The Modi-Rahul face off is a festival of democracy in the upcoming electoral contest of 2014. The Battle of the “Bachelors” – Rahul Gandhi vs Narendra Modi is a vibrant fight. Pappu vs Chappan, RaGa vs Namo, Yuvraj vs Hindu Hriday Samrat: are the political wars on social media that has caught frenzied attention among the youth.
In an era of advertising and promotion, there is conceivably no social group as attractive as the urban ‘youth’ brand and their culture. And now, in the game of thrones, it is this pervasive youth factor which is likely to play a bigger role than ever before.
The 2014 general elections will be the first to have India’s post liberalisation generation exercise their franchise. The post-1991 babies have grown up. It is predicted that the number of first-time voters – between the age of 18 and 23 – will be around a 110 million of the 800 million eligible voters, a generation which is aggressive, aspirational and consumerist.
In an ideal scenario, 43-year-old Rahul Gandhi should have been the amulet of this new India, and not a 62-year-old Narendra Modi. In fact, Modi is the one politician who has understood the needs of a society defined by the communication and information revolution.
The Gandhi’s remain superciliously in solitary confinement and hardly ever brings voters into confidence. But Modi always seeks out newer audiences and his social media outreach is challenging. In different venues Modi markets his development record.
Rahul is younger, English-speaking, telegenic and tech-friendly. And yet, as most recent youth surveys suggest, it is Modi who is the favourite of the young Indians. Where has Modi succeeded over Rahul in attracting younger India?
In 2007, Rahul was appointed Congress general secretary in charge of the Youth Congress and its students’ wing. The promise was that Rahul would change youth politics, and, essentially, ‘democratise’ the youth institutions. Though he succeeded in energizing and holding elections to the youth bodies, but he failed in actually breaking down the dynastical politics within the Congress. More importantly, Rahul has failed to throw up a big idea that would make him predominantly attractive to teenage India.
It is indecorous to be anonymous in Parliament, give no interviews, rarely address press conferences, not have a twitter or Facebook account and then expect to reach out to a highly interactive generation which thrives on constant communication.
This is where Modi has marched in to fill the vacuum left by the Congress youth icon. Modi has made a sensible attempt at interacting with young India. Be it a Google Hangout or a Twitter account with regular updates and addressing students, Modi has almost been like a Shah Rukh Khan on a 24 x7 Chennai Express promotional overdrive in seeking young audiences. The winner of the next elections will not be decided by who has more followers on twitter but by who offers a better dream for the nation’s future.
The post-1991 kids don’t want to feel a sense of guilt at past failures or even present inequities. They are looking for a political leadership which promises quick fix, solutions to age old problems: corruption, red-tapism, unemployment, even terrorism and Pakistan by simply a swish of the hand. With the computer as his weapon, Rahul offers the seductive big idea of technology as an agent of change while Modi is offering his personality as a symbol of change.
Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi taken together illustrate India to be a political miracle. Two opposing personalities, as well as the range of other political options on display, show that the voter in India has a huge choice. Just like a good cricket match, it is uncertain which team will win. Let’s wait and watch.