If Rahul Gandhi has to stage a comeback he needs to transform his political persona and style of politics.

If he has to stage a comeback, he needs to begin with his political persona first as the recently held parliamentary polls were a decisive mandate against him in Narendra Modi Vs Rahul Gandhi fight.

He needs to change how he looks and sounds politically. He needs to work on the primary level of his communication interface first, being direct and responsive.

The way he looks: Rahul Gandhi should start wearing more of jeans, T-shirts and other casual stuff that most of the people put on in day-to-day life – seriously. Attire does affect our long term thinking and as we are fed up of the ‘Khadi stuff’ and the politicization of its appeal, Rahul’s that look will appeal more.

Politicians have become synonymous with many, many negative things and the ‘Neta style Khadi attire’ has become synonymous with this lot of politicians. Rahul has failed to connect with the masses including the Young India and a change of attire and a ‘daily/regular approach agenda’ would be a refreshing start.

Visibility: The next important thing that he needs to do is to have a constant visibility in Indian media, in social media and in public. It may or may not involve talking and doing politics always. He needs to look socially visible when he begins again.

Being a dynast helped him initiate and reach the top of the Congress party with Rahul becoming its de facto head and the de facto prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but, the after the humiliating defeat he and his party had, he needs to earn his position now. He needs to cut short on his regular foreign holidays. Reports say he is still on a holiday out of India.

Some good reading: The third thing he needs is to read and read deeply – what India has been – what India is – and what India is to become and what India can become.

He needs this to compensate for his weak oratory when compared with Narendra Modi (believing in the outlook that he is going to represent the Congress party’s fight in the 2019 LS polls fight). Yes, Modi had many gaffes in his speeches during the campaigning, but he efficiently shadowed such shortcomings with his effective oratory and contextualized speeches. Rahul’s oratory was not at all effective and his speeches lacked context customization and substance.

This is first set of possibilities Rahul Gandhi may look at to explore if he is eyeing comeback to rule the national stage of Indian politics in future.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/


He tried all. He worked hard. He covered the vast distances and he tried to map the whole country.

Had a brilliant team of highly educated professionals.

Debuted with his forming a coalition-led government in India where his family was having the undisputed central role.

Started taking centrestage in party-politics and the governance affairs when his party’s government was doing well.

And had the time to play on it and play it big as his party’s government continued to be in power for the next five years.

Comes from a family that has ruled the country most of its independent history that he tried to weave in his discourses to further his political career.

Yet, it didn’t work, the prevailing political circumstances say.

The moves were not customized. The moves were not focused. The resources, bountiful, were not efficiently managed.

The context did not read the contemporary making the presentation lacking in the elements needed to create the mass connect when the mass-base was slipping to a historic erosion.

And it was not esoteric. It was there for everyone to see. And everyone saw it, except the Congress party strategists and Rahul Gandhi and his Team Rahul.

And they have to own the blame honestly if they have to find the ‘whys’ of it and if they have to see the ‘what next’ in the clear context.

And the traditional rounds of hollow efforts of restructuring and refocusing, as has been so far after the May 16 Lok Sabha election results, are not going to work.

The historic low needs some real, unorthodox approach and it has to begin from Rahul Gandhi.

If Rahul Gandhi has to stage a comeback he needs to transform his political persona and style of politics.

If he has to stage a comeback, he needs to begin with his political persona first as the recently held parliamentary polls were a decisive mandate against him in Narendra Modi Vs Rahul Gandhi fight.

He needs to change how he looks and sounds politically. He needs to work on the primary level of his communication interface first, being direct and responsive.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/


Why so much of gyan, concern, debate and deliberation over it?

It is an open secret.

Even politicians from economically backward states like Bihar or Jharkhand or politicians from culturally backward states like Haryana or Rajasthan or from Western Uttar Pradesh use them, especially those who have lager game-plan for their political future, like playing a centre-stage role in state polity. And the situation is becoming chronic (or, alternatively, more relevant) with politicians who aspire for sustained and enhanced presence in the national politics.

A Public Relations consultant or a PR consultancy is rapidly becoming the in-thing for them.

I have been approached by some though I did not take the assignments. But I know professionals, at different levels of their PR profile, handling accounts of individual politicians.

Yes, they do all to keep it secret but as said above, such things are always an open secret, at least for them who are in the game.

So, why this fuss over Rahul Gandhi’s branding or we should say the latest episode in Rahul Gandhi’s branding exercise, so much so that the Congress spokespersons had to come forward to issue official denial(s) to the reports.

But it is not a new initiative.

Much has been written over the brand management efforts centered at Rahul Gandhi, his team of strategists, the Team RG, his ‘style’ of politics, his oratory skills and his body language and gestures.

The debate on whether Congress is hiring image-makeover consultants is a misplaced one. Irrespective of the Congress denial, the elements and the frequency of scheduling of the communication campaign of Congress and thus the projection of Rahul Gandhi and his team would tell the public the imprints of professionals behind the exercise and would certainly tell the people who can identify the experts by their work if Dentsu, JWT and Genesis Burson-Marsteller are involved or not.

Also, the exclamatory observations over this Rs. 500 crore are utterly misplaced when we see the cost of the regular political ad campaigns like a ‘Bharat Nirman’ that counts in thousands of crores.

Let’s quote some of the easily searchable (with simple, routine googling) article excerpts from media reports on Congress and Rahul Gandhi’s branding exercise:

Congress ad blitzkrieg in the works – Business Standard, September 12, 2013 (1)
Till date, 11 agencies including JWT, Percept, Crayons, Equus and Grey have made ad pitches to the team comprising Singh, Ajay Maken, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jairam Ramesh, Deepinder Hooda, Vishwajit Prithvijit Singh, Manish Tewari at the party’s ‘War Room’ at GRG Marg. The presentations are then sent to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who is likely to be the party’s face of the 2014 campaign. However, the final call, would be taken by Rahul and party president Sonia Gandhi, sources added.

In the last 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Crayons and Percept had bagged the Congress ad contract. No agency had been finalised as yet for this year, said a senior Congress leader.

2014 Elections: Congress signs up JWT for Rs 550-cr poll campaign; to counter Narendra Modi’s ‘claims’ – The Economic Times, September 2013 (2)
Congress has engaged advertising agency JWT for a Rs 500-crore publicity blitz to stymie the challenge posed by BJP’s Narendra Modi and help smoothen its path to a hat-trick in the 2014 general elections by hardselling its welfare credentials.

Ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, JWT, Crayons and Percept had handled the party’s ad campaign, which included purchasing rights of AR Rahman’s Oscar-winning number ‘Jai Ho’.

In 2004, the Congress campaign was mainly handled by Leo Burnett, which packaged its Aam Aadmi messaging that helped the party undercut NDA’s ‘India Shining’ campaign. Some of the work in the 2004 campaign, notably ad films, was handled by Percept, the agency behind the ongoing Bharat Nirmaan campaign.

Congress picks Dentsu, Taproot & JWT for poll ad campaign – The Economic Times, October 8, 2013
The Congress party has opted for many of the same people who were behind its advertising campaign for the 2009 elections, picking Dentsu and Taproot to join JWT as the agencies that will handle the Rs 500 crore contract.

Okay, now these three reports should be enough to gauge for the curious fellows on how regular this practices has been. Yes, most of these reports talk about Congress and poll preparations but only an immature mind (of a communication pro) can see Congress and Rahul differently while preparing a brand management (and thus performance) strategy for Congress.

Also, before this, Rahul was running the show in a roundabout way. Now, he is the face. So, this time, it has to be more direct, centering on him, because stakes are highly unprecedented, highly delicately skewed.

So, if earlier, it was around Congress and projecting Rahul was a part of it, this time, it is going to be around Rahul and Congress is going to follow the leads from projections and imagery about Rahul Gandhi.

The change of guard is going to focus the Rahul Gandhi way of politics (the way he talks about it, especially in post-Aam Aadmi Party scenario) as the central theme of the communication campaign in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.

Also, whenever there are no hopes left for the Congress party, as is the case now with absolutely high anti-incumbency against the Manmohan Singh led UPA government, the party leaders has nothing but to look to the Nehru-Gandhi family as the last resort. Now, the effectiveness of this last resort has not been consistent, but at least, it gives the party leaders a point to base their hopes in the atmosphere of 360 Degree gloom.

And to fight this atmosphere of 360 Degree gloom, the Congress party is going to soak itself deeply in the blitzkrieg of a 360 Degree communication campaign employing tools of advertising and public relations hoping it would make for the lost ground.

Rahul Gandhi or Congress taking help of image management consultants for the upcoming general elections is a regular political communication campaign, an effort that has no guarantee of ROI (return on investment), more so, in the prevailing political circumstances.

We saw the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) ‘India Shining’ campaign failing to deliver. The Rahul Gandhi brand management exercise coupled with ‘Bharat Nirman 2.0’ could well be a repeat of the ‘India Shining’ campaign.

The outcome may be as challenging as the evolution of the ownership structures of the advertising and public relations agencies and their holding groups!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

1 http://www.business-standard.com/article/politics/congress-ad-blitzkrieg-in-the-works-113091100632_1.html
2 http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-09-11/news/41971845_1_jwt-congress-campaign-congress-war-room
3 http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-10-08/news/42829373_1_ad-agencies-congress-party-election-campaign


Symbolically shambolic or shambolically symbolic! – “Biggest issue is corruption, it is an unacceptable burden on our people. We must fight corruption”

Rahul Gandhi, was, again, delivering a speech remixing the verbal elements of his speechmaking which we have become so familiar with. He was discussing the problems of India with corporate leaders. And he again spoke on corruption, in his usual style, talking big, when the acts of the many of the Congress leaders directly defy his words. In fact, if we go by the need to set the precedent, even his family needs to come clean on corruption allegations on Robert Vadra, his brother-in-law.

Anyway, that is the regular, usual stuff, keeps on happening, and keeps on defying Rahul’s words.

This time, the push for writing this came from a coincidental turn of events involving Rahul Gandhi, Congress, a speech on corruption and an act of corruption cover-up.

On December 20, the Adarsh Housing Society scam report was tabled in the Maharashtra assembly and summarily rejected by the state government. The chief minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan, considered relatively clean on corruption, didn’t give any reason.

The report was prepared by a two-member commission (Adarsh Commission) headed by a retired Justice of the Bombay High Court, JA Patil, to look into the allegations of corruption and irregularities in the construction of Adarsh Housing Cooperative Society in Mumbai.

The report indicted four farmer Maharashtra chief ministers and Congress politicians including Sushilkumar Shinde, the Union Home Minister now, and Ashok Chavan and Vilasrao Deshmukh, former chief ministers of Maharashtra. With many bureaucrats, the report also indicted two influential NCP politicians who are ministers in the Maharashtra cabinet.

This happened on December 20, Friday.

On December 21, Saturday, Rahul addressed the corporate leaders at FICCI Annual General Meeting, talking big again on corruption.

How hollow, how disconnected such statements sound when the reality defies them upfront; when the reality and such statements by Rahul Gandhi become extremes to bridge the gap?

It is as counterfeit as Congress rushing to take credit of passing the Lokpal Bill even if the Congress is the main culprit to let the Bill linger for almost 45 years!

“Corruption is bleeding our people dry. It is an unacceptable burden on the people of our nation. We must fight corruption with all our strength and determination” – how could Rahul speak so, on December 21, addressing the FICCI AGM – just a day after his party’s government and chief minister rejected an impartial judicial commission report on a scam that shook the nation and cost a chief minister his chair?

It was really an opportunity missed and it also tells Rahul and Congress didn’t learn anything from the recent poll humiliations in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and from AAP’s unprecedented victory in Delhi. On December 8 evening, Rahul Gandhi had conceded the defeat saying his party needed to learn from AAP. Corruption and anti-establishment demands anti- the ‘present system of governance’ were the major poll planks of AAP, or the Aam Aadmi Party.

Had it been a serious thought on December 8 evening when the election results of four states were announced, we would not have seen happening what happened on December 20 in Maharashtra.

The time is running out. Talking big and talking radical is not going to help. Such a veil cannot be maintained for long and the prevailing political circumstances make it imperative for Rahul and Congress to change when the electorate is ready for political experiments like AAP. Yes, AAP is not beyond valid reasons of doubt, but it is certainly a point to begin.

Rahul and Congress need to act now, and given the mess, the political abyss, they are in, they need to act radically.

Adarsh Commission report could have been an opportunity to begin but it has been missed. A positive approach on the Adarsh Commission enquiry report, indicting big names, would certainly be a fitting, radical anti-corruption step taken.

The ‘change in politics’ that Rahul Gandhi has been talking about, even more repeatedly after his elevation as the Congress Vice-president, needs ‘politics of change’ that is much bigger than saving a Sushilkumar Shinde.

Mr. Gandhi you must, (if not react on), read and think over what Justice Patil said on rejection of his report: “We have a clear idea in our mind of what happened (referring to the Adarsh scam). Based on that we submitted our report after recording the evidence of several witnesses and perusing relevant documents. The findings were not palatable to the government and hence it must have been rejected.”

Start acting. It is already too late!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/


Some six days ago, on December 8 evening, after much cry, after much of the hoarse jugglery, after much humiliation of the miserable of the lot that day, the Congress spokespersons, Rahul Gandhi came forward, flanked and supported by his mother and the Congress party numero uno, Sonia Gandhi, and he said (smiling but in his familiar aggressive style, though without the gestures of his moving hands) it in a way like making a grand proclamation.

And he said (quoting the Wall Street Journal*): Through these elections, the people have delivered a message. That message has been taken by me and our party not just with our minds, but with our hearts. The Congress party has the ability to transform itself, to stand up to the expectations of the people of this country and the Congress party is going to do that.

I am going to put all my efforts in transforming the organization of the Congress party and…give you an organization that you can be proud of and has your voice embedded inside it.

I think the Aam Aadmi Party has involved a lot of people who the traditional parties did not involve. We are going to learn from that and we are going to do a better job than anyone else in the country in ways that you cannot imagine right now.

And for aggression, another media report (the Indian Express**) said: Rahul said he would work aggressively to make the organisational changes that are needed.

Talking big, enumerating the grand, it would have been so good for Indian politics but for the many let-downs after the ‘Kalawati’ speech delivered by Rahul Gandhi in the Parliament in 2008.

And yesterday was yet another.

Like always, there were demands for Rahul Gandhi to get more communicating, more interactive, more involved, after the drubbing of the Congress party in the assembly polls in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

And surprisingly, Rahul Gandhi did come forward on December 8, offering his vision of ‘days ahead’ in some nicely spoken, introspective words the excerpts of which are in italics here.

So, when it was conveyed yesterday that Rahul Gandhi would hold a press conference on Lokpal, it was interesting to watch what he was going to speak, whether the introspective words spoken in the evening of December 8 were going to have any effect.

But, the tradition of ‘let-downs’ continued that evening.

The presser was a brief one with Rahul speaking what we have been listening to and what we do not want to listen to anymore (even the electorate spoke so this time). Even for Rahul to emerge on the line of the expectations he had raised when he had begun his political career, he needs to put a different approach in place now, moving in action, and not just in words.

But worse, the second public appearance, after the introspective words of December 8 evening sounded hollow even on words.

He spoke to sound dismissive of Anna Hazare’s ongoing protest Fast for the Lokpal Bill, AAP’s stunning success in Delhi assembly election being a reason behind the sudden attentiveness in the government to pass the Bill in the Winter Session of the Parliament, and thus the public’s eagerness and the sense of urgency in looking for a political change away from the mainstream political lot of the country.

Had it been for the validity of the introspective words of December 8 evening, he should have accepted honestly that these developments indeed were the primary factors behind the sudden spurt in the attentiveness to get the Lokpal Bill passed.

Instead, once again, he chose to shield the empty rhetoric of ‘everything good in India is by Congress’ with empty claims of Congress enacting the RTI Act and UPA’s other anti-corruption efforts. Listening to such claims again and again, from representatives of a government that is undoubtedly the most corrupt of the governments in India, makes all this so disconcerting, and goes directly against Rahul Gandhi.

When would Rahul Gandhi and the Team Rahul Gandhi understand it?

When would Rahul Gandhi and his team of strategists understand that they need to stop treating the voters as the perennial fools who cannot not think why the RTI Act took two decades of struggle to get passed and why the Lokpal Bill is still not there even after over four decades of ‘history of debacles’ in spite of Congress being in the government most of the time?

Accepting the faults gracefully and moving ahead accordingly (not just in words) would make him more acceptable among the youth and larger population base and he needs to realize it soon.

The humiliating defeat of the grand old party of India, the Congress party, in the recently concluded assembly elections, was yet another warning call for the party strategists. But are there any takers?

..message taken with heart..expectations..transformation..pushing aggressively..the words spoken on December 8 evening and now comes the December 14 afternoon!

This evening’s presser by Rahul Gandhi, flanked by some senior ministers of the Manmohan Singh government says NO.

Certainly not a way to involve the ‘Aam Aadmi’, the common man of India, in the changing times!

Certainly not a way to a more involved, more participative Rahul Gandhi!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/


What are the trend-setting takeaways for the 2014 General Elections campaign from the outcome of the four assembly elections held this November-December the results of which were announced on December 8 (Mizoram, being one Lok Sabha seat only, doesn’t matter for the mainstream political parties when it comes to the electoral equations and thus the political calculations to devise strategies and design campaigns).

Look beyond Rahul Gandhi – Look inside – Though complete redemption impossible in the time available but, at least, some ground can be saved, some humiliation can be averted:

It was ignorance and arrogance both that led the Congress party, the grand old party of India, to bite the dust, to go down so miserably.

Arrogance has been trademark of Congress rule and whenever they continue in government for more than one term, we see its convoluted form on display. First, the Manmohan Singh led UPA government messed up with the economy during the first three years of its second term. Then, in order to win the elections riding on easy money, they pushed schemes to pump easy money into the lives of millions of its targeted voters (at the cost of others who have been mostly silent till now – the middle-class bearing the brunt of everyday corruption and price rise – that was until now).

This has been a tried and verified route to pull votes the Congress party strategists believe. They have been doing this at the cost of the middle-class votes. Also, they have been attracting the minority votes significantly. Their equations have been to rely on votebanks coming from the bottom of the human pyramid as well as from the minorities.

But things are changing now. The middle class is emerging as a major segment in Indian electoral politics. This middle-class is aware of its rights and votes accordingly. The huge youth base of India, across the caste, class and religion lines, that votes on ‘issue-based politics’ comes from this class. To add to it, there are other significant claimants of minority voters now in the league as well.

In all this, the Congress party could not understand or gauge the public sentiment on issues of price rise and corruption. Political corruption in India has become a global talking point and Manmohan Singh’s government is seen as the most corrupt of the governments in the office.

And the price rise – it is affecting all, the targeted votebank of Congress at the bottom of the pyramid, the minorities, as well as the ignored middle-class.

By the time, the Congress party strategists realized the deteriorating ground for them, it was too late. The Rahul Gandhi elevation was a desperate effort to reclaim the lost ground. In 2013, Congress could win just one big state, Karnataka. But linking this to Rahul Gandhi factor, if they thought so, was again a mistake. Congress didn’t win in Karnataka but BJP lost it.

The other approach that the Congress party strategists saw to corner votes – the populist schemes – direct cash transfer for subsidies and the food security have failed to leave any impact so far and there is very little time left in the Lok Sabha polls.

The Rahul Gandhi factor and the ‘easy money for easy votes’ experiments, both have failed to help Congress.

In 2009, the situation was different. UPA had performed well in its first term. Then there were populist schemes like the farm debt waiver riding on a successful government and a faceless opposition. Also, Narendra Modi was not a popular leader of national stature then.

It’s different now. UPA has failed on almost every front in its second term. Results of the assembly polls just concluded tell us the populist schemes did not add to the votebank. In fact it was slipped away considerably as the huge losses in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi (both Congress ruled till the elections) show us. And Narendra Modi is a much taller leader of national acceptance now. No other political leader comes anywhere near to him in popularity.

And midst all this, Rahul Gandhi is failing, again and again. The Rahul Gandhi factor has become more of a hot air than substance. Rahul does campaign extensively but his words are still fatigued by the old symptoms of his politics – no connect, no context, no modulation, repetitions, alienated words and poorly researched customization.

He is failing to establish the connect that is needed to align the voters. And remember, Rahul Gandhi is the main campaigner for the Congress party.

Though it cannot save the day in the prevailing circumstances, a Congress party relying heavily on Rahul Gandhi needs to introspect if it has to save itself from the ignominy of political marginalization in the next Lok Sabha polls.

It needs to realign its campaign on the lines of fighting the Lok Sabha polls in a sporting spirit, beyond character assassinations. It needs to act humbly and sound so while approaching the voters. Rahul Gandhi must not make the voters vote for hours in his rallies. The Congress party strategists must look beyond the trio of Sonia-Rahul-Manmohan. Their leaders must not make insensitive comments on price rise and corruption.

And they must look utmost sincere, sensible and honest in dealing with price rise and corruption. It is difficult for them to do because it has been the work culture and culture of the Congress party.

They have two opportunities to set the precedent to base their campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls – the JPC report on 2G Spectrum Scam and Anna Hazare’s renewed agitation for the Lokpal Bill.

Can they do it this time? Going by the government’s attitude on the 2G scam report, it doesn’t look so.

Watch to see an interesting trend analysis unveiling!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/


THE COUNTING DAY – it’s the D-Day of the last round of the electoral politics in India before the political slugfest for the grand theatre of the Indian electoral panorama, the General Elections of 2014, begins.

And it is coming on the expected calculations. (Counting for Mizoram is tomorrow.)

It is just matter of time to say if it is 4-0 for BJP or 2-0 for BJP (taking Delhi and Rajasthan from Congress) or 3-0 for BJP (let’s save the comment for final figures on Chhattisgarh) and vice versa – 0-2 or 0-1 for Congress.

And as expected, the debate on Narendra Modi Vs Rahul Gandhi is on, relentlessly.

Congress’ decimation in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi puts Rahul Gandhi squarely in the line of fire but the neck to neck fight in Chhattisgarh gives some saving grace to talk about, the much needed help to the most miserable of the Congress lot today – the party spokespersons – facing a herculean task – they have to accept the defeat while not sounding defeated – they have to defend the rout thus – and they have to defend Rahul Gandhi and the Rahul Gandhi factor.

Likewise, the emergence on AAP in Delhi and the neck to neck fight in Chhattisgarh is not allowing the BJP leaders to go over the top in extolling the Narendra Modi factor.

And thankfully, the trends by now are making the case for #AAP – even if the party cannot form the government in Delhi, the huge gains in the national Capital of India are positively unprecedented – so heartily welcomed it is.

And the most hard-hitting of all this is Arvind Kejriwal defeating Sheila Dikshit, the three-term chief incumbent chief minister, from the New Delhi assembly constituency, considered a Sheila Dikshit stronghold.

As the trends say while writing this, if Arvind Kejriwal succeeds in winning the New Delhi assembly constituency from Sheila Dikshit, it will still be symbolically potent enough to tell the political class that it is the time to change.

If a powerful and perceivably popular chief minister loses to an entrant politician, it should be a message bold enough to warn the existing league of political babudom.

The strength of the Symbolism of the ‘politics of change’ must spread.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/