Punjab Election 2017: Rahul Gandhi's decent speech sounded mediocre; blame it on Narendra Modi

Rahul Gandhi was expected to go hard at the Badals. He did. He was expected to slam Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He did. He was expected to raise the issues of drugs, poor development, flight of industries from Punjab, demonetisation among other issues. He did. In his speech at Majitha he ticked all the boxes he was supposed to. And he spoke with clarity and some authority. But did he impress?

Not quite. Blame it on Modi.

The latter has raised the bar in public speaking so high that even a good speech by any other leader appears a tad dull. He brings in a touch of drama and seeks to engage his audience. He is a natural while Rahul is not. But Rahul sure is getting smarter. He is getting his fluency right. He certainly does well when he chooses to go sarcastic.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Twitter/ @OfficeOfRG

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Twitter/ @OfficeOfRG

No sarcasm was visible in his speech today. It was as direct as any election speech would be. He charged the Badal family with being responsible for the drugs problem and corruption in the state. He promised to go hard at the drugs problem with harsh laws. He said farmers, small traders and other such groups have been ruined during the rule of the family and that the latter had its hands in every profitable business in the state. He cited Guru Nanak to explain how the Akalis had made perverse the noble idea of giving and changed it to taking.

He attacked the Aam Aadmi Party for making a lot of promises but delivering little. He referred to Delhi to make his point and went on to say that the party said different things in different states. He also struck at the AAP's inability to project a chief minister face in the state, saying Kejriwal wanted to be the chief minister of both Delhi and Punjab. He rubbed it in by raising the insider vs outsider issue.

He took on the prime minister, pointing to the incongruity in him talking about corruption and still backing the Badals. He also mentioned how demonetisation had adversely affected all sections of people. He claimed that the Congress never made false promises - "jo Congress kehti hai wo karke dikhati hai," and declared Captain Amarinder Singh the party's chief ministerial face, something not a surprise any more to people of the state.

It was a correct speech but could have done better with a bit of spicing. It didn't engage. The Congress' star is on the ascent in Punjab and the Akali-BJP combine is fighting with its back to the wall. Rahul's party has put in a lot of hard work and a victory here would pave the way for him to become the national Congress president. This makes it imperative that he makes all rallies in the state his show. For that he has to do more than delivering routine, staid speeches.

Of course, impressing voters in an election is not only about speeches. It's about robust groundwork, momentum-building, optimal mobilization of party's rank and file and capitalising on the weaknesses of the rivals' strategy too. But since the advent of Modi on the national stage, speeches have become an important factor in campaigns, at least from the point of view of attracting crowds. Kejriwal has his own way of captivating masses. Rahul must find a way to go beyond the ordinary.


Updated Date: Jan 27, 2017 16:53 PM

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