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Rediff.com  » News » Why Congress is now taking the 'battle' out of Delhi

Why Congress is now taking the 'battle' out of Delhi

February 07, 2014 04:30 IST

Rahul Gandhi-led Congress is undoubtedly making all efforts to correct the public perception about the party and the ruling alliance but it is proving to be an uphill task. 

Rediff.com’s Anita Katyal reports from New Delhi

Failing to make a mark in the national press, a beleaguered Congress is now planning to focus its energies on the regional media to highlight its agenda and the United Progressive Alliance government’s achievements in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and his team of strategists, who have been trying hard to win the “perception battle”, have failed in this mission so far as the grand old party continues to be portrayed in a negative light.

There seem to be few takers for the Congress’ declarations about the UPA government’s achievements, which include the Land Acquisition Bill, the Lokpal Bill and a slew of rights-based legislations like the Right to Food and Right to Information.

Since the party’s message is not percolating down, the Congress communications department has, therefore, decided to send its spokespersons to state capitals to brief the regional media in this regard.

Congress sources told rediff.com that the national spokespersons will hold press conferences, interact informally with the local media and also give interviews to the regional newspapers and television channels.

This is not the first time that the Congress has adopted this strategy.

Party strategists had done the same in the 2004 and the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and succeeded. The party is hoping its efforts will yield positive results once again.

“We find that when national spokespersons travel to the states, they are taken far more seriously there while that’s not the case in the national capital,” a Congress leader told rediff.com.

The Congress has set up a communications department in each state capital which is briefed regularly on the party’s position on current issues and is kept abreast about the key topics which need to be highlighted.

Rahul is personally overseeing the work of the communications department since media and publicity is considered to be vital to the party’s poll campaign. He is reportedly in regular touch with communication department head Ajay Maken and AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh who is heading the publicity committee.

On Thursday, Rahul held an hour-long meeting with all party spokespersons who have been picked to represent the Congress on television channels and brief the press.

The party spokespersons were told to be aggressive in putting across their view point and highlighting the UPA government’s achievements. He also counselled them that they should marshal all facts and figures to demolish Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s claims on his development model and how he had transformed Gujarat.

At the same time, Rahul also cautioned against using derogatory remarks about their opponents.

Disapproving of Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s recent jibe at Modi, he maintained, “It is wrong to make personal attacks on the Opposition."

Speaking to media persons on the sidelines of the January 17 meeting of the All-India Congress Committee, Aiyar had said about Modi: "There is no way he can be Prime Minister in the 21st century... but if he wants to come and distribute tea here we can give him a room ."

The BJP had slammed the Congress for poking fun at Modi for his humble origins as a tea seller at train stations and has since made this the centrepiece of its election campaign. Pushed on the defensive, the Congress had subsequently distanced itself from Aiyar’s comments.

Rahul is undoubtedly making all efforts to correct the public perception about the party and the ruling alliance but it is proving to be an uphill task.

The UPA government’s credibility has taken a severe beating because of the series of corruption scams which have surfaced during the past five years, its inability to rein in prices and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s perceived lack of leadership. Nobody is willing to listen to or believe what the Congress has to say about the government’s achievements. 

Realising that it is critical to change this perception, Rahul is gearing up his communication team to take on this challenge and, at the same time, making a personal attempt at an image make-over.

Anita Katyal