Edit/Op-Ed

Time to Redesign Rahul Gandhi Branding

Rahul Gandhi with Priyanka Gandhi

Himanshu Shekhar for BeyondHeadlines

A couple of days ago, while campaigning in Uttar Pradesh to garner support of voters, Rahul Gandhi, Congress General Secretary, got angry and tore of a peace of paper claiming that the Samajwadi Party poll promises are destined to be broken. He tried to give a message that the peace of paper was a part of SP manifesto. But some stupendous photo journalist exposed the Congress scion by revealing clearly that the peace of paper was not a part of SP manifesto but it was the list of Congress leaders, who were present on the stage of that particular election rally. The incident reflects that in the name of infusing new blood to Indian politics, Rahul Gandhi has learnt all political tantrums and gimmicks to earn electoral gains. And, here is the beginning of tough task for the brand managers of Rahul Gandhi.

 

However, most of the Congress leaders love to term Rahul Gandhi as the future of nation. On the other hand opposition parties call him the face of dynastic politics. A section of media seems to be crazy in covering him and his activities. However, political thinkers as well as his political opponents are not ready to give him much importance because they are of the view that Rahul magic cannot translate into votes. On contrary, wherever Rahul goes, he receives overwhelming response in the form of huge gathering of masses. Some of young Congress leaders are projecting him as youth icon. It is believed that one day he is going to lead the union government as the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy.

Is he really ready to play a long inning? Let me put it in a different way. Are Indian voters really ready to bet on him? It’s not easy to find a direct answer of these questions. Before reaching to any conclusion, it’s fair to analyse some very important issues closely related to the Rahul Gandhi phenomenon. He and his mentors are trying to project him as a well wisher of the common man. That’s why; he seems to be quite quick in reaching to those places where an issue of mass interest appears to be ready to take-off. Niyamgiri, Bhatta-Parsaul and Azamgarh are few examples from long lasting list.

Rahul is strongly pitching his words against the current Land Acquisition Act and training his gun against Mayawati led BSP government of Uttar Pradesh on the issue of acquisition for Yamuna Expressway project. When Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi reached Bhatta-Parsaul to raise voice against the acquisition and police atrocities, he was arrested by Mayawati government and later released on personal bond. After a gap of almost two months, he started his Kisan Sandesh Yatra from Bhatta-Parsaul. The four day long yatra ended in Mathura and on very next day the oldest party of the country organized a Kisan Mahapanchayat in Aligarh. The panchayat turned political rally was addressed by different leaders of the Congress and Rahul was the star speaker of the day.

He was targeting Mayawati government by striking on land acquisition. “The same laws are being used in Haryana and farmers do not have a problem because the government talks to them and provides them with fair compensation. In Uttar Pradesh, the farmer is not even informed about the land acquisition and they come to know about it only when the builder comes into the area,” Rahul said.

Talking about the incidents at Tappal and Bhatta he said, “I went to both the places and saw things with my own eyes. The sad part is that farmers did nothing wrong. The farmers of Uttar Pradesh were only demanding their rights. They were telling the government that if you want our land, you have to give us the right price for this and policemen opened fire and killed them. I have not met a farmer or a labourer till date who stands against development. It would benefit the country and it would benefit all of us. But if you take our land, you have to give us the right price.” Stating that Congress was not against the roads or development but the question was a larger one, “Land is being taken from the poor farmers for the construction of colonies, golf course and racing tracks. The farmer is saying that when a rich person sells his land in Lucknow and Delhi, he gets the market price while the poor farmer is brushed aside and is fired upon and the government does not even talk to them,” he added.

It’s worth mentioning that UP is Rahul Gandhi’s political karmabhoomi. It is believed that he is working on Mission-2012 to bring back Congress in power. He and his associates are aware of the fact that without winning Lucknow, it’s quite difficult for Congress to rule Delhi on its own. The agitation and the intent that Rahul has shown in western UP and particularly in Yamuna Expressway project affected area is bound to act as a huge boost to the morale of the grand old party in a state where it is desperately looking for a magical formula.

Perhaps, Rahul and his party are encouraged by the support they are getting in the western region of Uttar Pradesh. That’s why Rahul is expanding his base and now started trying to make base in eastern part of the state. In first half of July, he was walking in western UP. On the other hand, in second half of July, he was running his show in eastern part of UP. He went to Azamgarh and assured the weaver community that the delivery mechanism in the Rs 3,000 crore package for weavers would be designed by the weavers themselves to ensure that they get maximum benefit from the package.

He invited a delegation of weavers to come to Delhi and help draft the new Bunkar Package which would open up new opportunities for them. A press release from Rahul’s office quoted him saying, “The weavers had every right to decide the details of the policies that were being framed to help them. I invite you to come to Delhi. I will arrange meetings with the concerned officials so that you can go and explain your problems to the officials who are drafting this policy. I think you are in the best position to tell them what would work on ground and make the policy most effective.”

How Rahul is going to keep his promises is a million dollar question. In Indian politics, promises are not new for voters. A common man has witnessed the truth of these promises. But, Rahul is talking about new experiments in politics and encouraging youths to join politics. If he is really thinking to make some positive changes then he has to fulfill his promises. This act will change the common perception about political promises and will pay dividend to Congress in terms of electoral gain.

Rahul seems to be smart enough by forging an alliance with Ajeet Singh’s Rastriya Lok Dal. In western part of the state, Ajeet Singh has a mass support. A number of political analysts are of the view that the new arrangement with Ajeet Singh is going to pay dividend to Congress and it will reflect in seat tally. Congress awarded Mr. Singh by his inclusion in Union Cabinet as Civil Aviation Minister.

Rahul also visited Bundelkhand to revive the prospects of his party in the state. This area is neglected by the political parties of the state and Congress can make an electoral mark in the region. However, BJP is trying hard to make major dent in Congress prospects, especially in Bundelkhand region by fielding fire brand leader Uma Bharti from Charkhari and projecting her as one of the candidate for state top job.

People are annoyed with the price rise and Congress led UPA’s inability to curb it. It’s going to damage the prospects of Congress up to a certain extent. Irrespective of cast and community, everyone is facing the heat of price rise. A common man is also fed up with corruption. By the passing of each day, fresh news about scams is pouring in public domain. All these scams are product of Congress led government. People are not ready to forget Suresh Kalmadi, A. Raja, Murli Deora and even Manmohan Singh for being silent spectator and allowing his ministers for looting public exchequer. Price rise and corruption are major issue and it’s interesting to see how Rahul is going to tackle the question related to these issues.

When Congress led UPA came back to power in 2009 each and every leader of the party started claiming that this is Rahul Gandhi factor which made a difference but it’s not true verbatim. Congress did well in North India and in UP Congress gain was unexpected. Congress was saying that it was Rahul who decided to go solo in UP and Bihar, but this is totally wrong. In fact, Congress was trying its level best to be with its allies in these states but it was newly emerged fourth front who forced congress to go solo in these states. In UP Congress did well but we all know what happened in Bihar.

In Bihar, the Congress party managed to win only two seats. In last general election they were at three. This time only one sitting MP of Congress Meera Kumar managed to win from Sasaram of Bihar. Same thing happened in Jharkhand. Congress was forced to go solo by RJD and LJP. In Jharkhand Congress won only one seat. Where was Rahul effect in these states? In Bihar assembly elections of 2010, Rahul campaigned vigorously but his party came a cropper with a humiliating tally of just four seats.

However, UP might be a great launching pad for Rahul. But, on the other hand, if Mayawati survives then the magic of Rahul will be exposed. That situation will be unaffordable for Rahul as well as his party. He is the trump card of Congress and his exposure might be a beginning to end dynastic politics in India.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect BH’s editorial policy.

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