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Shiv Sena seeks new image, turns to academy that trained the

Party starts courses in public relations and social media at the RSS-backed Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini, but vows to remain true to its own ideology.

Having received a severe drubbing in the Assembly polls as well as last year’s civic elections, the Shiv Sena is urgently seeking an image makeover. The party’s Pune unit has two new chiefs, and now intends to market itself in an entirely new way to win over the public. The strategy: Less vandalism, more public relations. As part of this campaign, the party’s city unit on Saturday started training sessions for its workers at the Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini (RMP) in Kondhwe-Dhawde village, under the guidance of political academicians. Established in 1982, RMP is a charitable organisation established in memory of the late Rambhau Mhalgi, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and MP from Thane. Known to follow the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideology, it has imparted training to the BJP, too. Ironically, the Sena’s main aim is to take on the BJP with the new skills learnt here.
The sessions will focus mainly on communication skills and increasing the Sena’s social media base. Party leaders feel that while the Shiv Sena is proficient at the ground level, they fail to convey their work to the masses due to a lack of marketing and ability to mingle with the public. RMP will help to enhance these skills and also work on the party’s technological side, helping to convert support into votes.
Speaking to Mirror, Chandrakant Mokate, former legislator and chief of the Sena’s party unit, said, “Shiv Sainiks are always ready to work for the welfare of the public. What we lack are the skills to make impressive speeches, management of booths and use technology. These intellectual sessions are meant to enhance their skills. Our rivals rarely work for the masses, but win elections simply by using marketing tactics.” When asked whether they are following the RSS ideology, Mote emphasised that the Shiv Sena has its own ideology. “This is just academic training and has nothing to do with ideology. It focuses on managing the elections and public relations strategy,” he clarified. Sena MP and national spokesperson Arvind Sawant added, “The party will never lose its true nature and will continue with its aggressive mode. We merely want to create an army of trained workers like the BJP has.” Elaborating on the training, Dr Rahul Tokekar, office superintendent at RMP, said, “It is true that the Prabodhini was founded by RSS and mostly trains BJP workers. But, we have never turned away any party or ideology. We train politicians equally to enhance their marketing skills and make them more people-friendly. We teach the use of social media and technology to enhance a pro-people approach through various means.” When asked if a party such as the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) would receive training, too, he replied in the affirmative. While the Sena is viewing this a way to beat BJP at its own game, the ruling party is not very concerned. BJP’s city unit chief, Yogesh Gogawale, said, “Though the RMP was founded by the RSS, it is an autonomous body which teaches political marketing and analysis. It’s a good sign that other parties are adopting these techniques and strategy. We cannot comment on why the Sena is suddenly adopting a strategy similar to ours. But, it is a good sign for our coalition party.

Key features of courses
According to Tokekar, personality development, public speaking, political office and funds management and functioning of key government agencies are the main features of the intellectual sessions.There is also emphasis on positive use of social media, print and electronic media, banners and posters which is often neglected by parties. The courses also focus on discipline as an important part of dealing with people.