Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s sometimes humourous, sometimes critical takes on Modi government’s economic policies have won him a lot of fans on social media in the last few months. There was a minor blip recently when a news report suggested that a lot of his followers on Twitter may be automated bots.
As the elections to Gujarat legislative assembly come closer, Rahul Gandhi’s attacks are becoming sharper. Like on Thursday, Rahul said Modi killed the economy by firing “double tap” shots of demonetisation and GST into it. He went on to say that GST is like a “tsunami of tax terrorism.” This came days after the Congress vice-president had dubbed GST as “Gabbar Singh Tax”.
Such comments by Rahul do attract a lot of traction on social media but it is yet to be seen whether they will generate votes for the Congress. The doubt arises as Rahul’s bitter, but witty, takes on Modi’s decisions have not resulted in votes for his party on many occasions earlier. For example, the most important plank for Congress, as well as its ally Samajwadi Party, in Uttar Pradesh elections early this year was Demonetisation. But Rahul’s jibes on the note ban only resulted in more votes for the BJP.
As Rahul eyes a seemingly impossible victory in Gujarat, his jibes on Modi’s policies will be tested again. Can they result in votes also?
In the last Assembly elections in Gujarat, voters had rejected Congress’ claims that the state’s economy was not as shiny as the BJP projected it to be. In 2012, the Congress had gone all out on the issue of inequality, uneven development, malnutrition and water problems. Claiming Narendra Modi had “lost the plot”, Congress hoped this premise would help it make a comeback in the state.
There is an eerie similarity between Congress’ poll strategy of 2012 and what it is doing now. Probably, only the sharpness of its attack on Modi and BJP has grown manifold, apparently due to Rahul’s new-found love with politics.
Out of the 182 members in Gujarat assembly, BJP had won 115 seats, while the Congress failed to dethrone the saffron party and managed to secure only 61 seats. Yet, senior Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram had surprised many with his post-poll comment that BJP may have won but the “real winner” was the Congress.
Congress had managed to marginally make its tally better but even its state chief Arjun Modhwadia and then Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil had to suffer shock defeats.
Attack Modi strategy of Congress has not worked for the party in past. For the upcoming elections, Congress looks like hoping it may work finally this time. But beyond the hubris of Twitter posts and social media popularity, Rahul must not forget the lessons from 2012.