All those who complained that Rahul Gandhi spoke too little, must now regret, that he's taken their lament a tad too seriously.
The characteristically twitchy, unobtrusive Rahul has rapidly been seen upping the ante at his rallies, making unconcealed attempts at connecting with the masses through impassioned rhetoric on the UPA's development feats, even going as far as evoking his mother’s illness yesterday, to peddle the food security bill at Gwalior.
Rolling up his sleeves, Gandhi recounted how mummy was in tears that she could not vote in favour of the bill that was so close to her heart, a legislation that would ensure no one goes hungry in this country anymore.
Flanking poverty and welfare along, Gandhi has in fact, made it a habit of speaking in binaries at his campaigns, deriding Modi’s focus on infrastructure and nation building as being extraneous to the needs of a people who go without a square meal.
And even as Modi has been pointed fingers at, for getting his facts wrong sometimes, hyperbole seems to be increasingly becoming Rahul Gandhi’s favorite weapon of choice too. He’s made debatable claims about more people going hungry in Madhya Pradesh, than in Africa and erroneous remarks on which regime built more roads – the UPA or NDA.
With every rally, the same, reluctant ‘I will crush my dreams to fulfill yours’ Rahul, is seen desperately trying to strike an emotional chord with his audience, portraying himself as an idealist, as someone who empathizes with the plight of the poor. What he doesn’t seem to have, along with that idealism are ideas.
And so, in conflict to his ‘I am one among you’ posture, he’s had to increasingly either scrounge on his privileged dynasty for support, making references to his mother and grandmother, or use esoteric metaphors that has the media gasping in bemusement, columnists gleeful about being given ready material to deconstruct, but the masses completely zapped.
His flourish on ‘escape velocity’ may have caused much pandemonium, but it is just the latest in a string of Rahulisms that have befuddled us. Quite in contradiction to his escape velocity argument, he had earlier claimed in a rather Ayn Rand-esque fashion that "Poverty is a State of Mind, if you have confidence, you will overcome it". Addressing a gathering of business tycoons at CII, Rahul’s speech was rich in imagery, but wholly lacking on specifics. China maybe a dragon, but “we are a beehive” Rahul insisted. Industry was not impressed.
Quite converse to Gandhi, Narendra Modi has been increasingly specific, both in his prescriptions for change and with his attacks on the Congress. While drawing due flak for being crass and unrefined with his barbs and sarcasm at the Delhi rally, Modi’s speeches have at all times been pointed in their focus, whether it’s with taking on the government on scams, corruption and an economic breakdown, or his ‘toilet first, temple later’ like comments pointing to development ideals.
Modi, has always been the darling of big industry for his pro-business, investor friendly approach and his pro-growth, pro-development oratory has been written about ad nauseum. But perceptibly, he is also heard talking about things that a wider section of people might actually find relatable.
Addressing the Global Emerging Markets Forum of the United States, Modi, quite contrary to his style spoke in English. And about an issue that is a global hot potato currently – water security. “Per drop, more crop” was his new slogan. The focus on water, water management was also on Modi’s agenda at the National Summit on Inclusive Urban Development, where he sought to address rural water woes through treatment in urban areas. Water, droughts, irrigation – all raging rural issues. Water, sold waste management – a buzzword in business circles. An urban-rural accord then?
The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate also recently outlined his agenda for alternative development, stressing on rural education, sanitation, technology in learning, a more participative form of democracy, better governance, institution building, transparency etc - the kinds of ideas we usually get to hear in progressive, developed economies, not from a PM candidate campaigning to a caste-centric, rustic electorate.
But most of these are matters that have a deep connect with the rural psyche. How soon Modi brings them on the campaign trail, rather than isolate them at investor forums remains to be seen. His Kanpur rally is ostensibly going to focus on wooing the Muslim vote bank. While that in itself is seen as a careful tactical move, introducing his mantras for democracy as an added detail couldn’t exactly be discordant, given the bankruptcy of ideas from the other side.
Modi is factional and he is often accused of carrying more hype than substance. Does all this talk result in action, is a big misgiving, among his critics. But the issues he is choosing to pick up on, marks a paradigm shift that’s all the more glaring in an environment where his adversary is harping, not so effectively, on the same old failed promises.