Being on message
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Congress plans to be quicker on the draw. Effective communication requires its top leaders to talk more
Rahul Gandhi, vice-president and apparently strategist-in-chief of the Congress, has taken it upon himself to get the party on top of the news cycle. He has finalised the setting up of groups to track developments realtime, formulate political strategy and then "seed the print, social and electronic media with the party view". The fact that the Congress has woken up to the need to be responsive, and urgently so, is welcome. For one of India's national parties, especially one that leads the ruling coalition, to shake itself out of complacency in terms of reacting to the events and debates of the day is a healthy development. However, immediacy alone is not enough. For the strategy to deepen the back-and-forth between political parties into constructive debate, which would not only clarify political choices before voters but also aid enlightened articulation of crucial issues, it must be founded on greater and more sustained openness of the party's top leadership to public interaction.
By all accounts, the Congress reading of being outflanked by its political rivals — to the detriment of its image as a party in touch with Indian aspiration — rests on its perception of being innocent of the ability to spin popular chatter. That is true to a large extent. For instance, the party has still not been able to find an appropriate way of speaking for its government as well as the UPA coalition, on whose performance voters will make a choice. But to be effective, and for it to pay dividends, the party's media strategy must factor in another question. Is it by inadvertent design that the party does not take a clear view of issues in the public domain? There is, for instance, a firm impression that the party is not inclined to take a strict line on its leaders — read loyalists — exerting themselves to make sure that the big issues and strategies remain unsettled, so that they can keep themselves relevant by spooking their colleagues in government. For the media plan to be effective, these shenanigans must go.
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