Himachal Public Relations spin doctor favoured MP’s PR campaigns

Shimla: One can’t blame Pratibha Singh, second time parliamentarian from Mandi constituency and wife of chief minister Virbhadra Singh, from getting an image makeover, courtesy the state public relations department for the trend was started by the previous BJP government when possibly a different set of people were hell bent on marking the presence of Anurag Thakur, second time MP from Hamirpur and son of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, in the daily media columns.

After having recently won a bye-election (incidentally the seat was vacated by Virbhadra Singh who had resigned as a union minister in the Manmohan Singh cabinet to be chief minister) Pratibha Singh doing the usual rounds of meeting central ministers at Delhi, making some innocuous demands, turned up to be big news for the state PR agency; who rightly or wrongly have been carpet bombing a hapless media with one release after another, complete with the photo op that came up with the occasion.

Nobody should blame the state government for extending free publicity services at state exchequer expenses to the lone parliamentarian from the Congress party.

It is perhaps for the first time in the state history that BJP, the main opposition has its members as MPs from the three other Lok Sabha seats namely, Rajhan Sushant from Kangra, Anurag Thakur from Hamirpur and Virender Kashyap from Shimla.

It is even more ironic that the two Rajya Sabha seats are also in the BJP kitty, occupied by JP Nadda and BJP veteran Shanta Kumar.

To top it all, we have the general parliamentary election scheduled for latest by June 2014 or the earliest by autumn/winter 2013.

Screen shot of DPR press releases on 23 August, 2013
Screen shot of DPR press releases on 23 August, 2013

With the frequency of press releases related to Pratibha Singh competing for eyeball attention with that of the chief minister, in media circles the frustration is expressed in muted terms that all the state public relations professionals consider newsworthy reports these days are either about an odd MP meeting some minister or some organization making donations to the chief minister relief fund.

This fall in standards has not come about in the last 8 months when a change at guard in the government took place.

It was no different during the previous BJP government headed by Dhumal.

Then the same PR liaison office in Delhi, with possibly the same person spearheading the agency, was singing to a different tune and much to the dismay of a hapless media, the news that emanated was related to Anurag Thakur, the BJP MP.

As there is much heart burning simmering among senior Congress ministers, who are fleeing slighted in comparison to the favoured MP by the PR men, many of the senior ministers in the earlier BJP government spent a 5 year term in office that went unnoticed by the PR department.

Surely the spin doctor noise has not fallen on deaf ears.

Unless the senior chief minister bounces back yet again to seek another term in office, most political observers are terming it as his last stint in office.

With some aspirants having waited 4 decades to take a shot at becoming chief minister (Virbhadra first became chief minister in 1983 and since then has always headed the congress government when it returned to power), the hyper active PR calls threaten to water down those aspirations forever.

The internecine conflict of interests in BJP is no different as there are many out to challenge the efforts to catapult Anurag Thakur over others (something the Badal’s successfully did in Punjab).

In all this blatant politics at play, the state funded public relations department has a role that is not defined under the executive powers of the constitution to play on their own.

And be whosoever it is, none can question the spin doctoring campaign at play.

As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik leads a team of media professionals at Hill Post. Spanning a career of over two decades in mass communication, as a Documentary Filmmaker, TV journalist, Print Media journalist and with Online & Social Media, he brings with him a vast experience. He lives in Shimla.

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