If Rahul and Modi’s crowd-pulling talents are compared, Modi’s tempestuous, slapstick satire humours crowds and charms voters way more than Rahul’s mellow, niceties-filled one… when it comes to political showmanship, which plays a fairly big role in India poll narratives, Rahul has a long way to go before he can imagine catching up with Modi.
While Rahul Gandhi is still the ‘heir apparent’, Narendra Modi, increasingly described as a ‘mass leader and a vote gatherer or catcher’ has now been officially anointed the Bharatiya’s Janata Party (BJP’s) Prime Ministerial candidate. So will this bring about a significant shift in political metaphors between them? The difference in their approach so far has been essentially Modi’s single minded obsession with UPA-bashing and Rahul’s conveniently blinkered concentration on the UPA’s partially mythical achievements in its second run at governance. So far, Modi’s aggressive, scathing rhetoric has weighed considerably more than Rahul’s sophisticated, toothless one. What will happen now? From speeches in business conclaves and political rallies to addresses in colleges and on national holidays, Modi’s politicking, of late, has remained tightly wound around the UPA and its alleged failures. Though it is not too unusual to ride on opponent-bashing and clinch a poll victory in India, that approach is a lot more effective when the same is led by a personality with a greater pan-Indian connect than Narendra Modi had before he was declared the official BJP Prime Ministerial candidate. But that could now change, because a Rahul-Modi face-off will only work in the latter’s benefit.
However, Modi’s staunch followers across India and outside Gujarat are still limited to a section of the educated middle class. But the Gujarat CM on his part has already started an exercise to percolate through the class and language barriers to a greater section of the masses, and that may be less of an uphill task now that Modi has been declared the Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP. And there’s more help at hand – and from none other than Rahul Gandhi himself!
According to a report on ‘The Economic Times’, Congress has signed a Rs. 500 crore deal with advertising agency JWT to work out a plan that will help them boost their poll prospects. If the article is to be believed, the brief given to JWT is this: a campaign that helps nail Narendra Modi and his ‘lies’. ET reports:
The agency’s creatives centre around a poser to voters: “Would you entrust your country to this man (Modi)?”
Congress has also asked the agency for regular inputs to counter Modi, said the person cited earlier. JWT has put a team in place to pick holes in Modi’s record as Gujarat chief minister, said the person, who did not wish to be named, adding that this team will come up with a set of Modi’s “claims” and “real facts” on issues such as alleged fake encounters, malnutrition and water crisis in the state.
So, what does the Congress effectively do while trying to stir the country’s conscience against ‘this man’? They introduce and familiarise the country to the same man they are against. Modi’s reach is yet to trickle down to the grassroots across India or so it is believed – a shortcoming that he is working on vehemently. On pure political merit, therefore, positioning a poll campaign as one that is deeply anti-Modi will be a blunder.
And Rahul Gandhi is briskly working in that direction. Firstly, Modi’s poll plank is anti-UPA. Though his metaphors are generously sprinkled with Gandhi dynasty bashing, he does dwell equally upon the other scam luminaries of the Congress. From Coalgate to the Railways scam, Modi usually harps on all the blots on Congress in all his speeches. Though he invests his best in Gandhi family bashing (example, ‘damaad ka karobaar’, ‘prince with the golden spoon’ etc), Modi uniformly pulls up Congress Ministers involved in all known scams. Essentially, therefore, he is targeting the idea of a party, not one person in a party.
A not-so-covert anti-Modi campaign of national proportions on the other hand is bound to raise legitimate doubts in the voters’ mind regarding the Congress’ motives or compulsions behind relentlessly bombarding one man. Such a move runs the risk of being read as desperation, and to some, even apprehension. Therefore the Congress will not only be responsible for introducing a large dismissive population to Modi, but the party will also stoke enough interest in him.
Then again, though Rahul Gandhi’s achievements till date have been mostly suspect, one has to accept that he has so far been a more familiar face, nationally, than Narendra Modi has been, but that could now change. So when Rahul himself decides to take up cudgels against Modi he does the Gujarat CM a great favour. He just clears the path for Modi to stomp over. Yes, ‘stomp over’.
If Rahul and Modi’s crowd-pulling talents are compared, Modi’s tempestuous, slapstick satire humours crowds and charms voters way more than Rahul’s mellow, niceties–filled one. Take for example Modi’s and Rahul speeches in Rajasthan. While Modi had a crowd and an entire nation hooked with his ‘damaad ka karobaar’ catchphrase, Rahul was relegated to the inside pages of newspapers with his ‘guldastan (bouquet)’ metaphor.
Politically, Modi and Rahul, were both on the right track. The former was pulling up Congress’ sore heel Robert Vadra and Rahul was referring to his party’s trophy secular values. But referring to a country as a ‘bouquet’ which makes place for flowers of all kinds is right up there in the books of Bollywood patriotism but cuts no ice with masses who have little patience for poetic nuances.
The Congress has been right all the way in not pitching Rahul directly against Modi. The party will only be better-advised to not do that in future either. Because when it comes to political showmanship, which plays a fairly big role in India poll narratives, Rahul has a long way to go before he can imagine catching up with Modi.
– With inputs from agencies and Firstpost