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AHMEDABAD: An uncanny resemblance has emerged in the campaigning styles of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
After four three-day whistle-stop tours of North, South, and Central Gujarat — besides Saurashtra —
Gandhi scion has tried to beat Modi+
at his own game. In Surat, while addressing the business community, Gandhi acknowledged Modi’s superior oratorical skills by saying, with a touch of sarcasm, ”
Mujhe Modiji jaise bhashan dena nahi aata. Usme thode saal aur lagenge
” (I can’t give speeches like Modiji, it will take a few more years).
But Gandhi appears to have already picked public speaking essentials from Modi. Besides adopting Modi’s style of engaging with audiences during his speeches by asking questions and evoking a roar in response, Gandhi has also followed the temple trail which Modi often did as the Gujarat chief minister. Just last week, within days of Modi’s visit to Akshardham in Gandhinagar, Gandhi went to the Swaminarayan temple. In fact Gandhi has visited a dozen-odd temples during his month-long campaign in Gujarat ahead of the assembly polls in December.
Professor Dheeraj Sharma, the director of the Indian Institute of Management, Rohtak — who as an Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, professor coauthored a book titled ‘Swinging the Mandate’ on poll campaigns of Modi and AAP — believes that Gandhi is trying to adopt tools that Modi has used for long during poll campaigns. “Through various tools such as engaging with people in speeches, appearing in people’s selfies, or distributing masks to crowds, Gandhi is trying to project that he is one with the common people,” he said. “That’s something Modi did in previous campaigns.”
While Modi was the first to use masks in 2007 assembly elections, the Congress is trying to popularize RaGa masks a decade later in the Gujarat polls. During the Congress’ recent Gujarat ‘Navsarjan Yatra’, Gandhi masks were liberally distributed to supporters. During the 2014 general elections, Modi had popularized selfies. He was the first politician to use them to gain wider popularity. After coming out of a polling booth, he had taken a selfie while holding the BJP’s poll symbol, the lotus. That led to a police complaint, based on the order of the Election Commission.
Gandhi, on his recent Gujarat trips, has been keen on allowing selfies to be taken with him. In Bharuch,
a selfie taken with a class X girl, Mantasha Seth+
, became the talk of the social media. The girl had been helped onto the roof of his van to have the picture taken. Gandhi, however, still lags far behind in posting photos on social media platforms.
Professor Sharma explains the selfie tactic of politicians, “By taking selfies, a political leader projects himself to be a part of the masses,” he said. With his much improved oratory, Gandhi has taken another leaf out of Modi’s book. A customary Modi speech begins with repeated chants of ‘Bharat mata ki jai’; he exhorts people to shout loud enough to be heard in Pakistan. Gandhi starts his speeches with “Gujarat me vikas ko kya hua?” and pretends he can’t hear anything till the crowds come up with the ear-splitting “pagal ho gaya” retort. A faculty member of marketing at IIM-A, professor Piyush Sinha, said that he does not see any blind imitation in Gandhi’s campaign. “Modi will always have the advantage of being the first mover,” he said. “Any strategy which is picked up by a leader first becomes unique.”