UP Politics: Modi-Wave vs Rahul Gandhi!

Compared to a decade ago, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is getting a better media coverage now. Also, following his party’s success in recent assembly elections, speculations are being voiced on whether BJP and its leaders will face the same success as they did in the previous parliamentary elections. Clearly, this also suggests that Rahul is now viewed as a stronger political figure than he was earlier. It would, however, be erroneous to assume that this is suggestive of Rahul ensuring the return of his party to power solely on his and/or its own strength. Not too long ago, BJP rivals appeared to have reached a political understanding that their success on keeping BJP out of power is dependent on their grand alliance.

Recent developments suggest that prospects of such a grand alliance actually being reached aren’t as bright as they seemed earlier. Of this, the most outstanding example is the political deal being worked out in Uttar Pradesh (UP). While two key regional parties, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have reached an understanding by excluding the Congress. What should this be regarded as reflective of? Rahul and his party have been snubbed here and/or the party isn’t viewed as an important contender at least in UP. Or that his failure to reach a political understanding with Mayawati ahead of the assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh has led to his party being ignored in UP. Neither of these reasons can apparently be dismissed as irrelevant.

Certainly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political image is not as it appeared to be after he stepped onto the national stage to head the central government in 2014. Even media has started expressing that the Modi-wave is fading. There is yet another angle to view this. There never was any Modi-wave. But yes, hype about his image was certainly created by pliable media. “News” was created, propagated and spread at practically all levels about his promises regarding “better days” (Achche Din) for Indians. The so-called Modi-wave rested on manufactured news. It helped in “convincing” common people, at least in the initial phase, about great promises held for them by a Modi government. Yes, Modi succeeded in standing taller in people’s expectations than his party and his party members. This image was created, spread and propagated.

It is important to note that “news” about Modi-wave was created following his and his party’s success in 2014 parliamentary elections. In other words, Modi and BJP’s success did not rest on any Modi-wave. But hype about Modi-wave started being created and spread following the victory achieved in the last Lok Sabha elections. Here, it is important to also consider indulgence exercised by Modi in promoting his own image through media and other means of communication. Even maximum use of communication strategies to create and spread “news,” that is hype resting on manufactured news can succeed only to an extent. False expectations raised among people are least likely to remain afloat for too long a time.

Yes, it doesn’t long for the same and their promoters’ agenda to be questioned and also criticised when they fail to deliver the promised goods. This only leads to hype raised on the basis of manufactured news to ultimately deflate. As pointed out earlier, Modi’s success in the 2014 polls did not rest on any wave. But yes, hype was created about Modi’s wave following his victory. At present, it would be more appropriate to state that the hype about Modi-wave has begun to fade not just for those who chose to give it importance but also for those who promoted it. This is considerably supported by recent shocks suffered by BJP in assembly elections.

Now, against this backdrop, would it be fair to assume that chances of Rahul’s success are far brighter than what they were in 2014? As mentioned earlier, Rahul is certainly receiving far more media coverage and that too along positive lines than he did in 2014. But to assume that this can guarantee him and his party total success would be erroneous. At present, it would be politically expensive for him to sideline and/or ignore importance of regional parties in this race. BSP and SP have not erred by reaching a political understanding for sharing seats in UP. Neither have they made any mistake by refusing to include Congress in their deal. 

Had BSP and SP allied for UP assembly elections, BJP may not have a secured a victory. The percentage of votes won by BSP and SP together exceeds that won by BJP. Even in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, there was only a marginal difference between votes won by these two parties and by BJP. These two parties have become strongly aware that division of votes among them is least likely to help them in the coming parliamentary polls. Whatever be the state of Modi-wave or that of Rahul, division of votes among anti-BJP parties needs to be avoided. This reality has not yet been apparently fully comprehended by Congress leaders!