How Rahul Gandhi upped the ante in 2019.
- Lack of focus from the incumbent government on real issues and initiatives for a new India appears to have worn off the sheen from Modi image.
- Increasing percentage of urban and rural population warming up to the idea of the Gandhi family scion as the national leader
- Modi’s dipping ratings is simultaneous with Gandhi’s rising star – Are they connected?
- Rahul’s modest interviews with ‘Politics of Love’ are in stark contrast to Modi’s recent rhetorical ‘apolitical’ conversations.
2014 elections resulted in a landslide victory of 282 seats for the BJP, riding high on the Modi Wave. The phrase ‘No alternative to Modi’ was further solidified when BJP won 4 out 5 states which went to polls in 2017.
After the 2014 victory, the saffron party’s card rose steadily, backed by Modi’s patriotic image and unparalleled persona in Indian politics. Even the pro-Congress commune dismissed the party’s chances due to a lack of strong leadership.
Rahul couldn’t match Modi’s star in 2014. The development-focused BJP government of 2014, based its 2019 hopes on nationalistic sentiment. Lack of focus from the incumbent government on real issues appears to have worn off the sheen from Modi’s image.
The diminishing popularity of PM Modi as an able Prime Minister has been synonymous with Rahul Gandhi’s rising star.
Rahul’s rise is linked to dip in Modi’s ratings
For many Rahul is the first port encountered on a stormy night at the ocean. There’s an increasing percentage of population warming up the concept of the Gandhi family scion as a leader.
The fact cannot be sidelined that his rising popularity and Modi’s dipping ratings are connected. There is no denying that PM Modi still commands massive support, but increasing numbers are warming towards the idea of Gandhi being an able leader.
2019 are the first elections where Rahul Gandhi has come to the forefront. Unlike past, Modi vs Rahul debate today is taken seriously across media channels.
Coming of age
In past 6 months, the projection of Rahul’s image has seen a gradual transformation. Congress’ entire 2019 campaign is confidently placed on Gandhi’s shoulder.
Congress perhaps understands the fact that it is highly unlikely to match Modi’s persona of a strong leader. But it has been able to counter BJP’s anti-narrative revolving around the inability of Rahul as a leader.
Rahul Gandhi in 2019 is propagating a ‘politics of love’. This stance has arguably taken the sharp worded incumbent Prime Minister unaware.
In a recent interview with NDTV’s Ravish Kumar, Rahul’s modest and unassuming character was in stark contrast to Modi’s ‘apolitical’ recent conversations.
Hard Hitting ‘Rahul Gandhi’ Interviews:
The leader(servant) of the masses
Gandhi actually succeeded in establishing a connect with the audience. This is a major boost to his image re-building campaign, which has been going on simultaneously with the active political campaigning.
His outreach understands campaigns like ‘Apni baat Rahul ke saath’ wherein he personally meets a set of young people and their issues have been massive hits.
Secondly, speaking out on national issues like GST, growing unemployment, Rafael scam, the agrarian crisis and economy slowdown – which PM Modi never mentions, gradually led to re-building the people’s confidence in Congress.
Engagement with Press
Multiple press conferences, public meetings and engaging international audiences as well as his visit to Modi’s bastion Gujrat demonstrated that he is ready to take on tough challenges and is capable of holding his own.
A combination of factors is at play. On one hand, there is growing resentment against the Modi government over the economic slowdown and agrarian issues.
But the tag of being inept and incapable of providing decisive leadership was swept away by three critical victories in major BJP Bastions.
Gandhi is articulating these issues instead of following Modi’s narrative about national security. Instead, Gandhi is emphasizing on the overarching theme of ‘hatred spreading in the nation’.
Gandhi is focusing on the right issues, among the right set of audience, on a very right time. When both Modi and BJP is facing a question mark on their performance, Gandhi is emerging from the “Pappu” tag that the BJP had foisted on him.
Social Media boost
For a time, it looked like Congress’ IT Cells were no match for those of BJP. But Gandhi and Congress are far more adept at using social media now. An important factor that led to the party’s victory in the Hindi heartlands was the active social media campaigns.
Recently, congress also built Shakti mobile application in order to create a strong connect between its supremo and party workers. The confrontational type of tweeting by Rahul’s twitter account has led to the increase in engagements and enabled him to cater a larger audience.
However, the tweets are largely posted around attacking PM Modi, farmer issues, and job crisis. In his 1,381 tweets since the beginning of 2017, Rahul has mentioned either “Modi” or “Prime Minister” once in every 13 tweets.
On the other hand, Modi avoids direct attacks against Gandhi on Twitter. He has mentioned, “Gandhi”, “Nehru”, or “Rahul” only 9 times, in fact the tweets were generally about Mahatma Gandhi, Maneka Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
Modi tweets about farmers 69 times in 2017 while Rahul did so 59 times. He received more engagements than Rahul on every such tweets. However, since January 2018 the scenario was different.
PM Modi has tweeted about farmers 138 times and Rahul has tweeted on the same just 24 times. But,he received double the engagement, also on issues like jobs he tweeted more often than Modi which has received a lot of traction.
Changed Picture: 2019
Undoubtedly, the increased social media presence has boosted Rahul’s image and helped register his candidature among different set of audience.
Also, the political campaigns and social media campaigns have complemented the change in Gandhi’s image to a strong responsible leader – an alternative to Modi in the years to come.
However, Rahul defeating the Modi wave and becoming the next Prime Minister in 2019 looks like a tough ask right now.
But due to Congress coming back to form under his leadership, BJP has been a little wary on the prospects of a decreased vote share and not coming through with majority to form the government in 2019.
- Outreach campaigns like ‘Apni baat Rahul ke saath’ and voicing of issues like GST, unemployment, Rafael controversy has improved Rahul’s image.
- BJP foisted ‘inept’ image of Gandhi was debunked by Congress when it swept through three Hindi heartland BJP Bastions.
- The confrontational type of tweeting by Rahul’s twitter account has led to an increase in engagements and enabled him to cater a larger audience.
- Rahul Gandhi’s growing image as a national leader is expected to impact BJP’s vote share.