Rahul Gandhi blitz: 9 steps to political redemption

Written by Express news service | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 11 2014, 22:52pm hrs
Rahul GandhiRahul Gandhi seems to have suddenly shifted gears. Reuters
In the last stretch before the elections, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi seems to have suddenly shifted gears. There is an effort to communicate, be more visible, and an energetic ad blitz centred around just Rahul no Sonia Gandhi, no Priyanka Gandhi and no Manmohan Singh.

Consider some of his recent actions:

* He used the AICC stage to exhort the prime minister to increase the cap for subsidised gas cylinders to 12, hoping to reach out to this broad consumer base.

* He showed solidarity with students from the Northeast, and asked Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde to set up a time-bound committee to look into their concerns. He sent AICC secretary K Jayakumar to Arunachal Pradesh to represent the party at the funeral of the student killed, a way to show he can deliver results more effectively than the AAP.

* He met civil service aspirants agitating against some of the changes in the examination pattern. Those close to him say the demands on age relaxation and additional attempts have a resonance among the youth, a group seen as supportive of the AAP.

* Rahul Gandhi has been trying to claim the anti-corruption platform with a Lokpal-plus package. Hence the push to get six pending anti-corruption laws passed.

* He has voiced his support to the LGBT community after the Supreme Court reversed a high court order decriminalising gay sex.

Coupled with these is an aggressive pan-India media strategy:

* Rahul Gandhi will meet media leaders in each state and give interviews to leading vernacular newspapers and news channels; there will also be more informal interactive sessions with Congress correspondents and senior editors.

* A dedicated wing within his office to address media queries; professionals hired to deal with media queries.

* Live telecast of his speeches on the revamped Congress website through web-based INC TV. The footage will be put up on multiple social media platforms.

* Back to his jeans and kurta for an image makeover to connect with the young.

Rahul Gandhis critics within the party say his attempt at repackaging himself has come too late in the day. We cannot underestimate the wisdom of the people. All these have come close to the elections. Unlike in the BJP, there was no confusion over the leadership in the Congress. It was clear who the number two after Sonia Gandhi is. So, he should have become more active when the going had started getting tough for the government and the Congress, a senior leader said.

In fact, the selection of the ad agency itself overshot the deadline. The cause cited is the complexities in the Congress. It is not a simple system as one would imagine from outside. There are many complexities at play. He did his best to create an image. But he could not have gone against the prime minister or the government openly as the Congress president did not want him to undermine the PM, one of his associates said.