What’s that one thing that substantially connects a political party to its supporters? Or, the one thing that reverberates your agenda and takes it out in the open, for others to acknowledge?
It is the narrative, which is often touted as a powerful predictor of success in politics.
In India’s current political scenario, the way you fashion the narrative is as important as finding a good one. And almost every other party recognises this fact, at present.
The BJP offers ‘Hindutva’ and ‘new India’.
Even Arvind Kejriwal is well aware of the importance of a narrative. He formed Aam Aadmi Party with the narrative to offer ‘clean governance’ to the Delhi public. Based on this narrative, the party built a strong connect with the public in a really short time.
Irrespective of the fact that the same agenda blew up in the party’s face later, AAP at least had a narrative to be able to make an impact, and it really did. That’s another thing, that even AAP has been sidetracked from its narrative because of Kejriwal’s national ambitions of competing with Modi.
But, unfortunately, Congress is one such political party, which has failed to understand the power of narrative, time and again, and is on a political mission that is leading it up a blind alley.
As bizarre as it may be, it is the truth
Over these years, I have realised that this party doesn’t really lack good leadership, all it lacks is an agenda, a story to sell, a narrative to let the people resonate with. The party should realise it soon that in the absence of a compelling narrative, all that it is left with is the need to win. And, that need alone doesn’t qualify you to win the elections. The passion to bring a change does!
Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
Here are some of my suggestions for the Congress party:
Let others get bogged down with the changes that the BJP has promised to bring.
Let others search through the real developments that Narendra Modi hasn’t really achieved as yet, for the problems of unemployment, sluggish economy, etc. are still there for us to deal with.
Let others get fooled by the master of oratory, and the magician of promises that he is.
But, don’t let your own party’s ambitions wither on the vine, just because someone like Mr. Modi is coming up trumps.
It is important for the Congress party to take a path that deviates from the ordinary. It should stop following Modi’s every move and bash him for all he does. Instead, it needs to venture past the safety of the deadlock.
Ever since Modi has come to lead the nation, Congress’ graph is falling.
Why such a sad situation?
It’s not because most Indians are in love with Modi’s work. It’s because the opposition is simply not offering them a choice with a better narrative than Modi’s. When Congress repetitively rakes BJP over the coals, the public sympathise with the PM even more.
And, on that same note: Modi will be completing three years in office on 26 May, and still there are no signs of anti- incumbency – something which usually shows up its roots when a party completes half of its tenure. While Congress is witnessing a downfall, BJP’s graph continues to see an upward trend.
What could possibly be the reason?
Is it because Narendra Modi is a highly charismatic leader? Or, is it because he tries to work for India’s problems, claiming to curb evils like corruption, terrorism, and ineffective leadership? Or, is it simply because he is a smart politician who knows how to sell what the public wants?
I would say, none of these.
It is chiefly because he has an agenda. A clear agenda to work for the nation’s progress (this is debatable, though) and to make the country fall in line with the RSS’s mission. He has clear thoughts and he daringly works to attain his ambitions. His vote bank is Hindu supporters and he is certainly keeping them happy. He couldn’t care less for the rest, and he doesn’t.
Whether his agenda is good, bad, or ugly, it is not for us to decide. He has an agenda is what matters.
But, the problem lies in the fact that there is no counter narrative.
What is Congress’ story? Which section of the society does the party look towards when it comes to having a vote bank?
Post-independence, Congress stood for inclusive India and its ideology was secularism, which, over the years, took the form of minority appeasement. However, today there is no one with the party.
The 1984 riots took the party out of the good books of the Sikhs. And, in a few years’ time the Dalits went with Mayawati, while the Brahmins drifted towards the BJP. The only minority that the party was left with, were the Muslims, who too, are on no longer siding with the Congress today.
With the mission to please everyone, the party couldn’t please anyone, and it has come to a situation where there are no takers of Congress, because there is no agenda that the party has to give to the public.
After ruling the country for more than five decades, at the moment it looks as though Congress has had its chips, all due to the absence of a clear ideology and the lack of a devoted social base.
Rahul needs to paddle his own canoe, just like his ancestors
It was the post-independence era, when Jawaharlal Nehru directed the Congress party with a vision to end the princely rule that was existent in the country at that time. Indian constitution was formed and all that Congress was focused on was to promote policies that aimed at the development and modernisation of the Indian economy, be it through import substitution industrialisation (ISI) or through advocating a mixed economy.
Nehru’s mission to uplift the poor was strong. The aim was to lead the country past over the struggles of independence and to build a society which is based upon equality and tolerance. The agenda to form an egalitarian society was clear. As a matter of fact, to help the country achieve the much-needed development, Jawaharlal Nehru created premium institutes like the IIT, ISRO, AIIMS and the rest.
The intention was to lay the cornerstones in constructing the industrial, scientific and technological centers of excellence to help the nation progress in the field of education, science, industry and technology.
India’s development further got a boost under Indira Gandhi’s regime. Her focus was to improve international relations and to raise the stature of the country at a global level. She was strong headed and knew that in order to protect India’s interests internationally, she shouldn’t succumb to the pressure of superpowers. And, that she portrayed very clearly with her strong leadership skills. Her astuteness and her agenda to contribute towards global peace was obvious during many testing conditions like the 1971 war and the Pokhran-1 tests.
Her passion to protect the country from unwanted elements was obvious. That’s why, when it came to keeping Punjab safe from the radicals, Indira Gandhi didn’t even hesitate from giving her life. She was well aware that the Sikh community will seek vengeance for attacking their holiest shrine, the Akal Takht and Golden Temple in Amritsar.
Still, she went ahead with the dreadful Indian Army operation, Operation Bluestar. To safeguard the unity of Punjab, and that of the entire nation, she sacrificed her life.
In 1984, when Indira Gandhi’s son Rajiv Gandhi became the nominal head of the Congress and became prime minister after her assassination, the Congress party was in a state of ambiguity. But Rajiv was no paper tiger. Even though he got entangled in several controversies like the Bofors scandal, the Shah Bano case, and the Ayodhya dispute, still he had an agenda to take the country up on the path of progress.
He was the man who gave birth to the IT revolution in India and introduced computers to the country. He was actually the one who imagined an India that is an IT super power, something that Modi has been aiming to achieve at present.
But, this was all decades back. Today, there is hardly anything that the Congress party strongly strives to achieve. After Rajiv Gandhi’s demise, the party lost track and ended up spreading itself too thin that it is headed nowhere today.
Now, it’s Rahul Gandhi’s turn to build his narrative. Time is ticking for both him and the Congress.
New India needs new thinking & new schemes
The Congress party needs to refrain from making poor decisions. It has to understand that today’s India is highly aspirational. You can’t compare this India to the India when Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi were there. At that time, India was still struggling from the aftermaths of the independence. The Congress cannot continue to be in a denial mode- the rude fact for them is that the BJP under the leadership of Modi has captured the aspirational vote.
Today, this India is progressive. The credit to this progress couldn’t be taken away from the Congress party which, in 1991, opened the gates of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation through economic reforms headed by Manmohan Singh and Narasimha Rao and took the Indian economy towards the direction of growth.
At present, the young India wants to be a part of this growth. From taking part in the country’s political scenario, to working hard to bring it amongst the leading nations of the world – the youth is determined to achieve it all.
Congress needs to understand that India is rapid changing and Indians no more are pleased with free things. They aspire to earn them by working for them. This is what Congress has failed to track till now. And, that’s been an advantage for the BJP party which is showing India new dreams.
Indeed, the moves like demonetisation may not have yielded the results that were expected, but Modi has been successful in creating an impression that he is working big to achieve a corruption free India, something that he has endorsed from the very beginning. He has been successful in portraying that he wants to lessen the gap between the rich and the poor.
Even though the demonetisation drive was poorly executed, it did not affect Modi’s fan base, and the UP verdict has proved it. The stunning victory of the BJP in one of India’s most important political battlegrounds, reveals that people have once again reposed their faith in Modi. The absence of a chief ministerial face clearly indicates at the public’s endorsement of the PM’s policies.
Here also Congress went wrong by traducing Modi’s demonisation drive in an outrageous manner. In fact, both Akhilesh Yadav and Nitish Kumar were sensible enough to not oppose the demonisation drive.
There is no denying that opposition needs to compete with the ruling party for a healthy democratic society, but then Congress has to learn how to read the pulse of the public. It needs to understand that calumniating the BJP on its any and every move, isn’t going to bring their lost glory back, rather Congress should focus on building its own narrative.
From cow vigilantism, to beef ban, alcohol ban, the country is undergoing ‘ban mania’ today, due to the radical Hindu vigilantes. There are various issues which the Congress party can address to stop Modi, but the problem is that it isn’t finding the right issues to hold on to, and by wrongly abusing Modi on matters that have public support, the Congress party has fouled its own nest, over and over again.
It’s like the BJP lays traps and the Congress party falls into them.
Why this sort of thoughtlessness?
Congress is a 131 years old party which emerged out of the freedom movement. However, today, as we see it, the party is struggling hard to survive, all due to its loose ended ideology. It needs to stop diverting from its goals. It’s time to recognize that the core of modern politics lies in an all-powerful narrative.
India is rapidly changing. So does Congress has to evolve itself and adapt to this emerging India where every Indian has aspirations.
Rahul Gandhi needs to work in building such a narrative – a narrative that can help in changing the Congress party’s image of a corrupt, ruined party; a narrative that can help the party to resonate with the masses.
The point is: There are many Indians who are exasperated as they seek an alternative to the extremist BJP. Rahul Gandhi should learn from the Congress party’s past and bring it to the front. He should work on building a narrative that revolves around the public’s aspirations to make India progressive, while contributing towards safeguarding oneness. After all this is a party that kept the country united! This is a party governed by a family that never was reluctant to give its life to preserve the nation’s unity.
Thus, my only advice to the Congress party would be – “Don’t skip the narrative. Instead, make one!”
So that, when the nation starts searching for the right option that gives freedom from the right-wing radicals, Congress should be ready with that option. The time is running out for the India’s grand old party.
(Views expressed here are the author’s own. Janta Ka Reporter doesn’t necessarily subscribe to them)