, the fourth portion of the Congress' pitch involves the achievements made in the sphere of internal security.
"We have managed to contain left-wing extremism and militancy in the North East," Tewari said, "and there is evidence in Jammu & Kashmir that the situation is getting better."
If the first four pointers prefer a bird's eye view to a more immediate picture, the final one expands the horizons even broader. The Congress is hoping to sell itself as the key player that helped demolish an international "architecture that was created to isolate India in the aftermath of its nuclear tests."
Rather than the 'hyperbole' of India Shining - a comparison Tewari said would be erroneous - this new campaign is aimed at simply bringing an appropriate perspective to the people.
"For nine years there has been a silent revolution, in which we did many things, but because of political ups and downs, cut and thrust of political debate this issue vanished and such issues go away from collective consciousness, that's why we have come up with this alternative narrative," Tewari said.