Meet the Harvard men with 100 member team in lucknow helping Akhilesh win villagers

WITH THE help of international poll consultant and Harvard Professor Steve Jarding, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav plans to come up with constituency-wise manifesto for at least 100 seats by January 10. Akhilesh, along with Jarding, had met the MLAs from these constituencies in Lucknow last weekend.

Jarding had also camped with Akhilesh during his recent visit to Etah district. Sources said a pilot project has already been conducted in Payagpur constituency of Bahraich, which is represented by Congress MLA Mukesh Srivastava, who had recently joined SP.

How has Akhilesh Yadav achieved an image makeover in faraway villages? Delivering itself doesn’t always convert into a positive image. There’s been a clever communication campaign behind this, much of it run by Steve Jarding, a public policy professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Headed by Jarding’s former student Adwait Vikram Singh, a team of 100 people in Lucknow are co-ordinating the campaign. Mostly, they give Akhilesh strategy advice, they don’t implement campaigns themselves.

Jarding started working with Akhilesh in August. He has been to Lucknow five times, and on such occasion even visited Etah district with the chief minister. At Harvard, Adwait Vikram Singh had taken Jarding’s famous ‘Making of a Politician’ course. Jarding has been a political consultant for politicians around the world, including for Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Jarding said: “We are working with his (Akhilesh) team to overcome challenges. I feel good about the preparations. When we get there to the ground, we would talk about what he has done, what he is attempting… Be it a 10-year vision document or preparation of constituency-wise manifesto, the key is to have voters build the structure of the campaign.”

Citing his experience in Etah with Akhilesh, Steve said, “There is lot of energy around him and he has a wonderful connect with voters.”

Sources said Jarding’s team has already prepared a digital format, which would be shared with the MLAs and candidates, on local issues touching farmers, education and health sectors, agriculture and local infrastructure.

Girdhari Bora, who is coordinating the field work for the team, said: “We have been asked to follow ‘bottom-up’ campaigning. The focus of the constituency-wise manifesto and vision document would not be on caste lines, but on development.” He said professional help has also been taken to prepare sector-wise questionnaires to touch issues concerning each constituency and district.