Rahul Gandhi’s campaign and Mainstream Media – Review of Today’s Indian Express

A hundred years from now when the history of Indian politics would be written there would be two phases, pre Pulwama attack and post Pulwama attack. We are now living in a different India where a quiet conspiracy is seemingly taking over the media, both print and television. I cannot say the same about social media because at least it doesn’t seem so obvious, but who knows why the ruling party summoned Twitter Facebook.

Take a look at the front page and politics page of today’s Indian Express. Modi’s statement yesterday, made in a private event in his private capacity is today’s headline for them. Yet, Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter response to that statement where he shamed Modi for interfering with the Rafale deal which actually caused the delay found no mention at all.

Rahul’s Twitter response to Modi’s allegations on Rafale

Last evening, Rahul had also made another tweet, on the reports of India’s GDP growth having hit a five quarter low. This too didn’t find any mention, both the news and Rahul’s tweet were missing.

Comparing with other newspapers, how they are reporting the events, I found out that while Times Of India didn’t make Modi’s comment as headline, and mentioned it in the Nation page, they too didn’t report Rahul’s response. The Hindi paper Amar Ujala too didn’t carry Modi’s comment on the front page. Why for Indian Express was this such an important news is not understandable. It is the same story on television. I flipped channel after channel this weekend but found that none of them are speaking about what Congress is doing. On a normal day, in normal time of the year, the TV media would flash:

#Breaking we are getting reports, Rahul Gandhi has just tweeted, Ok, we are going straight to our correspondent on Mr Gandhi’s comment.

But today, his strongest counter in the most harsh words did not even find mention in either newspapers or TV.

What is media upto?

Increasingly this pattern is being observed since Pulwama attack that the media is either blacking out Rahul Gandhi’s campaign, events and speeches or reporting them in unflattering manner. There is politics in even the photograph that accompanies the news report. This cannot be natural or coincidental. This is part of the same script. “Which script” you would ask but I cannot tell you. Don’t ask don’t tell which script or which conspiracy. Suffice it to say that media’s responsibility is to report both sides of an issue. If an allegation is made by one party against another, the counter from the concerned party should also be reported. Otherwise, it would seem, that nobody from the other party countered the allegations. And that precisely is what BJP seems to be upto and media seems to be hands in gloves with them. After having failed in all fields from jobs to economy to Kashmir policy, BJP’s single point agenda now is to bring back the TINA – There is No Alternative – factor. By blacking out Rahul Gandhi’s campaign, they are hoping people would simply think Rahul has given up the fight.

In a democracy, election campaign is not just a political party’s prerogative but also the right of the citizens. Citizens have a right to hear both sides and make an informed choice on the day of the election. So if media is in collusion with the ruling party in silencing the opposition, there is nothing more shameful than that.

At the same time Rahul Gandhi is also keeping a very low key and not really playing on the front foot as he claimed. Just days before the Pulwama attack he roared like a tiger at the national convention of AICC minority department and called Modi a coward. “The moment you put your foot down and look him in the eyes and say, I won’t back down, Modi will turn around and run away,” said Rahul. Within minutes #DarpokModi started trending on Twitter as has been the social media strategy of Indian National Congress over the last two years.

Rahul Gandhi’s speech at the National Convention of Minority Department

But such is not the case post Pulwama attack

Indian political scene has changed in these fifteen days. Twitter trends are now mostly being occupied by pro-BJP trends obviously run by BJP social media team. Number of Likes and Retweets on Rahul Gandhi’s tweets also went down which sent some of the followers in panic. Rahul’s highest point on Twitter was when he tweeted that all 3 states have waived off farmer’s loans, as the tweet reached over 80k Likes. Post Pulwama his average Likes have been 15-20k Likes. As INC workers started pushing each other to do more Likes and RT’s his next tweet broke his previous high reaching over 130k Likes. It was just a 5 word tweet saluting IAF Pilots.

This proved two things

  1. His followers and popularity is organic not driven by bots or WA campaign
  2. When the leader inspires, the followers responds.

As a keen observer of Rahul Gandhi’s political journey for the last eight to night years, I am worried that until he makes an aggressive come back at the earliest, Congress campaign may die an early death. It maybe sad that the party needs him and him alone to lead, and rest of INC leadership don’t cut an ice, but if that’s how it is. I can imagine that man must be tired but this is not the time to rest.

Perhaps it is the lull before the storm.

1 Comment

  1. Interesting analysis, Sanjukta. There certainly seems to be a bit quiet on the Congress’s side. At least a couple of people I know have asked me the same question that Rahul Gandhi is not being seen anywhere. If I was not on twitter, I can safely say that I wouldn’t know what he is up to. There definitely needs to be a change in strategy.

    Like

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