Sunday, April 20, 2014

In a scramble to go close to Modi, "future" PM, top PR firms start making important personnel changes

By Rajiv Shah
Well-placed sources close to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi are happy – that, even as Modi is fighting a “winning battle” in the Lok Sabha polls to become India’s next prime minister, already, several public relations (PR) firms have begun to line up, even are closing ranks, and are vying with each other to be close to circles around the PM aspirant. According to these sources, they are making an “unprecedented effort” by recruiting persons who they believe have had access to Modi’s inner circles in Gujarat.
“If till now it was only one top international consultant, APCO Worldwide, involved in organizing the Vibrant Gujarat world business summits for Modi, which had managed to reach close to him, now things are clearly changing”, the sources point out. So close did APCO Worldwide reach to Modi that allegations began flying high on how the top international firm was “hired” for 25,000 US dollars a month to promote Modi worldwide, even campaign for visa, denied to him by Washington, amidst influential circles in the US.
While vehemently denying that APCO Worldwide in any way tried doing any other work beyond organizing public relations for the Vibrant Gujarat business summits, which were a biennial event after 2003, latest information with these sources suggests that PR firms in Delhi, Mumbai and elsewhere are trying hard to “highlight” how they are in no way worse that APCO Worldwide in promoting Modi, he becomes India’s Prime Minister. “There is already a lot of one-upmanship”, the sources point out.
By way of example, the sources say, one of the senior persons working with APCO Worldwide and having big claims of access to the chief minister’s office (CMO) in Gandhinagar, has just joined a top Delhi and Mumbai-based firm, Adfactors PR as senior vice president strategic communications and public affairs. “Tushar Panchal worked with APCO Worldwide between 2011 and 2013. His claim to have access to the CMO has seen him quickly ride up the PR ladder”, these sources point out.
Earlier, Panchal worked with Hansa Public Relations, which carried out a recent opinion poll for NDTV India channel. The opinion poll gave BJP under Modi close to 230 seats in the Lok Sabha, and the NDA a clear majority. Soon after the NDTV released its results, allegations were made (click HERE to read) that Panchal, as head of services to government practice for APCO Worldwide, “influenced” the poll, carried out by Hansa, in a very big way.
Sources close to Modi claim that while Adfactors PR may have “hired” Panchal in the hope that he would help reach closer to the circles around Modi, he is only one of the several persons who were “vying hard” to “handle” Modi’s PR job in the recent past, but with not much success. “Panchal’s exit from APCO Worldwide, if anything, was not amicable”, the sources point out, suggesting that Modi's did not allow to to go even closer to Modi after the Vibrant Gujarat business summit. APCO Worldwide's contract with the Gujarat government ended in March 2013.
Meanwhile, Panchal's profile describes him as a “specialist with over 20 years of experience in communication fields such as advertising, corporate communications, public relations, investment promotions, public affairs, government affairs and marketing communications.” It adds, “He specializes in relationship management and development and implementation of marketing and corporate communication and business strategies.” He is supposed to help top corporate circles in India by making an impact on the future BJP rule under Modi.
As the Adfactors PR’s website says, “As the world's largest democracy, India also has the world's largest number of political parties. Whether incidental or deliberate, their ideologies impact the functioning of practically every institution and sector.” Adfactors PR was hired by Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT), which is a dream project of Modi. GIFT has so far failed to take off. Other PR firms which are seeking to go closer to Modi have also worked for the Gujarat government’s various agencies, including Mutual PR, Perfect Relations, Acti Media, Simulations and so on.

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