With the elevation of Rahul Gandhi as the vice president of the Indian National Congress, the campaign for the 2014 general elections has begun. The next 12 months will see the whole gamut of political marketing come alive as the electorate will be primed to make a choice for the next five years.
But the 2014 elections will be different from the last one as this time the Congress will fight under a new declared prime ministerial candidate. And in case the BJP also decides to pitch Narendra Modi as its candidate (taking the recent opinion polls and the Gujarat elections as indicators), then it will be the case of both the key political parties seeking mandate under declared PM candidates.
Now, the casting of the vote isn’t too different from the choice behaviour that comes into play while choosing between various brands. We choose one over another for a combination of rational/ functional/ emotional decisions. The political parties are brands that pitch their ‘propositions’ to the voters and they make their choices. Hence the ‘Congress brand of politics’ et al. In a presidential system it is ‘people brands’ instead of parties, so it is brand Obama or brand Clinton in the US.
In that context, the 2014 elections could end up becoming a choice between Brand Rahul against Brand Modi as against simply being Congress vs BJP.
Taking the Congress first, the electorate therefore would need to be convinced in 12 months to make a choice in favour of Brand Rahul if the Congress has to come back to power.
How does it stack up for Brand Rahul right now? Just like a brand, what values does he/ can he represent that will work in his favour? What’s the promise/ proposition that he holds/ can hold for the different segments of electorate to become the preferred choice?
The first thing is: What are the values that Gandhi can ‘naturally’ represent? The core values of youth and dynamism are a given because of his age. But what the brand stands for beyond these is what is not crystal clear right now. That’s what will be critical in the next 12 months.
Let’s look at what are the values he can ‘possibly’ represent. His reluctance towards joining the UPA government could become his biggest advantage as he can be the symbol of ‘change’ or ‘a new way’ in spite of being a part of the ruling party