The Dis­cov­ery of RaGa

Rahul Gandhi needs to re­design his strat­egy. Like So­nia Gandhi in 2004, his at­tacks should be gov­ern­ment schemes and poll prom­ises spe­cific rather be­ing Naren­dra Modi spe­cific

The Day After - - NATIONAL POLITICS - By Anil AnAnd

Wh e n Congress vi­cepres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi took-off for USA on a twoweek tour to con­nect with In­dian Di­as­pora among oth­ers, many eye­brows were raised within his own party for aban­don­ing the ship at a cru­cial junc­ture and show­ing no in­cli­na­tion to sta­bi­lize it. The prophets of doom, both within and out­side Congress, were em­phatic in stress­ing that he was on course to com­mit yet an­other blun­der. Os­ten­si­bly he has proved them wrong. For once his im­pres­sive per­for­mance off-shore has gen­er­ated a de­bate dif­fer­ent in tone and tenor with even some of the crit­ics be­gin­ning to find merit in his con­duct and pre­sen­ta­tion.

Will Rahul be able to re­peat his magic on home­land with same im­punity with which he grabbed head­lines in the in­ter­na­tional me­dia through cre­at­ing a good im­pres­sion on his au­di­ences? And what went be­hind this change for him to ul­ti­mately find­ing his ground? Was it his own home­work and hard-task or the mak­ing of a be­hind the cur­tain strate­gist?

These ques­tions have as­sumed sig­nif­i­cance. Yearn­ing to find an­swers to these be­came in­stant as so­cial me­dia, for once, started re­flect­ing the pos­i­tiv­ity of his USA tour and the ben­e­fits ac­crued thereof. The de­bate and anal­y­sis to find an­swers to these ques­tions would con­tinue un­less the man him­self or his close net­work un­rav­els the se­cret as part of strat­egy to em­u­late the same on home-turf.

There is no deny­ing the fact that a wellthought-off strat­egy and plan­ning must be be­hind con­ceiv­ing his US tour. It could be the tried and trusted friend of the Gandhi fam­ily Sam Pitroda, who is also chief of the Over­seas Congress, and chief strate­gist or ar­chi­tect of these shows? It can­not be en­tirely de­nied. But no amount of plan­ning could have suc­ceeded un­less the per­son him­self was ready to strike the right chord.

A big gain of Rahul’s USA visit is that he has been able to cre­ate that elu­sive buzz about is­sues re­lated In­dia-po­lit­i­cal par­tic­u­larly about phe­nom­e­non called Naren­dra Modi. All his ef­forts in this re­gard while criss-cross­ing the coun­try some­times did grab a head­line or two but soon to be en­veloped in a smog of neg­a­tiv­ity thought­fully cre­ated by his de­trac­tors in BJP and some within his own party as well. May be he was not force­ful or con­vinc­ing in his ar­gu­ments, or may be that the time was not right for any charge lev­eled by him to stick on Modi’s shin­ing jack­ets. Hon­estly, it was a mix of both.

An anal­y­sis of his con­duct dur­ing his USA in­ter­ac­tions makes it am­ply clear that there has been a change in strat­egy. Rahul can­not be a rab­ble-rouser or as gar­ru­lous as Modi as it does not come nat­u­rally to him. In the sim­i­lar vein Modi can­not act as a silent spec­ta­tor which is con­trary to his na­ture.

The ear­lier strate­gists such as Prashant

Kishore and be­fore him in­clud­ing some im­age builders per­haps sought to de­velop his per­son­al­ity as some­one who would counter Modi and re­pay in the lat­ter’s cur­rency, rather than de­vel­op­ing his own ex­clu­sive style based on nat­u­ral in­stincts. Clearly Rahul was caught be­tween what he was not and what his strate­gists tried to cre­ate out of him. At least his USA per­for­mance bears this out.

One strong fac­tor be­hind Rahul suc­ceed­ing to cre­ate an im­pres­sion on his au­di­ence abroad was that he made his own style a strength which was to be can­did and hon­est and straight­for­ward rather than harp­ing on a rhetor­i­cal route to beat Modi at his own game. His hon­esty in ad­mit­ting Congress’ or­gan­i­sa­tional weak­nesses and can­did­ness on the dy­nas­tic is­sues gen­er­ated in­ter­est among the au­di­ences.

The peo­ple and au­di­ences are al­ways in the look­out for that ‘X’ fac­tor or some­thing dif­fer­ent par­tic­u­larly among the po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, to for­mu­late their opin­ions. Modi prior to and dur­ing 2014 Lok Sabha elec­tion cam­paign cre­ated a strong im­pres­sion that he was dif­fer­ent and meant dif­fer­ently. He was ac­cepted by peo­ple on his face value while oth­ers failed to counter him.

Hon­est ad­mis­sion of fol­lies and flaws is al­ways per­ceived to be an act of in­tegrity. And it has dou­ble the ef­fect if it comes from politi­cians as there is a gen­eral im­pres­sion that this crop is apt at de­fend­ing the in­de­fen­si­ble and adamant at not ad­mit­ting their fail­ures through fret­ting out lies. No gov­ern­ment can claim cent-per­cent de­liv­ery on prom­ises made by its lead­ers to the pub­lic and Modi dis­pen­sa­tion is no dif­fer­ent. The BJP Prime Min­is­te­rial can­di­date Modi cre­ated a larger than life im­age for him­self, which in some re­spects be­fits him, and made lofty prom­ises to be ful­filled within tight dead­lines set by none other but by him­self.

This strat­egy worked ef­fec­tively for Modi till de­mon­e­ti­za­tion and GST like is­sues came with bun­dle of prob­lems such as con­straints in in­dus­trial sec­tor and job mar­ket. This in­sti­gated a crit­i­cal anal­y­sis of his gov­ern­ment’s per­for­mance on other pa­ram­e­ters as well. Rather than ad­mit­ting fail­ures and prac­ti­cal dif­fi­cul­ties in get­ting the de­sired re­sults in the stip­u­lated time­frame team-Modi is con­tin­u­ously cred­it­ing it­self with im­pres­sive suc­cess rate.

Strate­gi­cally Modi and his strate­gists have tar­geted Rahul’s dy­nas­tic con­nec­tions to por­tray him as some­one priv­i­leged and not tal­ented to take the man­tle of Congress Pres­i­dentship or be the Prime Min­is­te­rial can­di­date. This strat­egy did suc­ceed to a large ex­tent and one strong rea­son was lack of counter-nar­ra­tive on the part of Rahul as well as Congress. Killing sol­diers too weak­ens the em­peror. Rather at­tack­ing PM Modi di­rectly, it would be bet­ter if Team Rahul or even Rahul Gandhi high­lights fail­ures of the Modi gov­ern­ment and at­tack the con­cerned min­is­ter. Tar­get­ing Modi for each gov­ern­ment fail­ure won’t pay div­i­dends. In Delhi, Arvind Ke­jri­wal did the same but learnt his lessons on time and won the Bawana by-poll with thump­ing mar­gin.

Rather in­dulging in de­bate over dy­nasts dom­i­nat­ing var­i­ous fra­ter­nity in In­dia, Congress’ PM in wait­ing should fo­cus on high­light­ing the bro­ken prom­ises and loop holes of the gov­ern­ment pro­grams lead­ing to pub­lic ap­a­thy — an essence of cre­ative op­po­si­tion which re­mained a hall­mark of for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee when the later used to sit in op­po­si­tion.

No amount of strat­egy or im­age build­ing could pay un­less the leader or the per­son at the cen­tre of ac­tion cre­ates a ‘love at first sight” syn­drome with his au­di­ences even if it is fee­ble. The strate­gies and im­age makeover would come into play af­ter that.

Rahul’s ag­gres­sive jibes “such as suit­boot ki sarkar” were nei­ther nat­u­ral nor to his lik­ing as was re­flected by his body lan­guage. So these coun­ters did gen­er­ate mo­men­tary heat but brought no div­i­dends ei­ther to him or his party. Surely, it was a case of poor strat­egy in­flicted upon him by ei­ther close aides or highly paid strate­gists. Hence, there is strong need for Rahul hav­ing the kind of po­lit­i­cal strate­gists who were around Rahul in 2009 Lok Sabha Polls, which was peak of Congress in post Ra­jeev Gandhi era.

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