In an elaborate outreach programme, BJP ministers, MPs and workers fanned out across the country to highlight the Modi government’s achievements and launch an offensive against the scandals that surfaced when the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government was in power.
But the Congress was equally quick to hit back. The party released a 42-page report card detailing the NDA government’s failures and launched a 12-minute video showing how the ruling alliance had done a U-turn on key policy decisions after coming to power at a specially convened press briefing addressed by senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge. The media event marked the culmination of a week-long country-wide media blitzkrieg launched by the Congress to challenge the government’s claims of achievement and paint Prime Minister Narendra Modi as pro-corporate and anti-farmer.
The Congress campaign titled Pol-Khol was a surprise since innovative communication has not been the party’s strong point. In contrast, the BJP was always ahead in winning the perception battle by grabbing headlines and eyeballs In fact, Congress leaders openly lamented that poor communication was one of the key reasons it lost the last Lok Sabha election.
Getting its act together
After floundering for nearly a year after its shock defeat in the last general election, the grand old party is finally getting its act together. The Congress’s communication department is suddenly transformed not unlike the party’s vice-president Rahul Gandhi who returned from his unexplained sabbatical in a brand new avatar. With Rahul Gandhi setting the “attack Modi” agenda, the party soon followed suit. A re-energised Congress then went about collecting ammunition to hit out at the Modi government.
What followed was a series of hard-hitting statements on how the government had failed on various fronts and the release of the report card titled Ek Saal, Desh Badhaal, which details how the Modi government has allegedly let down the poor farmer with its decision to dilute the Land Acquisition Act, reduced the budgetary allocations for social welfare schemes, ignored its much-touted Make in India programme with the purchase of Rafale fight jets from France and failed to implement its election promise to bring back black money stashed abroad.
While this message was disseminated through the country by Congress spokespersons, the party surprised everybody with the launch of a video, showing clips of the statements made by BJP leaders before the Lok Sabha election and its volte face on coming to power. Out of character with the Congress party’s known ambivalence on media outreach, the video was yet another example of how the party is trying to keep pace with the BJP’s communication strategy.
The video opens with the title song Acche Din Ab Kab Aayenge and then contrasts statements by BJP leaders when they were in opposition with their rhetoric now that they are in government. For instance, there is a clip of Modi’s fiery election speech in which he is attacking the UPA government for not bringing back black money and that his government would act swiftly and ensure that each Indian gets Rs 10 lakhs-Rs 15 lakhs from the proceeds. This is followed by BJP president Amit Shah’s embarrassed statement that this was a mere “election jumla”, not to be taken seriously.
Similarly, Modi’s equally determined rejection of the UPA government’s move to introduce the Goods and Service Tax Bill as Gujarat chief minister is also followed by a somersault as Prime Minister Modi is shown announcing his support for the same bill.
Sushma Swaraj as leader of the opposition is seen rejecting the Indo-Bangla land agreement and Foreign Direct Investment in multi-brand retail. A subsequent clip shows Swaraj telling Parliament how this agreement was in the country’s interest as it would improve ties with neighbouring Bangladesh. As for multi-brand retail, the Modi government has not revoked the UPA government’s decision to cap FDI at 51%.
Then there is Modi lashing out at the UPA government for raising fuel prices and rail fares. But Finance Minister Arun Jaitley can be seen subsequently justifying his government’s decision to increase fares on the grounds that the railways had been allowed to bleed by the previous government and that the BJP could not follow the weak-kneed policies of their predecessor.
The video also shows the U-turns on the BJP’s position on China, Modi’s promise to raise the minimum support price to farmers and the party’s opposition to hiking foreign investment in the insurance sector.