Lok Sabha election 2019: While BJP cranks up campaign machine, Congress' search for poll ammo continues

The BJP has a clear head start. This might prove critical in the upcoming long-drawn campaign. Here are a few points where it has advantage over the Congress.

Debobrat Ghose March 18, 2019 23:55:19 IST
Lok Sabha election 2019: While BJP cranks up campaign machine, Congress' search for poll ammo continues
  • In the aftermath of the Balakot air strike, the BJP has been adopting a confident posture.

  • The BJP has tied up loose ends in alliance formation well ahead of the Congress, besides having clearly laid out its primary campaign talking points.

  • The Congress party failed to stitch the much-talked about alliance with Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

  • Similarly, the Congress' seat-sharing talks in Bihar have run into rough weather

  • The BJP seems to be replicating its 2014 success story.

With just weeks to go for the general elections, the BJP has cranked up its electioneering machinery close to full capacity, while the Congress remains sluggish. The saffron party has tied up loose ends in alliance formation well ahead of the Congress, besides having clearly laid out its primary campaign talking points.

The Congress appears to be in a spot on both the fronts. It is neither getting its alliances right in critical states, nor does it have its campaign theme finalised.

In the aftermath of the Balakot air strike, the BJP has been adopting a confident posture. This is evident on social media and television debates. It is ready with its homework and is appearing to be on the offensive.

At this point, the BJP has a clear head start. This might prove critical in the upcoming long-drawn campaign. Here are a few points where the BJP has advantage over the Congress.

Lok Sabha election 2019 While BJP cranks up campaign machine Congress search for poll ammo continues

File images of Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. AFP

Alliance formation

The Congress' ultimate goal of a countrywide ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance) to unseat the BJP seems to be getting more elusive with every passing day. The prophecy made by critics — that the grand alliance would be limited to photos of Opposition leaders holding hands together — is likely to be true.

The Congress party failed to stitch the much-talked-about alliance with Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The only arrangement that could materialise was on Amethi and Rae Bareli for the Gandhi family. Meanwhile, the Congress agreed not to contest seven seats against the SP-BSP combine.

Similarly, the seat-sharing talks in Bihar have run into rough weather and the Congress is expected to agree on only nine seats. The party is at risk of losing support of allies in Bihar.

In West Bengal, the Congress has failed to forge an alliance with the CPM-led Left Front, and has decided to contest on its own.

After prolonged backstage parlays, attempts to arrive at a seat-sharing arrangement between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) failed in Delhi, as the latter has announced all its seven candidates.

On the other hand, the BJP is way ahead in the alliance game. It has successfully tied up with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, JD(U) and Lok Janshakti Party in Bihar, etc, besides convincing Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) to join hands with it. This became possible as the BJP machinery worked continuously throughout the year over the past four years, while the Congress showed no urgency.

Issues

The saffron party is clear on its issues – be it national security, Lokpal or the leadership position. The Centre recently announced the formation of the Lokpal (anti-corruption ombudsman), one of the poll promises of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. The Modi government had earlier faced severe criticism for pushing the Lokpal issue under the carpet. Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare went on an indefinite hunger strike from 31 January against the Centre for not appointing an anti-graft ombudsman.

After the Pulwama terror attack, the recent Balakot air strike virtually took the wind out of the Congress’ sails and projected the Modi government as one which takes strong decisions on national security. While the Congress remained vocal on the Rafale deal, this one military action by the NDA government changed the narrative.

The BJP is clear about its top leadership position, in contrast to the Opposition's dilemma about the prime minister's post.

Social media

In response to Modi's references to himself as a "chowkidar", Rahul Gandhi came up with the taunt, ‘chowkidar chor hai’ (The 'guard' is the thief). Rahul used this taunt often in the poll-bound states in 2018, and it reverberated with the audiences for quite some time.

However, a tweet by Modi on 16 March started the #MainBhiChowkidar campaign, which instantly became a success and was a top Twitter trend. This was an instance of the BJP’s efficient social media handling, and sent a strong rebuttal to Rahul’s comment.

The BJP seems to be replicating its 2014 success story by effectively engaging with people on social media and reaping its benefits.

In contrast, the Congress has little original content, except Rahul’s sporadic sarcastic tweets. The Congress lacks innovative and aggressive posturing on social media.

Priyanka Gandhi, newly-appointed Congress general secretary and in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, has been the Congress' only trump card so far, and has hogged the media limelight. However, it remains to be seen to what extent this factor translates into votes.

Approach towards media

Whether it’s about prime time discussions on news channels or commenting on issues or controversies, the BJP has a battery of powerful, articulate spokespersons, including ministers like Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal, etc, lined up for the job, something the Congress lacks. It may be possible that the media gives less air time to the Congress, but the party lacks the aggression needed to take the BJP head on. Often, journalists remark that getting a senior Congress leader on record is a difficult task.

As for adopting an innovative approach towards making headlines or grabbing eyeballs, the saffron party is well ahead of its competitors. Although the Congress showed some ingenuity during the Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan Assembly elections, its strategy was only a remake of what the BJP had been doing.

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