Rahul Gandhi
A file image of Congress president Rahul Gandhi | Facebook
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By attacking his brand, the Congress risks turning the next elections Modi-centric.

The Congress party’s ceaseless diatribe against Prime Minister Narendra Modi may appear cynical, but there is a well thought out strategy behind this: diminish ‘Brand Modi’ and the mythology around it.

The personality cult of Modi has been built around broadly seven attributes: a strong and decisive leader; ‘vikas purush’ or development man; ‘na khaoonga, na khane doonga’ or someone who doesn’t indulge or brook corrupt practices; ‘Hindu Hridaya Samrat’ or someone who rules Hindu hearts; ‘garib maa ka chaiwalla beta’ or the tea-seller son of a poor mother; a backward caste leader whose politics transcends caste affiliations; and, oratory.

The Congress has been seeking to chip away each of these attributes to undermine this brand, a sine qua non in its attempt to dislodge the BJP from power at the Centre and in states. Take a look at how the principal opposition party is trying to achieve this objective.

Strong & decisive leader: In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP repeatedly raised the issue of ‘dual power centres’ (hinting at then-UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s interference in the government) to project then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as ‘weak’. The BJP’s narrative was effective as the Congress-led regime was accused of policy paralysis. It faced allegations of scams, seemed to be under siege from within, and was projected as weak-kneed in its dealings with other countries, especially Pakistan and China.

It was in this backdrop that the BJP successfully projected Modi as a strong and decisive leader. The Congress has been attacking Modi for “inaction” on many fronts – from not reining in radical elements and scamsters to “keeping silent” when “China is in Doklam, building a road”, as party president Rahul Gandhi said. The opposition party is also seeking to create an impression that the strong leader is, in fact, arrogant who does not keep even his Cabinet colleagues informed about his decisions concerning their ministries and hates those who question his decisions. Rahul’s hug to Modi in the Lok Sabha was meant to buttress that impression.

Vikas Purush: Modi showcased the Gujarat model of development and promised to replicate the same across the country ahead of the last general elections. The Prime Minister now claims that India has progressed more in the past four years than it did in over six decades since Independence. Rahul and his party colleagues have been seeking to puncture Modi’s India Shining narrative by citing dismal job growth figures, adverse impact of demonetisation, suicide by farmers, fuel price hike, falling rupee, among other issues.

Na khaoonga, na khane doonga: The clean image of Modi has been one of the strongest points of the ruling NDA, especially as central investigation agencies have been charging opposition leaders for alleged acts of omission and commission virtually on a daily basis. Seeking to turn the table, the Congress has been attacking Modi with counter-allegations.

The party has turned the heat on him by alleging scam in the government-to-government contract for 36 Rafale fighter jets. It’s only the latest in a string of allegations against Modi, levelled by Congress leaders; the others include allowing the alleged “looters” of Indian banks to flee the country, bending rules to benefit certain businessmen and industrialists, and ignoring allegations against BJP president Amit Shah’s son and other BJP ministers and leaders.

Hindu Hridaya Samrat: This is one image of Modi that the Congress finds hard to counter. The opposition party has, therefore, decided to work on its own image and change its impression as a Muslim party. From Rahul’s frequent visits to temples to Congress’ chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala tweeting Sanskrit shlokas on Guru Purnima last week, there are many indicators of how the Congress is trying to play the soft Hindutva card.

OBC Prime Minister: Modi, an OBC leader, helped the BJP, traditionally a Brahmin-baniya party, to widen its social base among OBCs and even a section of Dalits. The Congress is seeking to counter it through state-specific alliances with regional parties such as the SP, the BSP, the RLD and the RJD, which have committed votebanks among particular OBC communities and Dalits.

The opposition party has been attacking Modi for increasing incidents of atrocities against Dalits. Last week, the Congress echoed the outrage expressed by union minister Ram Vilas Paswan and BJP MP Udit Raj over the appointment of Justice (retd) A.K. Goel as NGT chairman, citing his ruling as Supreme Court judge that diluted certain provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Rahul has held several discussions with leaders on how to increase the Congress’ acceptability among the OBCs – to counter Modi’s – but the party still does not seem to have a clue.

Garib maa ka beta: Modi’s humble background as a poor tea-seller has been his USP, especially when pitted against the illustrious Nehru-Gandhi family of the Congress. It is the first thing the opposition party picked up in its bid to change the public perception about Modi. Starting with Rahul Gandhi’s suit-boot-government jibe and projection of a proposed land acquisition bill as anti-farmer, the Congress has focused a great deal on Modi’s friendship with businessmen and industrialists, alleging undue favours to them.

Oratorical skill: After publicly acknowledging Modi’s oratorical skill, the Congress has gone on to project it as “jumlabaazi”, questioning the non-delivery of the promised Rs 15 lakh in everyone’s bank account and constantly reminding people of the unfulfilled promises made in his speeches.

Jury is still out on the success or failure of the above-mentioned strategy against Modi, but the Congress could, in the process, again turn the next elections Modi-centric. Many Congressmen argue that if Sonia could come up trumps against Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2004, why can’t Rahul in 2019. They need to ask themselves this.

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24 Comments Share Your Views

24 COMMENTS

  1. ThePrint is becoming Modi’s mouthpiece at a time when people all over India are getting fed up of Modi-Amit Shah-Praful Goyal combo. Why lionize a party which is doubtful to get triple digit seats in next Parliament given its serious debacles in all the recent bypolls, and constantly declining opinion poll numbers.

  2. All congresses and other parties want RaGa as PM to do whatever they want to do after that and no body will be there to ask them anything.

  3. Congress in general & RaGa in particular, are digging their own grave by constantly criticising Modi for no valid reasons. Modi has been doing his best despite adverse political climate created by notorious Congress and others. People see the nefarious design and will give befitting reply to Congress & co. Wait and watch.

  4. Here issue is modi relationship with gujarathi business group
    No one asking why anil AMBANI
    Why not HAL
    NO JOURNALIST have courage for that
    Above all people mentioned about Rahul ghandhi
    Here the real issue is not Rahul
    Killing of public sector for private business group

  5. You don’t defeat Just by shouting against him. You need to offer what you got.
    With Rahul at helm Congress all strategies are doomed to be squib.

    Soon Rafale will be out of focus and without even single litigation, even Slogan against him will slide into swamp.

  6. Modi is serving the country. CONGRESS ruled the country barring Shri Lal Bahadur Shastry. People know the Lutyens too well now and such articles are only pass time and will not have any effect on the Popular PM Modi

  7. Congress should highlight the economic failures and the hardships caused to the poor during Modi regime and the absence of any remorse in modi. It should highlight the corruption among the leaders of the ruling party and the suspicious dealings of his close associates. His inability to check his own ministers like Giriraj and Sakshi, members like Raja Singh shows his weakness. Doklam setback and Trump’ snub are a big embarrassment to the Indian pride and honour. Even Nepal and Maldives are moving away. Modi’s public false and unsubstantiated statements on Pak conspiracy without any follow up action should not be left.

    • He should put in serious day to day effort to highlight the plight of the Indian farmers who are on the brink of collapse

  8. Y is the sicular media hellbent on removing Modi to make Rahul the PM. I agree PM has failed on some issues but u must understand 1 term is not enough to fix all problems.

  9. This pappu, the Indian version of Don Quixote surrounded by Sancho’s can not impact the public perception. Even people who have some leftover sympathy towards Congress due to their old sentiments, will not believe this jester.

  10. Now RERA is applicable for all builders and instead of plinth area, super built up area and built up area, carpet area has come into effect which is beneficial for buyers. Earlier in 1970s this carpet area concept was there but slowly and steadily it vanished and government under congress given green signal and nod by accepting money. This practice is done away with by Modi. What Congress has to say. Let congress say that, no farmers’ death or riots or linching or killing or looting or communal clashes happened during their regime. Did they solve starvation death, unemployment problem SC/ST harassment Dalit atrocities etc. Answer them. Perform first and power next.

  11. It is not that INC has none who could speak logic and substance. But RaGa himself doesn’t allow anyone on the mike. The result is obvious. All his speeches get not only monotonus, superficial and hollow enough to be taken seriously even by the commoners, not to speak of senior members of think tanks of the country, including his own. Modi, on the face of this so called ‘well-thought-out’ stategy, may not grab the volumous support as in 2014, there is no danger for Modi. And last but not the least, RaGa may sing some more Raagas that may pave the way to the “V” of Modi. Let us watch.

  12. The Congress is trying to copy Modi and BJP by false charges while BJP was able to paint Congress and UOA as corrupt party.The fact that there were no worthwhile corruption charge Rahul brought in Rafele purchase which backfired.Their only charge against the ruling party is that the promised 15 lacs to each has not materialised.However this is an election speech.In every election each party promised roti kapda Maka which is seldom delivered by all the parties.The most essential thing to judge is to compare the performance of both ruling and oppposion parties.When during the earlier year of the govts proposal onreforms were brought in the Congress cried that they are policies of Congress but in new name

  13. Leave congress or Rahul whatever they say or think about Modi. Based on the observation about Modi other than hindus heart Modi has not achieved what he has projected himself about. Take Vikas purusha what is development India has made during this last four and half years. There is no employment, small and medium scale industries has been totally neglected as well as they were made to closed. Regarding corruption he is silent about Rafael deal above all he belongs to backward class but his actions are totally against backward class and dalits. It seems that he had a hidden agenda to do away with reservation. Whenever if a court case is filed against reservation his government does take it seriously and argue in the so that the judgment will be delivered against reservation and he would wash his hands shifting the blame on Court

    • What do u want otherwise, negate SC ruling. For the past 70 years reservation is there and people who got more and more still keep getting more yet again. Instead give reservation based on economic backwardness. So all will be covered. What is the condition of the country now. Lot have happened on economic front and employment. A good package for farmers, public transportation comforts, infrastructure. Except roads built by central agencies are in shambles. Why funds are eaten away. All sorts of lies and canards are spread against Modi. We have given him only four years. Give him 10 or 15 years, then see the results. Country is mainly ruled by congress, what have they done. They thought that they can survive with minority votes especially Muslim votes and made them vote bank by giving all sorts of soaps, including 1.3 lace haj subsidy per person. In its place Mody has given 1 lac scholarship for researchers. Given all sorts of help to girls, triple talak ban, punishment to rapers, make in India program. What Rafael, where is the evidence. Let congress go to court if they have evidence. Anyone can say anything without evidence. What hugging and winking in Parliament. Made Parliament a kiss of love affair.

    • Naturally. Why do you want reservation? That also caste based! For two generations, these so called backward castes have been enjoying privileges. Either they have not raised their level foe the benefits given to them where they can sustain or they are greedy to get reservations continuously at the cost of others. That must stop. It will stop. It has to stop. If modi is into that job, he is doing good for the nation. Reservation must be on economic condition of the entire household basis. Casteism must be eliminated from our country altogether

  14. Your article just seems a wish list of the Congress Party,,to win they should put up an alternate view the liberal media had predicted a majority for Congress ,in Karnataka, what happened!!

  15. It has been a clever strategy to chip away at the veneer covering Modi . After all, India has never seen”dins” any better than ones India had between 2004-2014.

  16. It will be more fruitful to focus on real issues, how far the Report Card is filled with achievements that have improved the lives of ordinary Indians.

  17. The only coherent sentence I have heard Rahul say is when he called Hillary a status quoist. Otherwise I have never seen him talk sense. I sincerely doubt whether he has any grey matter.

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