Social media can be a wonderful, alternate reality

Rahul’s tweets have tadka but 2019 needs a solid main course Write for TOI Blogs
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Social media can be a wonderful, alternate reality. One of the key topics of discussion lately among those who track Indian politics (please don’t track politics too much, get a life) is this: Is Rahul Gandhi back?
There seems to be a new zing in his tweets and statements about the government, particularly PM Modi. It is like someone took boiled daal and gave it a tadka. His lines are spicier (or more entertaining), which in turn makes them more viral. Google, and you will find many examples.

Here are some: On GST: “Congress GST = Genuine Simple Tax. Modi ji’s GST = Gabbar Singh Tax” On chopping anti-GST dialogues from Tamil film Mersal: “Mr Modi, cinema is a deep expression of Tamil culture and language. Don’t try to demon-etize Tamil pride by interfering in Mersal.” On Jay Shah preventing a news website from publishing more stories: “State legal help for Shah-Zada! Why this, why this Kolaveri Da?”
Rahul’s doing a ton of rallies in poll-bound Gujarat and Himachal, where he takes on the PM with more gusto than before. His campus and NRI events in the US were widely covered and well received.
Does all this mean the Congress is having a revival? Should BJP and Modi be worried? Is Rahul the next Prime Minister?
Breathe. Before we start polishing the crown for Rahul Gandhi, let us try to understand what is going on, and if at all Rahul has a chance in 2019 (because that is what finally matters, right?).
Three factors seem to be at play.

First, the Modi government has been around long enough to be judged and even justifiably criticized on a few things. The honeymoon/nayi bahu stage is over. Two years ago, any criticism of Modi was seen as a case of sour grapes, particularly when it came from the Congress. Today, some of that criticism is seen as valid. So when Rahul says it now, it resonates a bit more. The questionable benefits of demonetization, or the complications created by the GST are just two examples, which have been pointed out by many apolitical observers as well. Little surprise that Rahul speaks about these two issues the most, where he feels he has listeners.
However, the point to note is that even if many Indians are unhappy with these policies, few doubt the positive intentions behind them.

The government announced major GST changes on Friday, which should alleviate some grudges against it. Will Rahul now have something new to say?
The second factor at play is the great Indian quality of forgiveness. Millions of voters seethed in anger as they voted out the scam-ridden Congress in 2014. However, enough time has passed. Indians are often happy to wipe their memory drives of past sins. The anger against Congress has somewhat subsided, and Rahul is benefiting.

People are finally able to listen to him without being instantly reminded of the CWG and 2G scams.
The third factor is the desire for the anti-BJP, anti-Modi camp to have someone to root for. Nitish has gone to the BJP side. The Yadavs, both in UP and Bihar, have their own problems. Mamata di has not grown beyond Bengal. And Mr Kejriwal has decided to finally focus on Delhi and not use his tweets as a venting mechanism against Modi.

So who takes on Modi? Rahul is the only flickering ray of hope for those who oppose BJP and Modi. In fact, even many who are not anti-BJP realise the need for a strong opposition in India. They do not mind Rahul’s rise just so the government has more accountability. The one-sided power skew is already causing concerns of media-gags and autocratic governance.

So if Rahul’s rise helps check that, why not allow it to happen?
These three factors probably have more to do with Rahul’s raised profile this year than Rahul himself. His attacks have become sharper, perhaps encouraged by the circumstances.

But, the question still remains: is this good enough for 2019? Frankly, the answer right now is no. The odds against him remain solid. Incumbent Modi is seen as a doer and perceived to be more in sync with the average Indian.

Rahul is seen as a symbol of dynastic politics (even though he isn’t the only dynast politician). At present, many aren’t even sure if his newfound energy is here to stay. He has still to prove his credentials, whether in terms of leading his party to a big victory or in stellar governance.
Rahul makes headlines today mainly because of his sharp attacks on Modi.

This may help for a while, but eventually he will need more substance to say his own story. He will have to convince India about what he plans to do differently from Modi, and how it will be better for India. Spicy tweets are a good snack to begin with, but eventually people will want a more substantial main course.

Author Chetan Bhagat is a bestselling author and a popular newspaper columnist. Chetan Bhagat is a bestselling author and a popular newspaper columnist. From around the web More from The Times of India Recommended By Colombia More from The Times of India Recommended By Colombia.

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