Rahul Gandhi learns from Modi: promise first, promise big
It wasn't that long ago that when it came to politics, Rahul Gandhi was considered a lost cause. And with good reason. His list of blunders is long. Yet, as of today, while not everyone might have changed their opinion about him, his improvement as an opposition leader is becoming difficult to ignore.
This has happened in just a year or so. Ever since he took over as Congress president from his mother, Sonia Gandhi. Though he has clearly been helped by mistakes made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, his newfound ability to drive the political narrative has been the big change.
Surprisingly, he seems to have learnt his lessons from Modi.
As can be seen by Rahul's first strikes in the form of big promises, as was done by the prime minister on the 2014 campaign trail (well documented 'election jumlas').
Rahul's Minimum Income Guarantee promise for the poor if his party comes to power, is just the latest example of this. While Modi government had discussed a Universal Basic Income a few years ago, no movement on it so far has handed Rahul the first mover's advantage and leaving the government to play catch-up.
But this by no means is the first time he has blind-sided Modi or his BJP. He was on the ground as farmer unrest gripped Madhya Pradesh. He followed this up with the promise of waving farm loans in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, if his party defeated the ruling BJP in the upcoming assembly elections. It did and he delivered. Leaving the saffron party reeling from losses in three states it had almost whitewashed in the last Lok Sabha elections.
These have gone hand in hand with Rahul's adoption of a 'soft-Hindutva' approach (even if it goes against the Congress' grain) following the unprecedented consolidation of the Hindu vote by Modi. Taking away a stick that the BJP used continuously to beat the grand old party with, especially in north-central India's Hindi Belt since 2014.
All this has ensured that the Modi-government can be targeted for its perceived 'corrupt and 'anti-poor' policies meant for the benefits of just the 'rich'. The exact attack employed by Modi, on the Congress, five years ago.
Plus last year gave another example of a lesson the Congress-scion learnt from Modi. Forming governments at the state level even when it was perceived to have had lost the election. His party formed the Karnataka government as part of an alliance with an opponent, similar to tactics employed by BJP in Goa.
Although time will tell if all these translate into seats, the perception that he is gaining momentum is quite real. Shown by surveys ahead of elections pointing to a substantial increase in seats for the Congress with the NDA having trouble getting a majority.
And as things stand today, Rahul, once described by his opponents as a 'clown prince,' seems to have used candidate Modi's tricks to push the prime minister on the back foot. A big change in a year's time.