|Singh, (above) Rahul
New Delhi, Jan. 15: Staring at diminished electoral returns in 2014, the UPA is set to unleash a mega propaganda blitz dovetailed into Rahul Gandhi’s promotion to the fore of the Congress campaign.
Beginning tomorrow — the eve of a widely-awaited Congress session — the government will pump in excess of Rs 100 crore into the eight-language multimedia offensive to buttress what could well become the Nehru-Gandhi heir’s debut lead in a national election.
The effort has been designed by the ministry of information and broadcasting in collaboration with Mumbai-based communications firm Percept as a six-week ad barrage that will terminate close to the notification of general elections in early March.
UPA sources told The Telegraph tonight that this “final promotional push” is aimed at “correcting the imbalance between the huge achievements of the UPA over the past 10 years and the erroneous perception that these have been wasted years”.
The UPA appears unworried that the government-funded salvo could lend itself to being slammed by the Opposition as misuse of public money to serve the interests of the Congress, or, more bluntly, Rahul.
“Seven lakh crore rupees have been spent by the government on welfare under the eleventh plan,” a source countered. “This money is only a fraction of it, and besides, it has been lying allocated and unspent. All governments have the right to speak about their achievements.”
Run under the “Bharat Nirman: Reaching People, Changing Lives” banner, a good, and probably key, part of the campaign will showcase what rural and urban India would have been like minus the UPA’s flagship schemes over the past decade.
“Somewhere, the message of what we have achieved has got lost in the political din,” a top official involved with devising the PR capsule said. “Nearly half the service sector achievements and a third of what has been done on infrastructure since Independence has been accomplished during the past 10 years, we have very good things to say for ourselves and that is what this campaign will concentrate on.”
Sources said outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been advised to make that claim pointedly during his valedictory media conference earlier this month. But the Prime Minister demurred, probably thinking such a boast impolitic of him to make; that would likely have prompted Opposition jibes at what was achieved under Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, or even Jawaharlal Nehru.
But the ensuing ad campaign, the sources said, would “unabashedly and loudly brag” the record of two successive UPA tenures. “People have got used to what they have got during these years and probably forgotten about it,” a source said. “They need reminding.”
Among the key schemes to be re-plugged by UPA spin doctors will be MGNREGA, Aadhaar, the Right to Education law, the Right to Information law, the Food Security Act and Lokpal with a clutch of half a dozen other transparency measures Rahul has appeared especially keen to put his signature on.
“With these schemes alone, we have reached more than a 100 crore underprivileged Indians,” the official said. “That is not a claim many governments can make, the scale of welfare and transparency measures under this government has been enormous.”
At the political level, UPA sources concede that the ad rollout may be coming a little too late and could fall well short of offsetting the perception-deficit the Manmohan Singh government is labouring under: corruption in high places, inflation and price-rise, policy slowdown, loss of investor confidence, mismanagement of political crises, a disarrayed coalition.
But the campaign is also aimed, in fair measure, at spurring sagged spirits within the Congress ranks itself. “We have to provide reason for our own ranks to feel proud of what has been done and take the message out,” a UPA source admitted. “At the moment, they seem on the defensive, not able to provide enough talking points to counter political adversaries. The fact is, much has been done and needs to be talked out. The Congress itself needs to be educated.”
It is probably pertinent here to mention that the AICC brass have ordered, post-haste, more than 3,000 copies of the pamphlet distributed by the government at the Prime Minister’s media conference on January 3. Titled “Ten Years of Progress and Growth”, the primer outlined key achievements of the Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi tandem that has ruled the country over the last decade.
That it has been ordered by the AICC for dissemination among Congress supporters on January 17 is perhaps itself an indication that the UPA leadership feels the party has not done enough to claim and disseminate the government’s work, something the Prime Minister is believed to have been upset about for a while now.