The Telegraph
Saturday , February 1 , 2014
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Cong campaign focus on Modi

New Delhi, Jan. 31: Tore nahin, jore (doesn’t divide, unites).

This is the Congress’s latest slogan in ads to project Rahul Gandhi as a liberal leader against Narendra Modi whose persona has been targeted in every single slogan, though without a direct reference.

The stress on the BJP mascot appears to have displaced the Congress’s earlier pet theme of aam aadmi.

The Congress has been portraying Modi as a divisive force. The new slogans for the Lok Sabha elections reflect the sentiment, juxtaposing contrasting ideas to analyse the political models Rahul and Modi represent.

The main ad running on TV channels says: “Kattar soch nahin, yuva josh (no bigot-like thinking, youths’ zeal).” Upcoming ads persist with the theme. One slogan says: “Jhute vaade nahin, pakke iraade (no false promises, firm will). Yet another declares: “Rajniti nahin, kaajniti (no politics, work principles).”

The common thread is comparison of Rahul’s and Modi’s personas. The Congress has accused Modi of speaking untruths and making false promises, so the jhute vaade nahi slogan.

Earlier, the Congress had dubbed Modi a feku — a person who brags and makes false claims — as an answer to BJP supporters’ description of Rahul as “Pappu”, a proper name used in a derogatory sense to suggest a person is dumb.

Rahul has been accused by some of his rivals as being immature and lacking political acumen, while Modi is painted by his admirers as a political wizard.

The latest rajniti nahin, kaajniti (no politics) slogan aims to close such a gap in the perception battle by putting work above politicking.

The first in the Congress’s latest series, Main Nahi Hum (not me but us), was a critique of Modi’s alleged self-centred approach. The new campaign marks the first time the Congress is seeking to project its leader as an anti-thesis to the main rival. The strategy represents a shift from a few months ago when the Congress had avoided a personality clash between Rahul and Modi. The new tack is based on the premise that the Gandhi scion is better than the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.

Such comparative analysis was rarely done earlier, not when Sonia Gandhi had challenged Atal Bihari Vajpayee, when Manmohan Singh had defied L.K. Advani’s “weak PM” taunts to return to power in 2009 or during the Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi years.

As if the slogans themselves don’t decode the message, each comes along with a detailed explanation to unravel the Modi fixation.

One says: “Nobody has a magic wand” and “serving and empowering every single soul with decisive action, not divisive promises”.

Another says: “The growth that one man can attempt is nothing compared to what a concerted team effort can achieve.” This is seen an allusion to Modi’s alleged autocratic ways. Yet another says: “The people of our country need a party to make change happen in Parliament, not a figurehead making promises.”

During the 2004 poll campaign, Sonia Gandhi had flagged communalism as the biggest threat and the Congress played on the aam aadmi theme to criticise the Vajpayee government’s economic policies. The party had asked: Aam aadmi ko kya mila? (what did the common man get?).

At present, the UPA government is running parallel campaigns to showcase welfare plans such as Bharat Nirman. But the Congress believes it should focus on Modi. This stems from the assessment that such a strategy is the best bet, both to make Rahul’s leadership as widely acceptable as possible and retain the secular space that still appears bigger than the one carved out by the Hindutva appeal.