Modi vs Rahul: Not Just an Electoral Battle

rahul hugs modi

Interestingly, as the expected parliamentary elections are coming closer, voices of key politicians are certainly getting louder and so is the aggressive nature of their verbal missiles targeting their rivals. The lead on this front is taken, at present, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his front and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on his. It can’t be missed that media seems dominated by headlines virtually shrieking – “Modi vs Rahul” almost as if the two were engaged in not just electoral contest, but a battle. Politically, yes, Lok Sabha polls cannot be viewed as nothing less than a political battle, even war, for the key parties and their leaders. But the present campaign certainly seems to be adding more heat to nature of Modi and Rahul’s verbal battle against each other.

Of course, they are not the only leaders on their respective fronts engaged in such campaign. But they are the ones gaining the maximum attention as well as media coverage. Seriously speaking, why would media and public give similar importance to such “news” if other leaders of the two parties- Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress – were engaged in similar strategies? Besides, political speeches of both seem to gain greater attention, become a little more interesting and of course are given substantial media coverage when each targets the other. Certainly, Modi is hardly ever devoid of media coverage but there is no doubt that his “anti-Rahul/Congress” seem to be given greater importance. This probably reflects on perhaps the nature of similar “marketing” strategy being exercised by Modi as well as Rahul to assure that they gain substantial media coverage and also attract people’s attention. Sounds paradoxical, but this appears to be key focus of their politicking at present. Chances of either gaining the same attention and importance, by targeting someone else in their rival camps are apparently viewed as limited by both. Without doubt, Modi has always been a master strategist at this art of communication. Rahul is definitely trying his hand or rather political style at this and is doing better than probably he himself thought he would ever.   

So, as their pictures and media images suggest, the political fight is between 73-year old Modi and 53-year old Rahul. Perhaps, one shouldn’t give too much importance to the age difference between the two. Certain moves tried by Modi in recent past clearly indicate this. These include the nature of his prayer services at Ayodhya Ram Temple, snorkeling in Lakshadweep and most recently – scuba diving in Arabian Sea off the Gujarat coast to offer underwater prayers at ancient city of Dwarka. The underlying messages cannot be missed. He is as physically fit as fifty-year olds and the younger ones. Secondly, he doesn’t tire but gains spiritual peace by nature of his prayer services even if it demands scuba-diving and moves he engaged in at Ayodhya. Not much can be said about Rahul on this front. But now and then, images of his skiing, swimming, jogging and of course that of his political marches have surfaced.   

Socially and politically, though Modi appears to be “single,” officially – as reports indicate, he declared his marital status as married in the affidavit filed before Election Commission in 2014 while submitting his nomination papers for Vadodara Lok Sabha seat in Gujarat. He gave his wife’s name as Jashodaben. The two reportedly had an arranged marriage in 1968 but Modi didn’t want it to continue. However, legally, they weren’t divorced but have remained separated. Since Modi became the Prime Minister, Jashodaben has been given security cover. However, details of why has she received this have not been revealed to her even though she has tried seeking information about this. On her part, she is reportedly willing to come to him, if Modi asks her to. She is a retired school teacher who receives media coverage now and then as Modi’s “estranged” wife.

Rahul is still a bachelor legally, socially and politically. Though reports have been floated about perhaps his having a “secret” wife, a girl friend but without any proof. But yes, he is certainly considered an “eligible bachelor,” rather among the “most eligible” as per media reports.   

If their political battle did not receive hype as Modi vs Rahul, one may not have been tempted to deliberate a little on these features about these two leaders. Given the importance the two seem to be giving to their “images” for the public and media, it is pertinent to consider the same from all possible angles. Where personal wealth is concerned, both Modi and Rahul are crorepatis, with the latter’s assets being more. Appearance wise, Modi has a set hair-style and beard with hardly even a hair out of place. The reverse is the case with Rahul. At times, he is seen with a large beard, fairly wild, unruly hairstyle and sometimes he is clean-shaved with neatly combed hair.

With respect to communication skills, undeniably, Modi’s team has played a major role in promoting his image to secure support for him from perhaps thousands, even lakhs of Modi-bhakts (Modi-followers). Individually, Modi’s personal communication with public as well as media has not been accorded much importance by his team. On his part, through his yatras (marches), Rahul has succeeded in building a fairly positive image of himself compelling even his strong rivals to stop making fun of him as they did earlier. Individually, he has command over communicating well at various levels, in public, with media and so forth. Of course, electoral success of both is least likely to be influenced by images they promote of themselves, whether through scuba-diving, yatras or otherwise. Besides, whatsoever and however loud the noise be about Modi vs Rahul battle, the same has limitations.  Democratically, the final decision rests with voters, only of course if the same is not manipulated and/or tampered with illegally. It is to be watched, whether democratic ethics take the lead or not from counting of votes to the stage of results’ declaration!

Nilofar Suhrawardy is a senior journalist and writer with specialization in communication studies and nuclear diplomacy. She has come out with several books. These include:– Modi’s Victory, A Lesson for the Congress…? (2019); Arab Spring, Not Just a Mirage! (2019), Image and Substance, Modi’s First Year in Office (2015) and Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp, In the Name of Indian Secularism (2006).    

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