Kalyan Chakrabarti
Power of strangers for a cause
This article originally appeared in CRI content has now been subsumed in The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of

The first time I took notice of Narendra Modi was when a good friend from school days went to Ahmadabad for two years to work for British Gas. Despite being a BJP supporter for long, 2002 had left a bitter taste in my mouth about Mr Modi. Naivety has no boundaries and the fiction peddled by Main Stream Media (MSM) had an easy customer in me.

Between 2003 and 2005 during infrequent conversations with my friend, I began to get introduced into a new world of Modi which to me sounded surreal and hence deserving of dismissal with a sneer. A politician can’t be so good I thought.

But, somewhere during those 2 years the penny had quietly dropped in my head and I had started following Mr. Modi initially with a lot of scepticism. My world view towards Mr. Modi changed from one of negativity to benefit of doubt to a sliver of positivity to a complete fan boy over a period of time not lasting less than 6-7 years starting 2002. Initially I attributed it to some kind of Stockholm syndrome being at play. Was I kinder towards him because I was spending precious personal time tracking him? Was I becoming softer towards him because I have been a traditional BJP supporter?

It took time till 2009 elections for me from being a BJP convert to a Modi convert. I followed 2007 speeches of Modi fairly closely, rather, to be more truthful as much as MSM allowed me to and came to a conclusion that this is a different politician who is worth noticing and tracking.

While I have been curious about politics and politicians for long, a phase started subconsciously where my interest in NaMo brand of politics took a different turn. I started tracking this politician nearly on a daily basis including tuning into Gujarati TV channels to understand what they have to report. Needless to add, Gujarati was as familiar to me as Hebrew!

A few months before NaMo got elected for the 3rd time as the CM of Gujarat, I ran into Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman in the Benguluru airport. I walked up to her and suggested that NaMo should be made the PM candidate of BJP. While she was waiting for her baggage to turn up on the conveyor belt, I caught up with her for about 5 minutes and it felt very good when she said that wherever she goes or for that any of party leaders go, several strangers and professionals walk up to them to suggest the same.

There lied the good and the bad. The good was, a lot of strangers and professionals were asking for NaMo as PM 18 months before next general election. The good also was that I was not nearly as crazy an outlier as I thought I was when made my tentative strides to say hi to Mrs Sitharaman that evening in Benguluru.

However, the brain took over and started questioning me on the wisdom to entertain the thought of a red herring. Red herrings are just that, herrings are never meant to be red and hence never found other than in the world of the deluded or the fiction writers. That’s where possibly the bad lied.

The bad was essentially around a mechanism to translate the desire and enthusiasm of many a “strangers” and “professionals”, who are and have largely been, “indifferent” citizen of a limping democracy into a tangible action which propels the cause forward.

In subsequent months, it got me thinking that every stranger and professional who supports a cause also needs to contribute to the cause. Otherwise this would be another fertile ground for-lots of arm chair advisers with little or no interest in action or for those matter questionable intentions.

There is always a wide chasm between interest or desire and action. What gives? For a stranger and/or a professional, excuses are many. Some genuine (like work load, travel) and some which sound genuine (am willing to be convinced about party A or party B, all are same only). It did not take much time, energy or effort to realize that there is a rather large fraternity of like-minded folks out there who seem to cherish the same desire as I did.

Then it occurred to me that I have to take it beyond mere interest, beyond indifference of yore (I last voted in 2001 and that was the only time I have voted since I got my right to vote 23 summers ago) to some real action on the ground which pushes my dream closer to reality.

So what can a stranger do or for that matter any professional? How does one act as a force multiplier to the cause? Here is a humble cheat sheet.

  1.  If you want to take yourself seriously about wanting contributing, please start by doing yourself a favour – register yourself as a voter. This gives you the much need moral compass to do the remaining things I have written below. This also makes you get an extra spring or two in your step while contributing to the cause.

  2. Build “the cause” into your life style. For example, if you travel a lot, the tax drivers are in your sphere of influence, if you’re travelling by metro or Mumbai local you have endless co passengers who don’t mind someone to talk to break the monotony. Use these opportunities to initiate a dialogue. Drive awareness of the political situation in the country and if you’re not too shy take the conversation to voting preferences and if you’re still more comfortable go ahead and canvass for their vote.

  3. Family and friend – anyone who is reading this article would have a pretty robust sphere of influence. Identify them, call them, meet them but essentially speak to them today about “the cause”. As an example, my elder sister had no inclination towards #NaMo 6 months back. After a series of conversations, she is fully in the camp and is part of “the cause” too

  4. Preach and preach – preach all things about “the cause”. Preach to the entire spectrum of people starting with non convertibles, neo converts, nearly converted and fully converted. With each you would have a different nature of conversation which will make the challenge sweeter and the cause closer to reality.

  5. Step out – this is the toughest part. Step out from the happy confines of tweeter or familiar abode of facebook. Get into the heat and dust for an hour or two in a week. This will help you in getting on board more strangers and more professionals.

  6. I for one believe that all these have to be done very very deliberately. Luck in a cloak with which we cover success. By being deliberate about the action towards the cause, by planning and enthusiastically participating where we can we can all make a difference? In the final analysis, when May ’14 comes, it will be the small differences made by inconspicuous strangers that shall separate a victory from a loss.

  7. Set a target – coming from a 20 years corporate life, this was the most difficult aspect to include. Setting a target for what? Are you in control of factors? Will you ever know if you met the target? So a few simple things to do is to set a realistic target. Having for example a target to convince 20 other neutrals or adversaries to believe in the cause would make a big difference to how passionately you contribute to the cause. 

  8. Enjoy yourself – at each stage, whether it is vegetating like I do on tweeter or doing serious on ground work, it is very important to enjoy yourself. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing for the cause, then either you’re chasing a wrong cause or have picked wrong means to chase a good cause. If you’re not enjoying, doing everything to start enjoying it or very seriously let go off the cause.