Figure it out: Main and Hum, are they mine or his?

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  • Published 25.01.14

New Delhi, Jan. 24: The Congress’s latest media campaign to project Rahul Gandhi’s leadership owes not a small debt to Narendra Modi.

Not only does it seek to promote the young Gandhi by contrasting him with Modi — it does so by borrowing the Gujarat chief minister’s own words –- if you go by what the BJP is claiming.

Main nahi, hum (We, not I),” says the ad — the first in a series of six — looking to build on the Congress’s portrayal of Modi as a man obsessed with himself.

“Nobody possesses a magic wand that will ensure development,” the ad says. “We all have to join hands to make a great India. Hence the Congress aim is to empower everybody, so that everybody grows.”

At a time Rahul is being weaned from the “trinity” that included Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, such a confrontational line can automatically set him up as a direct rival to Modi while ostensibly avoiding a personality cult.

But the BJP today accused the Congress plagiarising Modi, who had coined the “Main nahi, hum” slogan at an event in Gujarat in 2011.

As images of a banner carrying the phrase and Modi’s photograph surfaced, the Congress contended that nobody can claim “ownership” of ideas or expressions.

“(Someone) using (a set of) words once doesn’t mean (they have) a copyright. ‘Aam aadmi’ was our slogan and now there is a party by that name,” spokesperson Shobha Oza said.

She added: “Just mouthing slogans is not enough. You (have to) see the deeds. Modi only harps on ‘me-me-me’… to the extent that he forgets (even) the BJP. We always believed in inclusive politics and that’s why the slogan ‘We, not I’.”

One Congress leader associated with media planning conceded that the party hadn’t realised that Modi had used the slogan, but added that “slogans stick to parties only if they suit their conduct”.

“Modi has been known neither for collective leadership, nor for inclusive politics. He is the antithesis of the spirit of this slogan,” the leader said.

Rahul had himself used this line of argument during the 2012 Gujarat poll campaign, telling voters: “Your leader only speaks about himself instead of listening to you.”

He had later said at an event in Delhi: “We love this idea that somebody will come on a horse and everything will be fine.”

At the recent All India Congress Committee session, too, Rahul had debunked the “one man solving all problems” theory while stressing the need to empower every individual and institution.

The ad says: “Har haath shakti/ Har haath tarakki (Power and growth in every hand).”

If the new slogan marks a departure from the Congress’s fixation with the “aam aadmi” in recent years, it balances this with the emphasis on empowerment.

In 2004, the Congress had successfully countered the BJP’s “India Shining” campaign by asking “Aam aadmi ko kya mila (what has the common man got)”, but after ten years of rule it has to offer the voters something new.

The focus has therefore shifted to the government’s achievements, and the information and broadcasting ministry is running a parallel campaign on the successes of the Bharat Nirman programme.

The other advertisements in the series are expected to portray Rahul as a leader committed to secularism, social justice and clean government while Modi is painted as a divisive and intolerant man desperate to grab power.