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Congress bets on anger against 'dhokha'

By Archis Mohan
March 03, 2019 11:21 IST
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The Congress surveys, at least until now, have indicated the nationalistic fervour over the Pulwama terror attack is more an effort by mainstream media outlets, like news channels and newspapers, to shape a particular narrative, when the people on the ground are still asking basic questions of livelihood, jobs and better price for farm produce.
Archis Mohan reports.

IMAGE: Congress President Rahul Gandhi. Photograph: Kamal Kishore/PTI Photo

Based on its internal survey, The Congress believes there is enough dissatisfaction on the ground against Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi's government to turn the 2019 Lok Sabha election into 543 distinct contests fought on constituency-specific concerns of livelihood, and not, as the Bharatiya Janata Party intends, on a single nationwide plank of nationalism and Modi's leadership.

As it plans to roll out its election campaign in the first half of March, the Congress has asked 1.5 million of its most committed workers across India to coin slogans for the polls in their respective mother tongues.

The Congress connects with its workers through its Shakti app, which currently has 6.2 million workers.

The slogans need to be no more than six to seven words long and give voice to the 'betrayal' people feel at the Modi government 'failing' to keep its promise of delivering 'achche din', or better days.

The effort will complement the inputs the party has received for the election campaign from advertising agencies Leo Burnett, Niksun, Design Boxed, Crayon and FCB-Ulka.

The strategy, led by the Congress's data analytics team, has stemmed from internal surveys that have indicated that while the Modi government focused on cultural nationalism and identity politics, the ground in the last five years has shifted with the people increasingly concerned about livelihood issues.

 

"Dhokha (betrayal) is frequent feedback... not just in rural areas, but in urban and semi-urban areas as well," says the Congress's data analytics chief Praveen Chakravarty.

The party feels the electorate has increasingly become more transactional in the way it views the process of electing or re-electing governments and assessing their performance.

It has surmised that some national issues would indeed influence voter behaviour, but the question people ask more often is "whether they gained or lost" during the tenure of a government.

According to the party's survey in Madhya Pradesh, the Modi government's push for 10 per cent reservation for upper castes failed to enthuse voters as two-thirds of those surveyed among upper caste Hindus continued to point out the losses they have suffered because of the menace of stray cattle.

The surveys have given the Congress the confidence that the BJP's campaign of reaching out to the estimated 220 million beneficiaries of its schemes, like providing cooking gas cylinders and Mudra loans, was set to flop since demonetisation and GST had people losing more than what they gained from sundry government schemes.

The Congress surveys, at least until now, have indicated the nationalistic fervour over the Pulwama terror attack is more an effort by mainstream media outlets, like news channels and newspapers, to shape a particular narrative, when the people on the ground are still asking basic questions of livelihood, jobs and better price for farm produce.

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Archis Mohan
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