All is Fair in War

Modi RahulMasses respect power, ability and endurance. Vision, will and relentless image management is the eternal edge in the bloodless battlefield of politics. There are multiple narratives in the arsenal of every political party and in the great game of Gujarat, the BJP and Congress invoked all of them. A battle royale of netagiri over Vikas, Mandir, Neech and Pakistan consumed the fight for the BJP bastion.

In the shatranj of politics, every move and tactic is fair game. It is never about how you say or do anything in the game for power, it all depends on how much credibility and trust one wields to sway the people. Gujarat is no less than a laboratory national election, and in the image wars for the average voter, the Prime Minister continues to reign supreme.

Rahul Gandhi in DwarkaRahul Gandhi, the new Congress President was not the ‘9 to 5’ and ‘rent-a-cause’ politician we are used to. He led the Congress blitz in the state with multiple rallies and road shows, focusing his attack on GST and demonetisation, and extensive temple hopping under the glare of the hungry media. Narendra Modi as always showcased his boundless energy, his track record as a successful former Chief Minister and Prime Minister all in the Gujarati vernacular. He even introduced the mandir, caste and Pakistan cocktail into the campaign strategy, all from the BJP playbook which has delivered dividends in the past.

The BJP and Congress have clashed in Gujarat with almost equal vigour, but the BJP cadre are fuelled by the numerous victories of the Modi-Shah combine, while the Congress remains a defeated and demoralised unit, with a perpetual credibility crisis. Rahul Gandhi still carries the burden of the corruption crippled UPA II regime, a legacy he refuses to disown or bury. Even after 10 years in politics, he is still seen as a political novice, who has never played a pivotal role in any of the party’s victories. On the national stage, his political image is dominated by gaffes and blunders, with even school children, the future voters, sharing jokes about him on social media. Rahul Gandhi does not champion a vision like Modi did for ‘Aspirational India’ in 2014. His target is limited to Narendra Modi, in an environment where the Prime Minister is at the peak of his political powers.

Modi winThe Congress may have many emotive issues to play to the galleries, but Rahul Gandhi still lacks the power-perception dynamic that can rally his base to the polling booths and pull the undecided voters. As Prime Minister Modi holds the edge, he can and has launched numerous narratives based on pure speculation, moulding and re-moulding the negative miasma that surrounds the Congress. Rahul Gandhi may counter with factual and pointed responses, but he will continue to be seen as the new monarch of an ever shrinking kingdom who fails to learn from the tactical advantage his opponents wield. Only election victories led by the Gandhi scion can elevate his image beyond that as the nation which yearns for a competitive democracy awaits the blueprint of the Congress’ ‘surgical’ introspection. Till then, no standard or controversial narrative can grant Rahul Gandhi any advantage in the political battle.

No war is won by the virtue of one’s birth. Rahul Gandhi must hold on to that eternal lesson if he truly wishes to beat Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s BJP.