Transformed Rahul behind Congress show in LS polls

When Rahul lost Amethi, the party bastion, in 2019 to BJP’s Smriti Irani, the dent was felt more on the senior leader’s political aspirations than the party’s…reports Asian Lite News

In mid-January, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi began his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra from violence-hit Manipur and visited Nagaland during the course of the yatra. A little over four months later, of the 99 seats that the Congress won across the country, almost doubling its 2019 tally of 52, the party was victorious on both the seats in Manipur. The Congress also won the lone Lok Sabha seat in Nagaland, which the party had last won a quarter century ago.

Rahul’s associates say over the past couple of years, they have seen their leader transform into someone taking strident positions. They particularly mention Rahul alleging during the campaign for the just-concluded Lok Sabha election that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) “intends” to amend the Constitution.

A copy of the Constitution found its place in most rallies of Rahul, which struck a chord with the Scheduled Castes in the Hindi heartland. This was evident from the fact that the Congress won more and the BJP fewer SC reserved seats than the two parties did five years ago. “Constitution was definitely an issue among the youth. Besides, it helped garner some global attention,” says political advisor and communication expert Dilip Cherian.

But the public also saw another facet of the Congress leader’s personality. “I’ll have to get married now,” said Rahul, sitting with a bunch of women and sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, after addressing a rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Rae Bareli in May. A few days later, in Deoria, he poured a bottle of water on himself after claiming, “Garmi bahut hai”. Such has been the campaign of Rahul – casual, spunky and, as results suggest, impactful.

When Rahul lost Amethi, the party bastion, in 2019 to BJP’s Smriti Irani, the dent was felt more on the senior leader’s political aspirations than the party’s. Leaderships changed, turncoats emerged, and the grand old party’s fight for survival intensified. Cut to the result of 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Rahul contested from two seats (Rae Bareli and Wayanad) and won both with a margin of over 300,000 votes.

“Despite facing criticism and caricatures like “pappu,” Gandhi has revamped his brand persona through resilience and a commitment to substantial ideologies,” notes Shagun Gupta, a New Delhi-based brand strategist.

Rahul hit the roads with Bharat Jodo Yatra in September 2022. He travelled on foot from Southern India’s Kanyakumari to North India’s Jammu in Kashmir, covering over 4,000 kilometres in 150 days. “The entire social media team was revamped before the Bharat Jodo Yatra,” says Vaibhav Walia, communications secretary, Indian National Congress. Walia adds that the entire focus was to bring some youthfulness. His associates argue that the two yatras helped galvanise the party workers, rejuvenated the Congress machinery and won it more seats.

The Congress, for example, apart from Nagaland and Manipur, also increased its tally in Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan. In Jharkhand, the party won two seats against one in 2019. In Bihar, its tally increased to three from one. Its significant successes came in Uttar Pradesh, where it won six seats, including reclaiming Amethi, and increased its vote share to over 10 per cent.

In Haryana, which is scheduled for Assembly polls later this year, the party won half of the 10 seats and increased its vote share. In Rajasthan, the grand old party learnt its lessons from the Assembly polls in December and accommodated allies. The party won 8 of the 25 seats, and its allies won three — its best performance in the state since 2009. The Congress also won a seat in Gujarat, its first since 2009.

Its biggest success came in Maharashtra, which is also slated for Assembly polls. The Congress won 13 seats, the most by any party, with its allies winning another 17, outperforming the rival BJP-led Mahayuti alliance. The Nyay Yatra, after traversing the northeast, the Hindi heartland and Gujarat, had concluded in Maharashtra. The two yatras increased Rahul’s interface with a cross-section of people. “The leader started uploading interactive videos apart from usual ones, especially during the last two phases of election. It established a connection,” says Niranjan.

“We first met him in 2022, during his yatra. He heard the concerns of gig workers and has been working for their cause,” says Shaik Salauddin, founder and president of Gig and Platform Workers Union, adding that the leader has been very approachable since then. The Telangana government, run by the Congress, has proposed a bill for the welfare of gig workers.

“Before the yatras, Rahul’s social media presence was unmemorable,” says Tamil Nadu-based political analyst Niranjan R. For the leader’s recent videos — meeting murdered Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala’s parents, taking a metro ride in Delhi, a bus ride in Telangana, getting a haircut from a barber in Rae Bareli, and taking a tempo ride with army aspirants — the viewership ranges between 225K and 5.2 million. The growth of digital media has pushed the meme-led politics, of which Rahul has been a victim. “Congress has lately cracked the troll mathematics. The positive comments during the Yatras were mostly user generated and such content has better algorithms,” says Cherian.

ALSO READ-SP-Congress alter UP’s political dynamics

[soliloquy id="31272"]
[soliloquy id="31269"]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *