NaMo up against new RaGa ~ kalyani shankar
With Assembly polls to five states nearing, the campaign is picking up as the BJP and the Congress face direct fights. In fact, these can be a dress rehearsal for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP&’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and the Congress campaign coordinator Rahul Gandhi will show their campaigning skills in the next few weeks. The contrast is startling.  While NA MO (Narendra Modi) believes in showmanship, RA GA (Rahul Gandhi) is reticent to be even named as the Congress&’s prime ministerial hopeful. The present shadow boxing gives one a glimpse of what is to come in the coming weeks and months before the final show down.
What are the things required for a victory in the polls? Personality, campaign style, money and cadre. Modi is a showman and believes in the “I, me, myself” strategy. He has perfected the art of projecting himself as the only man who counts in the party in Gujarat, which is now being extended to the national level. He believes that his larger than life image and a personality cult will see him through the polls.
You can expect new theatrics and most modern techniques used by the Modi campaign in the weeks to come. He has already perfected the art of using 3D rallies in Gujarat campaign. True to his authoritarian nature, he tries to overshadow the other BJP leaders at public meetings and rallies. Look at what happened in his Jaipur rally recently or the Rewari rally in Haryana. Since he could not avoid other leaders on the dais, the Modi sena was utilised to shout them down by chanting “Modi, Modi”; as a result, speeches of other leaders, including Vasundhara Raje in Jaipur and the state unit president of Haryana in Rewari, were muffled. BJP ally Bishnoi was not even asked to speak at the Rewari rally. BJP insiders are claiming that Modi&’s proposed eight rallies in UP in the next few weeks will be solo shows.
The other interesting thing getting Muslims wearing burkha and skullcaps to his rallies. The Minority cell of the BJP has sent down instructions to target the backward Pasmanda Muslims. As one BJP leader has said, the poll strategy is to unite Hindus by means of polarisation and divide Muslims by wooing the backward Muslims.
As for cadres, Modi has the full backing of the RSS, whose foot soldiers are working full strength across the country. The RSS has realised that Modi is their hope. He is supplementing the RSS cadres by creating his own Modi sena, which is acting as the shouting brigade. Modi believes that his image as an administrator and Congress-bashing will get him votes, while Advani fears that Modi himself has become an issue and other issues are swept to the background.
Funds are no problem for Modi (and the BJP), as the corporate world is behind him. They would be happy to see him as the next prime minister as they would get preferential treatment not only in Gujarat but also in the rest of the country. Modi has also hired a big publicity firm from the US.
The Congress campaign led by Rahul Gandhi is quite different. This time, it is evident it is Rahul Gandhi and not Sonia Gandhi who is calling the shots. The action has now shifted to the Congress war room. Rahul has not been declared as the Prime Ministerial candidate, but he has no challengers. He was reticent but Modi had been aggressive even before he was nominated as the PM candidate.  The Gandhis are confused whether to attack Modi directly or to ignore him as they did in the Gujarat polls. They pretend that Modi is not their equal but they are dismayed at the way he is gaining ground. So of late, there is a shift in the strategy with Rahul challenging NA MO directly.
If Modi is depending on his personality cult, the Congress believes in the Gandhi family magic. Its campaign is not a solo show; the main campaigners will be the mother and son duo, as it was during the 2004 and 2009 elections. Since the Prime Minister is becoming a liability for them, there would be a low-key projection of Manmohan Singh. Rahul is depending on the party&’s welfare measures like food security Act, MNREGA, Land Acquisition Bill and Aadhaar card for dong a hat-trick.
The Congress is not a cadre-based party but it has a pan India appeal that is an advantage. The party is trying to pull up its socks and show a united face by patching up differences in various states. Efforts are also on to woo some allies. Rahul is trying to pick up youngsters in the 20-25 year age group who would be an asset for the future. As of now, the party is yet to get strengthened at the grassroots and also needs to activate booth committees. Rahul is working with a corporate style as aspirants have to fill up a five-page questionnaire before getting a ticket.
Rahul&’s team consists of a few young backroom boys stationed at its war room in Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Marg. This includes Kanishk Singh, Mohan Gopal, K S Byju, Sachin Rao and K Raju. Funds are no problem for the Congress, as it is not only ruling at the Centre but also in 14 states. In fact, money may flow in for both the BJP and the Congress.
The results of the ensuing Assembly polls are important for both parties. These would set the tone for the 2014 polls.  If they retain what they have, both parties would have a face-saving result.