New Delhi, Aug. 21: The Congress leadership has realised that the party’s media presence is pathetic despite the planning and efforts it has put in over the past few months, particularly after Rahul Gandhi undertook the task of revamping the organisation.
Although the party has bolstered its social media presence, most senior leaders concede failure in changing the negative perception and have stressed the need to refurbish the “content” as well as the “quality” of spokespersons.
There is also a gnawing worry that traditional media was being ignored in the Internet frenzy.
Sources revealed that a decision to change the list of 36 persons who were allowed to appear in television debates had already been taken. While nearly half of them don’t participate in television discussions, the performance of some regular faces appearing on behalf of the party has been found to be below par. A new list, they said, will be announced soon to accommodate speakers with better understanding and depth.
Some leaders agreed in private that the BJP’s presence on news channels was far more formidable. “If we could churn out this stuff after so much planning, we must be suffering from acute talent crisis,” a Rajya Sabha MP told The Telegraph. “It is definitely getting worse. Our team looks like a pack of jokers against the BJP’s fierce warriors.”
Under Rahul’s leadership, there has been an increase in the level of media activities but the output hasn’t yet seen a marked improvement. The new communications chief, Ajay Maken, restored the daily morning meetings of spokespersons and brought some uniformity and speed in reactions. But the old practice of deploying experienced and informed leaders to explain the party’s points of view, give historical perspectives or background briefings on burning issues has been abandoned.
“On the question of Narendra Modi attacking the Prime Minister on Independence Day, the party got excellent coverage because leaders like Digvijaya Singh, Ambika Soni, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Salman Khurshid and Manish Tewari spoke,” an AICC functionary pointed out. “Had this job been done by our regular spokespersons or those who appear on television every night, we would have definitely failed to send the message across. On issues like poverty figures, economic crisis, Parliament disruptions and Robert Vadra, we performed badly.”
The communications department had organised a two-day workshop for party spokespersons sometime ago and a national workshop on social media is being held tomorrow. Tewari, the information and broadcasting minister, and Shashi Tharoor will address the participants, teaching them how to confront the Modi storm in the cyber world. The head of the party’s social media wing, Deepender Hooda, and representatives from Facebook and Twitter will also tell the party leaders at the workshop how politicians the world over have used this new medium to amazing results.
But there have been dissenting voices, too, pointing out the excessive importance being given to the social media.
A party veteran, who has been in both Houses of Parliament several times, said “less than two per cent of Indians use Twitter and 80 per cent of them won’t care to vote”.