Rahul Gandhi issued an open challenge to the BJP at the Jan Aakrosh rally in Delhi this Sunday. He highlighted people’s anger over Modi government’s failure to deliver on its promises. Gandhi also stated that the Congress party will win every election from now until 2019.
ThePrint asks: Is Congress’s ‘jan aakrosh’ a sound strategy for 2019 or is it just a political slogan?
At Rahul Gandhi’s rally, there was only ‘aakrosh’ (anger) and no ‘jan’ (people)
Former editor, Organiser
The Jan Aakrosh rally by the Congress has, for all practical purposes, lost its relevance and meaning. Going by the lack of participation in all these events organised by the Congress, it seems there is only ‘aakrosh’ (anger) and no ‘jan’ (people).
Again, the kind of speeches that have been made in this rally have all concentrated on only one individual, Narendra Modi. This underlines two important things. One, the 2019 elections is going to be Modi versus nobody. By organising such events the Congress is admitting to the fact that no one can counter the present Prime Minister of India.
Second, this was an opportunity for the Congress to project an alternative political agenda. They should have come out and stated in plain terms what their future plan for India is, in case they are elected.
The Congress has lost on both counts.
If the Congress’s claim that there is a section of people disenchanted with the BJP or the Narendra Modi government is true, then why weren’t these people at the rally?
The biggest question that everyone is asking today is – if not this government, then who else? The Congress hasn’t been able to materialise as an alternative to the BJP. They have barely won any elections since 2014. It neither has an alternative agenda, nor an effective political strategy to counter the BJP’s growth.
If this event was meant to be a curtain raiser as far 2019 is concerned, then the very first step has failed. It has ended in a complete washout.
Through the Jan Aakrosh rally the Congress is trying to reassure people that we will be there for them
President, Mumbai Congress
There is no doubt about one thing, that people at large are angry with this government. Whether it is the traders, the farmers, the unemployed youth, the middle classes or the lower classes, they are all unhappy. Caste and community wise, Dalits and tribals are immensely disappointed. They feel cheated since there are no programmes for them. The minorities feel threatened as they are not being given their due.
This government has failed to take care of the Indian community. Our rally just provided people with a platform to express their anger against the government. The Congress is trying to reassure the people that we will be there for them. We wanted to let them know that there is an alternative that people can choose in the next elections.
We realise that we will have to reach out to people all over the country. They need to know that we will address their grievances. Rahul Gandhi is trying to do exactly that.
The alternative we aim to provide is a space where constitutional institutions, like the judiciary, are not strangulated. We want to revive a sense of safety for the minority communities. We want to reach out to women who are feeling incredibly disturbed in today’s times, especially considering the fact that those in power are supporting perpetrators of violence against them.
There were high expectations from the Modi government, but now people are disappointed. They hoped Modi would prove to be a good alternative, but they have realised his promises are hollow. The country knows that all that the BJP has done is lip service to the issues they promised they would address.
That is why the rally received a good response. We know that people’s anger against this government will lead us to victory in all future ventures.
Rahul Gandhi will need to offer people more than a mere promise of change
The best takeaway from Rahul Gandhi’s Jan Aakrosh rally is that it shows the Congress’ seriousness about coming back to power. In today’s polarised political atmosphere, it is difficult to get an objective assessment of an event like this. Not surprisingly, therefore, there are claims and counter-claims of the actual turnout at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi Sunday. But it can be said, to Rahul Gandhi’s credit, even as a back-handed compliment, that a similar impassioned speech by him a few months ago would have been the subject of much derision.
That people have not entirely scoffed at his confidence about “winning every election in 2018 and forming the government at the Centre in 2019” shows something has definitely shifted.
Rahul may well be right in saying that he senses “anger” among people wherever he goes. He said that the question “are you happy?” is unfailingly answered in the negative. But, that can be the classic market researcher’s fallacy to assume that respondents always think in binaries and her dissatisfaction with the current product means she is willing to switch back to the earlier one.
It would be simplistic to infer the consumer will not like to try something new or, indeed, not give the previous product one more try if given a strong “reason to believe”.
Thus, it may be a good strategy on paper to focus on latent public “aakrosh” as a rallying point for change. But Rahul Gandhi will have to offer people more than a mere promise of “change”. By criticising the Modi government on its failures and alleged corruption, he is asking people to vote the BJP out for exactly the same reasons they ousted the UPA.
Modi was successful in channelising the atmosphere of gloom and doom to “ab ki baar Modi sarkar”. An electorate once beaten will not vote on faith alone “baar-baar”.
Rahul Gandhi’s rally was an attempt to portray the Congress as a better organisation to run the country
Former National Fellow Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi and former Rector (Pro-Vice Chancellor), Jawaharlal Nehru University
The shadow of the Karnataka election looms over Rahul Gandhi’s rally. But considering it was held in Delhi, the mandate seems to be much larger than just Karnataka. Gandhi forcefully argued that the people of the country were now behind the Congress, which, he said, was set to win every state election coming up – MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh — and, most importantly, the 2019 national election. The theme was political change.
The rally highlighted the shortcomings of the Modi government as the Congress perceives them. Rahul Gandhi mentioned corruption, farmers’ issues, demonetisation, GST, the Supreme Court collegium and appointments, and so on. ‘Jan aakrosh’ means ‘people’s anger’, so I guess the attempt is to apprise people of NDA’s failure; if not to make them angry, at least to inform them about the number of counts where the Modi government has failed.
The essential part is that he highlighted the unfulfilled promises of the Modi government. Corruption still continues, employment opportunities haven’t been created, foreign policy towards China has not improved, and the economy hasn’t improved. People are today searching for the truth.
The rally did sound the bugle for the 2019 elections. However, it did not provide an alternative ideology or agenda on the part of the Congress.
It was a well-attended rally, but most of the people were party leaders, workers and representatives. It was as much an address to Rahul’s own party, as it was to the people of India. He also reached out to senior leaders within his party in a bid to unite it. It was a message that they need to go the extra mile and work hard for the victory that Rahul Gandhi has openly declared.
We will need to wait and see whether this will actually translate into votes for the Congress.
The ‘Jan Aakrosh’ rally will certainly help the Congress project itself as a serious contender for 2019 polls
Independent political researcher, Delhi
The Jan Aakrosh Rally organised by the Congress party was designed to serve the following three functions:
First, there was a real need to articulate people’s frustration owing to various misadventures of the BJP government. Demonetisation and the GST have had an adverse impact on the informal economy. Coupled with this, there has been the failure of the government to generate a substantial number of jobs. One indication of the nervousness of the government has been its decision not to publish any data on unemployment till 2019, which is after the general elections. The promise of ‘achhe din’ running hollow, the government seeks to deflect attention from real issues to emotive identity-based issues. As a sound political strategy, the Jan Aakrosh rally tried to re-focus people’s attention on real issues of the economy.
Second, through this rally, the Congress positioned itself as the fulcrum of the opposition. The Congress seems to be banking on the widely perceived feeling that the BJP’s electoral fortunes will decline in 2019 elections. Since the Left is in terminal decline and other parties are hemmed in by their regional ambitions, the rally, by default, projected the Congress party as the principal national opposition party.
Third, the rally must also be seen as an attempt to energise the Congress’s own cadres ahead of 2019 elections. It is partly true that the Congress pales in comparison to the BJP’s electoral machine. The Jan Aakrosh rally will certainly help the party project itself as a serious political contender to the BJP by organising its cadres much ahead of elections. One hopes that the party will be able to maintain the momentum generated by this rally and not allow it to become another example of hollow sloganeering.
Through ‘Jan Aakrosh’, the Congress is trying to get a theme around which they can build a campaign
Associate Editor, ThePrint
In the 2014 election, the Congress was completely decimated by the Modi wave with its winning tally hitting a historic low. Unfortunately for the party, the slide down didn’t stop at 2014. It lost power in many states barring Puducherry and Punjab. Out of the18 states that went to poll after 2014, BJP managed to win 11 on its own and in five states, they are alliance partners in the ruling government. The Congress is in power only in Punjab, Karnataka, Puducherry and Mizoram.
Two things that always troubled the Congress in the post-2014 scenario was uniting its party leaders for a fight against the BJP and creating a popular theme around which their campaign would focus on. During the Gujarat elections, the party overcame the first barrier and the leaders presented a united fight against the BJP. Though it couldn’t translate into a victory their performance boosted the confidence of the party leaders enough to make them bury personal rivalries.
Through the Jan Aakrosh rally, the party is trying to cure the second problem of getting a theme around which they can build their campaign. The Modi government has also offered ample ammunition for the Congress to keep attacking them. The fact that Congress president Rahul Gandhi is leading from the front has also encouraged party leaders and workers on social media, TV studios and public meetings.
In 2019, the Congress faces a dual battle. One with the BJP and the other with the regional parties who are trying to win enough seats to push the Congress to support a coalition led by a non-Congress leader. The party knows it well and has launched its 2019 campaign much before the regional parties began negotiations. The success of this would depend on the consistency and continuity with which the government is targeted.
Compiled by Deeksha Bhardwaj, journalist at ThePrint.
Illustration by Siddhant Gupta.
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