Lok Sabha Election

Congress vs BJP: A bitter battle of two narratives

This combination of two photographs show Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi.   | Photo Credit: AP

As polling to elect members of the 17th Lok Sabha ended on Sunday, political parties will have to wait until Thursday to find out who gets to steer the country for the next five years.

The answer to the question will also reveal who won the battle of campaign narratives. The Congress narrative revolved around livelihood issues such as farmer distress, unemployment, minimum income guarantee or Nyuntam Aay Yojana and demonetisation, while the BJP’s pitch was built on a mix of aggressive nationalism and “decisive leadership” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We contested the elections on three or four issues. Unemployment, plight of the farmers, corruption over Rafale deal, state of the economy, demonetisation and Gabbar Singh Tax [goods and services tax]. Narendra Modiji didn’t reply on these issues,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi said at a press conference on Friday.

Many Opposition leaders said the Congress focussed on livelihood issues to avoid a presidential-style face-off between Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi. But it was not just to avoid comparisons but to keep potential allies happy.

The Congress will not be able to challenge the BJP on its own and would need support from regional parties.There are several contenders for the PM post among the regional players. This is the reason why the BJP built its campaign around Mr. Modi’s leadership and repeatedly posed the question, Mr. Modi versus Who?

“Mr Narendra Modi came to power on 5 major issues - jobs, economy, price rise, farm distress and black money and corruption. We have dismantled his false narrative on each one of these 5 issues. We have dismantled him when it comes to corruption,”Mr Gandhi had earlier said in an interview with The Hindu when asked about Mr Modi’s decisive leadership.

“Mr Modi stands dismantled as a politician full of lies and false promises. That’s why Mr. Narendra Modi only speaks about national security. But the real national security and livelihood security issues are his creation,”he had added.

Political analysts argue the reason why the BJP chose to build on Mr Modi’s personality is because he not only towered over all others but also helped to underscore the absence of a tall leader in the Opposition camp.

“If you look at any leader, none can fulfill all the promises. But people look up to the one who is better placed to fulfil their aspirations and Mr Modi fits in that role,”explained Professor Shriprakash Singh of the Department of Political Science, Delhi University.

The Congress response to BJP’s national security theme was NYAY, or minimum income guarantee. But the party failed to generate the kind of excitement it had hoped for. “In our village, people don’t even know about the ₹72,000 scheme,” said Pritam Maravi, an ambulance driver in Mandala of Madhya Pradesh.

Asked to comment on Congress campaign, Mr Gandhi said, ”We have done our work and the rest depends on the people of India.”

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 12:19:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/congress-vs-bjp-a-bitter-battle-of-two-narratives/article27179196.ece

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