In a single tweet, Rahul poured scorn on several Modi catchphrases, about being a watch guard; about neither eating (taking bribes) nor letting anyone eat.
Illustration by Siddhant Jumde
As early as September last year, while campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi spoke exclusively to this correspondent on his tour bus. He was talking about how the much-vaunted strategist Prashant Kishor’s job was to execute plans made by the party. Asked if Kishor was then just an event manager, Rahul shot back, “No, no, that’s the prime minister.” It was a dig at PM Narendra Modi’s reputation for showbiz razzmatazz over substance, but the sort of wit Rahul mostly kept under wraps.
Even back in 2014, when asked by journalists in Guwahati about his marriage plans, he had joked, “Don’t worry, you won’t find out about my wife when I turn 65,” a reference to Modi’s secretiveness about his marriage. But in the last couple of months, Rahul is showing more of his personality and it’s taking social media by storm. His Twitter following has grown by 1 million in just weeks, in the run-up to the Gujarat assembly elections in December, and Rahul now frequently tweets himself rather than relying on his social media team.
As a result, his confidence is growing. On October 14, for instance, when the US president tweeted about developing a “much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders”, Rahul was quick to goad the prime minister: “Modi ji quick; looks like President Trump needs another hug”. On the morning of October 16, the day Modi was to address massive rallies in Gujarat, Rahul warned voters to expect a “jumlon ki baarish”, a rain of rhetoric. He was equally quick to respond to a story about Amit Shah’s son Jay’s remarkable capacity to generate revenue in a single financial year. “Modi ji,” Rahul tweeted, “Jay Shah ‘zaada’ kha gaya. Aap chowkidar the ya bhagidar? Kuchh to boliye”, asking the prime minister if he was standing watch over the country or helping Jay loot it. In a single tweet, he poured scorn on several Modi catchphrases, about being a watch guard; about neither eating (taking bribes) nor letting anyone eat. He even managed a pun on the contemptuous ‘shehzada’ nickname that Amit Shah and Modi use for him.
Randeep Singh Surjewala, the Congress communication in-charge, and Divya Spandana, chosen by Rahul to head the party’s social media and digital strategy, deserve credit for the turnaround in the party’s online presence. Spandana, an actress better known as Ramya, has had a galvanising effect on the party’s young social media team. The party handle has added 750,000 followers since May for a total of 2.75 million. The BJP has over 7 million. Maybe Rahul’s sharper bite will help narrow the gap.