Rahul Gandhi revamps communication strategy as Congress seeks fresh faces with an eye on Karnataka polls

Congress is working hard on getting its communication right. After the relative success of the Gujarat campaign, the grand old party wants to replicate the template at the national level, with a dose of improvisation.

The revamp exercise was kick-started by the Congress' communications department in Karnataka: A state which will be going to the polls in the first half of 2018.

After Karnataka, the focus would be Rajasthan, followed by other poll-bound states. Though there will be a centralized model, the communications department will tweak it as per local requirements like in the North Eastern states.

In Karnataka, the communications department has almost shortlisted candidates for the role of spokespersons and media panelists. After selection, all would undergo training at workshops.


 Rahul Gandhi revamps communication strategy as Congress seeks fresh faces with an eye on Karnataka polls

Congress president Rahul Gandhi has stressed on strengthening the party's communication strategy. Reuters

According to party sources, after receiving an unexpected positive response in Gujarat election from its campaigning, Congress president Rahul Gandhi emphasised on strengthening the party’s communication strategy keeping with the changing times and modes of communication. Special focus has been given to social media. The issue also came up during the recent Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting headed by Rahul as newly-elected party president.

The strategy focuses on real-time dissemination of information, faster response and better synchronisation with the press.

“We’re following Gujarat template and building a fresh narrative. As part of our strategy, we want better system in place, faster response time and better synchronisation with the media. Congress is revamping communications teams and strategy across the states,” Priyanka Chaturvedi, national convener, communications and national spokesperson in Congress told Firstpost.

In the preliminary phase, the communications department in Karnataka has shortlisted candidates from the applications received from social media platforms, through emails, from professionals and from party’s frontal organisations such as the Youth Congress and the National Students' Union of India (NSUI).

The department has also been holding events to tap local talent. The next step is forming panels comprising shortlisted new candidates and the existing ones.

“We’ve received large number of applications. Some of the candidates are as young as 21 years. A fresh graduate came to our office and wished to become a Congress spokesperson because he has a lot of anger against demonetisation. He said he had witnessed how due to demonetisation many families lost jobs and his friends found it hard to pay college fees. The youth are highly enthusiastic as they are feeling that the liberal space has been denied to them,” she said.

The strategy:

  1. Restructuring of the party’s communications department will be both at vertical and horizontal levels.
  2. Recruitment of fresh faces from party’s frontal organisations, from amongst the social media platform, public and professionals for the posts of spokespersons and panelists.
  3. The communication strategy at state level will be replicated at the district levels as well. The objective is to go hyper local.
  4. Candidate needs to have an understanding of the political movement of the Congress and its philosophy, and willing to be a part of the change that the party wants to bring.
  5. Communications department is also roping in advertising professionals, script writers, documentary and film makers and communication experts.
  6. Post-selection, specialized training through workshops to be imparted on presentation of issues, counter-narrative, counter allegations against the party at panel discussions,
  7. The strategy aims at building a fresh narrative and disseminating real time information to all forms of media – print to social media and in public.
  8. Similar to Gujarat model, an information technology cell has been created in Karnataka
  9. The communication would focus on positive aspects and highlight the good policies of the Congress-ruled Karnataka government. However, it won’t shun from taking an aggressive posturing as and when required.
  10. The strategy aims at highlighting the weaknesses and failures of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and BJP-led governments at the states.

“Karnataka election is very important for us. As Rahul ji has emphasized, we want fresh faces there. They should be articulate and be able to hold a debate or discussion well. We’ve asked people to join us and four months back we recruited a few by posting our requirement on Linkedin,” an All India Congress Committee source said.

The recent verbal duel between the Congress and the BJP in Karnataka — with the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah calling BJP and the Sangh Parivar as the "Hindutva terrorists" — is being seen as a part of the revamped strategy which aims at taking opponent head-on.

According to a senior party leader, the Congress seems to be clear on its strategy. “We’re now on an attacking mode," the leader said. "You must have seen our president in Bahrain. Congress doesn’t support extreme Left or extreme Right, as it believes on 'Left of Centre' ideology and we’re prepared to answer these communal and divisive forces during forthcoming elections.”

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Updated Date: Jan 12, 2018 21:40:55 IST