Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Monday delivered a stern message to party spokespersons: Don’t go beyond the party line and keep the debate dignified and decent.
Inaugurating a two-day workshop of Congress spokespersons, he exhorted them to be alert to social media and use it as an effective tool of communication in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The party’s communication department had set up a special desk at the venue —Jawahar Bhavan — to help less internet-savvy spokespersons open accounts on Twitter and Facebook. Around 300 delegates are attending the conclave.
Gandhi asked spokespersons not to speak in different voices — a perception the party is trying to overcome. He emphasised on positive politics. He spoke extempore in Hindi and took a few questions as well. He urged his party to “effectively counter lies with truth and facts”, which many spokespersons interpreted as a reference to Gujarat chief minister and BJP campaign committee head Narendra Modi’s development claims.
Gandhi made it clear that the leadership will take note of those speaking in different voices and violating the party line.
“You may have individual views but as Congress spokespersons and panelists, you have to speak in one voice and follow the party ideology,” a spokesperson quoted him as saying.
For those participating in TV debates and discussions, he had a piece of advice — be careful with your words and keep the language decent as you belong to the party of Mahatma Gandhi. “Be polite but firm and don’t stoop to the levels of your counterparts,” another spokesperson quoted him as saying.
Soon after Gandhi left, the workshop saw Congress ministers, including P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh, educating the spokespersons on Indian economy and major reforms such as FDI.
The ministers also talked about key welfare schemes such as the highly-publicised food security law, which, along with the direct benefit transfer, is billed as a game changer for 2014 elections.
The second half of the day was spent mainly in fine-tuning party’s strategy to counter Modi’s social media blitzkrieg and grabbing headlines through controversial statements.
A participant referred to Modi’s “paid digital army”, which, he said, goes all out to build his image and propagate his “so-called achievements”. The delegate in his presentation showed how a bus rapid transit system in China was claimed as Gujarat’s and the entire content had been uploaded from Thiruvananthapuram.
Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhwadia was the only state leader allowed to speak at the conclave. He referred to his party’s campaign in 2012 assembly elections and stressed the need to counter the “lies” and development claims propagated by Modi and his social media team.
“If these lies are not countered, people start believing them,” he said.