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Impressed with Akhilesh’s vision and how he did not waiver: Steve Jarding

Impressed with Akhilesh’s vision and how he did not waiver: Steve Jarding
Professor Steve Jarding during an interview session with APN News
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A world-renowned political strategist and teacher of Public Policy at Harvard University, Professor Steve Jarding was a political consultant for UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav during the assembly polls. At present Professor Jarding teaches two of the most popular courses in the university—The Making of a Politician, and Running for Office and Managing Campaigns.

Jarding also served as a campaign manager and political strategist to the Democratic Party in the US. His other clients included Hillary Clinton, Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy and former US Vice-President Al Gore.

In an exclusive interview with APN News, Jarding was all praise for the abilities of Yadav and was sure that he had a bright future in India politics. Here are some excerpts:     

One can hardly imagine that The Making of a Politician and Running for Office and Managing Campaigns could actually be courses taught in a university.

These courses fell into my lap almost by accident. The Kennedy School had a course Running for Office but they phased it out as they were not getting enough students. The professors went to the Dean and suggested my name. The Dean sought my consent and I agreed. Thereafter, the number of students kept on increasing every year by leaps and bounds. After the course became powerful, they later offered me to take up the other course. Now the demand is huge and the courses have grown exponentially and I am very happy.

You have helped UP CM Akhilesh Yadav in his assembly election campaign as a political strategist. What are your predictions?

I think Akhilesh Yadav is in a position to do pretty well and he could win the polls. I am not sure whether he was in a good position when we started a few months ago. We have charted a strategic path. I think the alliance with the Congress was good for both the parties. We will see when the votes are counted but we have come a long way. Everybody saw that when you do the type of things we did, it could make a difference. And I am proud of that.

Do you think the alliance with the Congress will benefit Akhilesh?

I think it will. The image and brand of the Congress is still very strong in India. All it needed was a little bit of a boost, a jumpstart. I think the alliance is a win-win situation for both the parties.

What about the family feud that took place within the Samajwadi Party?

Akhilesh loves his family but he also has a huge responsibility as the CM of UP. When I met him in August he was working on a lot of things and wanted to continue. He took the responsibility for people very seriously. The situation was very difficult for him, very painful.

Every family has its imperfect moments. Their family too had a difficult one and now it is closed. Today, it is better and stronger and Akhilesh did what he had to do.

Do you think Akhilesh is ready to move to the next level—national politics?

I am very impressed with Akhilesh. I have worked with him, travelled with him in the countryside…and think he can do whatever he wants. He is extremely talented. I am impressed with his wife. I am impressed with the way they have handled things, I am impressed with his vision which he did not waiver from. With his drive and passion for the people of India, his future is very bright.

How is election campaigning in India different from the US or for that matter the rest of the world?

The message may be different but people are after all people all over the world. They have fears and insecurities and needs from the government. In that sense, politics is pretty standard all over the world. The way you persuade voters is common throughout the world.

Social media has been extensively used in these elections. Your comments.

Social media is very important. It is here to stay. It is growing every day. There are new platforms evolving all the time. It is simple and cost-effective. You can reach people and talk to them about the issues that impact their lives in a personal way.

When a political leader approaches you what is the size of the team you have?

The size of the team is not important but the focus is. Of course, you need a certain number of bodies for jobs like messaging, research, field work, etc. In a place like India, you need to go on the ground, in villages. The inner circle of a team is more or less similar no matter how big or small the country is. Having said that, the needs of every campaign are the same.

There is a stigma attached to taking up politics as a career option in India. Nobody wants to become a politician. Is it the same elsewhere in the world?

It is the same all over the world. Governments are the strongest entity ever devised by human kind to impact the lives of the people. They make wars, they enforce laws, they take care of education, nutrition, and what have you. Governance is the largest business in any country. Yet nobody wants to get into it. It is the number one profession in the world. The problem is it is getting the stigma. Good people are going into other professions.

But one has a responsibility as a human being to give back a part of their life to public service. We all have the responsibility to make our world or a country a better place. Yes politics is challenging and can get dirty. Government by definition is not a bad thing…

After having advised so many people to take up politics how come the thought did not occur in your mind?

At 58, I haven’t ruled that out. I love what I am doing. I am hopeful that I have made an impact in the positive way.

What are your impressions about India?

I loved the country. The people are terrific. The food was great. It is great to see India coming into its own. Going into villages was an inspiration. The young Indians that I met during the campaigns were all fired up and full of hope. That is a great sign for a great nation. This century could easily belong to India.

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