Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Brand Modi vs Brand Rahul- an improbable faceoff 

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By MR Lalu

 Brand Modi Vs Brand Rahul? Political pundits have been proclaiming such a possibility since the launch of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. To them the yatra is all set to bring a fresh challenge to the brand Modi which has been unstoppable since 2014. Their predictions perhaps waved in the direction of Rahul Gandhi amplifying his brand value as a politician as the yatra is bringing more prominent faces joining him in this aspirational exercise expecting the range of political fortunes that the possible Rahul rise would bless them with.  The latest entrant into the bandwagon of leaders is former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdulla. Well before the Kashmir veteran joined the Yatra, Kanimozhi from the DMK and superstar Kamal Haasan walked in tune with Rahul Gandhi’s revival steps. Expressing her interest in joining the yatra, Mehbooba Mufti, another former Chief Minister of   Jammu and Kashmir resonated giving the Congress and its leadership a giggle of relief; which means, the yatra is really emerging as a platform to bring the erstwhile leaders aspiring to rejuvenate their lost political space together. But Akhilesh Yadav’s reluctance to join the yatra is justifiably revealing the memory of a political disaster, the defeat that he had in the company of Rahul Gandhi. And Yogi Adityanath’s consistent victories since then have not only been a lesson but a nightmare he still struggles to shrug off.

Throughout the yatra, narratives are planted with a calculative approach giving an impetus that the Modi regime is all about hatred and communal disharmony and the Yatra’s objective is to fasten the dissected cultural cohesion of the country. And this is what the Congress party planned and this is probably its ultimate political weapon, a strategy that the party thinks would further excavate its half buried political significance. By creating a platform for Rahul Gandhi to emerge above party lines while he holds no responsible position in his party, would help him remain sanctified and invulnerable to all its poll debacles at least until the national elections.  More and more opposition leaders are expected to join the yatra in the coming days along with former civil servants, diplomats, economists and religious leaders. Should the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Prime Minister Modi’s able leadership be unmindful of the yatra and the potential political consolidation that it began to rake up? There would be consistent efforts to drag the disgruntled political opposition of the BJP on one stage before 2024. And BJP, with its electoral shrewdness and accurate political calculations would this time twiddle with the emotions of the electorate. Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s announcement on the timeline for the possible inauguration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya should be seen as an arrow that was shot in advance to garner the majority sentiments.

Addressing a huge gathering in the poll bound Tripura; he practically declared the date of inauguration of the Ram Temple. The temple, according to him, will be inaugurated well before the 2024 national elections. The Ram Mandir issue was a strong plank on which the BJP began to chase its political goodwill. Except for raking the issue for electoral mileage, the BJP’s efforts remained minimal as the matter was shelved by the judiciary for decades. Systematically blaming the Congress for throwing the Ram Mandir dispute in the jurisdiction of the court, Shah was discordantly evocative of the double standard of the Congress. Visibly articulating the issue in a poll bound state, the Home Minister was signalling his party cadre for a proper packaging of the Ram Mandir nationwide for which the foundation was laid by the Prime Minister.  

In its efforts to dehypnotise its cadre through the Yatra, brand Rahul’s enlightened version of appearance resembles the saintly beard of Narendra Modi, which he had grown throughout the enraging pandemic. Does Rahul Gandhi’s new makeover give him an awakened position in the political spectrum in the country? It is too early to make inferences on this but the undercurrent is evidently trenchant and the acceptance in his favour is the result of the disgruntlement among parties that oppose the Modi phenomenon. But what seems to remain an accentuating factor would be Rahul Gandhi’s lack of political maturity. Until he gains an acceptable maturity to deal with the issues that the country would grapple with in 2023, the new coalition-comity of the opposition parties does not have to take him seriously. Gravely unrealistic on the notion of Indianness and his large strain of image makeover with his ignorance and obscurantist approach on the Indian ethnicity, Rahul is yet to depict convincing capabilities and honest approach on understanding India’s spiritual ethos.

Modi has undoubtedly delved deeper into the cultural munificence of the country which is dominantly approved by the spiritual rationality of the Indian landscape. He has been an aggressive campaigner for the spiritual awakening that India was capable of offering to the whole world. Brand Modi’s spiritual statesmanship puts a relatively average and politically unintelligible brand Rahul into an obtrusive and ineffective corner. And the preposterous pretensions of Rahul Gandhi calibrated by his dynastic dynamism are yet to chisel out a convincing image of him. Before the country would decide to logically and ceremoniously embrace a better modified version of brand Rahul, the leader of the oldest political party needs to have his kindergarten lessons learned about India. Moreover, as long as a large number of regional satraps are non-dogmatic about the rise of the Gandhi dynast onto the national stage, the image makeover and the branding of a saviour in the upcoming elections would be a sedative unpracticality.

Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banarjee and K.Chandrashekar Rao are prominent among the regional leaders assumed to be the capable contenders to halt the saffron spectacle. Arvind Kejriwal has sculptured his branding as a pan India persona winning two states with a comfortable margin. Having groomed his party for a national stage with little eminence at present, the IIT alumnus is yet again ready for testing the political fertility of states that would go for elections this year.  In India, politics is not about optimistic, chauvinistic melodrama alone. It is largely about the brand that parties are successful in showcasing. For the BJP, brand Modi’s indefatigable market rating has unequivocally gained an upper hand.  Brand Rahul’s latest clairvoyant makeover needs to grow more convincing and uninterruptedly present in the political conscience of India. His Yatra should not throw him and his party into a self-hypnotic hallucination or a deluding mania that his strides across the country would take him straight away to Lok Kalyan Marg. National elections 2024 is speculated to be a fight against brand Modi but brand Rahul’s emergence as a serious contender is a meagre chance.

(Author is freelance journalist and social worker based in Kerala. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected])

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