Weeks after Rahul Gandhi met with Congress spokespersons and told them to be vocal and fearless in taking on opponents, the BJP’s campaign committee chief Narendra Modi sent out a similar message to his party’s media brigade on Saturday.
In a meeting in Delhi, he told spokespersons and media cell officials not to be defensive and to corner the Congress on its nine years of “misrule”. The government was trying to divert attention from its failures and the BJP ought not to fall in the trap, he said.
He also told them to do their homework properly on an issue before going to a media debate. “Don’t just go because you are called,” he said.
Citing the example of his recent Hyderabad rally — in which he was accused of imitating US President Barack Obama when he said ‘We can and we will’ — Modi said his thorough homework helped him come up with evidence that he first used the expression in 2004, much before Obama’s rise. The party’s other top leaders emphasised that all media platforms — television, newspapers and the social media — need to be extensively used to attack the Congress. Rahul Gandhi had similarly called upon his party to expand its social media presence. There is a perception that Modi is far more active on this platform than Gandhi, who does not have a Twitter handle yet.
Sushma Swaraj said that while being firm, party leaders should exercise restraint in their language. Party chief Rajnath Singh praised spokespersons for not uttering a single word that needed retraction, while Arun Jaitley said the BJP did not suffer from a leadership crisis like the Congress.
On the sidelines of the meet, party leaders discussed Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s calling Modi “Gangu Teli” — which, they said, was a slur on his Ghanchi/Teli caste. Soon after, party spokespersons Shahnawaz Hussain and Nirmala Sitharaman condemned the remark and demanded an apology.
Azad’s comment also gave the BJP ammunition to paint the Congress as “anti-OBC” and tacitly market Modi’s caste status while not making it an overt issue.