Why Rahul's makeover videos are fine, but lack punch

Amitabh Tiwari
·Columnist
·4-min read

Rahul Gandhi, in a new avatar, has launched a video series where he is sharing his thoughts on ‘current affairs, history and crises’.

He recently tweeted that this is to counter ‘a hate-filled narrative being spread by television channels, WhatsApp forwards and fake news’.

The series -- named ‘The Truth’ -- has generated considerable buzz on social media. The four videos released till date have 2 lakh views on his YouTube channel and 7.3 million views on Twitter.

Let’s start with the good things about the series:

  • Rahul has shown courage and purpose by taking on Prime Minister Narenda Modi, thus subliminally hinting that he is the only real challenger to the prime minister (apparently to shut up critics who doubt his seriousness).

  • The video format is of short duration, which can be easily consumed and forwarded on social media channels and online messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp.

  • He speaks directly and to the point in the videos: no beating around the bush.

However, there are still many issues with this series, which are hampering its impact on the populace.

  • The language chosen is English. Only 10% of the Indian population speaks English (first, second and third language speakers as per Census 2011). This means he is excluding a large section of the population which will not understand what he is talking about. If people don’t understand, they won’t appreciate the effort. Correct feedback then won’t reach Rahul. This largely restricts the audience to the urban population.

  • The first series of videos is on the India-China standoff. Defence is a complicated topic which many people do not readily associate with. When the country is grappling with a lockdown amid the pandemic, people are caught up with their lives and livelihood issues.

  • China is fast emerging as the Rafale 2.0 moment for Rahul. He continued his tirade against Modi 1.0 by raising the Rafale issue when polls showed this wasn’t the burning issue in the country. This has led to the isolation of the party for targetting the prime minister on national security matters amidst the border standoff, when most parties are supporting the government.

So why is Rahul repeating his mistakes?

Rahul is surrounded by people who are like him, born with a silver spoon, educated overseas or in top Indian institutions, who don't have the pulse of the real India, rural India. They think like urbanites. Nearly two-thirds of our population lives in rural India where roti-kapda-makan is the burning issue. These issues have been further aggravated by COVID-19.

They are more worried about where the next meal will come from and not if China has occupied Indian territory or not. But since Rahul and his advisors have never had to go to bed without food and water even for a day, they will not understand this.

Rahul or his team do not seem to have had any consultations with the Old Guard on these videos. According to an NDTV report, a Congress loyalist said: “He does not talk to us and we have no idea who is advising him.”

Team Sonia is reportedly of the opinion that Rahul Gandhi’s comments on China lack depth. Resultantly, the party looks divided. The entire party doesn’t participate in these campaigns and thus they are unable to create the desired impact.

Sonia, Priyanka and Rahul all have separate teams in the Congress. There is little coordination among these teams and thus their attacks lack punch. The party is seen taking three different routes. For amplification, everybody needs to be on the same page with respect to strategy to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Suggestions to improve videos

Rahul should use Hindi as 57% of the population speaks the language (first, second and third language speakers as per Census 2011). Why does Narednra Modi, who belongs to Gujarat, make his speeches in Hindi? That is because it helps him connect with the largest mass of the population. Gujarat, along with southern and north eastern states, has the least proportion of people who speak Hindi. Still he made an effort and learnt it.

Rahul should speak about bread and butter issues which touch the common man. He should corner the government on issues, like whether 80 crore people -- as promised by the prime minister -- have received ration or not?

Considering the corruption and leakages in the Indian system, it is a herculean task however honest the intentions.

This video barrage has been hailed by many political pundits as a ‘re-launch’ of Rahul. The young brigade in the Congress is demanding Rahul be reinstated as party president. The chorus is growing louder by the day.

Will this video series lift the prospects of the Congress party and of Rahul Gandhi? Only time will tell.

But , meanwhile, he needs to seriously course-correct and adapt the video series to reach his views to most people. Only then will ‘truth’ prevail.