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Bharat Jodo Yatra and Brand RaGa: Will India see a Rahul 2.0 before 2024?

With the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi is trying to shed his past image, says experts

By  Tasmayee Laha RoyDec 6, 2022 10:58 AM
Bharat Jodo Yatra and Brand RaGa: Will India see a Rahul 2.0 before 2024?
For Rahul Gandhi, in many ways, the Bharat Jodo Yatra is a discovery of India. For some reason the Gandhi scion has always had an elitist, touch-me-not image. The Yatra will surely give him more mass appeal and make him more familiar. Image source: bharatjodoyatra.in

Maybe Pappu can’t dance... But he sure can walk. And this walk is taking brand RaGa places. Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Joro Yatra is not just a political walk strategised to revive the Congress but also a clear step towards reenergising brand Rahul Gandhi.

Experts suggest that the 3,500 km walk over 150 days between Kanyakumari and Jammu and Kashmir, covering 12 states, might be rooting for causes like unemployment, inflation, violence against minorities and women, but what it is also doing is creating a snowballing impact on the voter’s perception of brand Rahul Gandhi.

“For Rahul Gandhi, in many ways, the Bharat Jodo Yatra is a discovery of India. For some reason the Gandhi scion has always had an elitist, touch-me-not image. The Yatra will surely give him more mass appeal and make him more familiar,” said Dr Sandeep Goyal, CEO, Rediffusion.

Shedding the ‘Pappu’ image

The term Pappu was used to mock Rahul Gandhi by a senior opposition leader in the runup to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The name stuck, adversely impacting Gandhi’s image in the overall scheme of things, be it political or simply on social media platforms.

“With the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi is certainly trying to establish a clean break from his past image,” says Vishal Nicholas, EVP, brand strategy (South), Dentsu Creative India.

For Rahul Gandhi, in many ways, the Bharat Jodo Yatra is a discovery of India. For some reason the Gandhi scion has always had an elitist, touch-me-not image. The Yatra will surely give him more mass appeal and make him more familiar,” said Dr Sandeep Goyal, CEO, Rediffusion.

“Starting with his appearance — from his suave, almost baby-faced look to this bearded, grizzled look of a veteran, Rahul seems to be projecting a new language of masculinity, experience and that of being battle-hardened and almost hermit-like,” Nicholas added.

Through the physical scale of the Yatra according to Nicholas, Rahul Gandhi is once again attempting to cast himself and the Congress party at a national level, something the Congress has been struggling to do.

Digital amplification

Anybody that has political interests fed into their social media algorithm is bound to chance upon feeds from the congress party filled with images and videos of Rahul Gandhi on his Yatra. The social media boost is helping Gandhi in garnering more views, increasing engagement and above all creating recall.

“Recall is only good when it is contextual and relevant. When India sees Rahul Gandhi’s pictures in media/social media, the adjectives that come to mind are youthful, genuine, positive. The images of Rahul Gandhi walking, holding hands, hugging and smiling with people from all walks of life, is seeping into the minds of hearts of those viewing these pictures. It shows him as a benign, caring leader, who genuinely wants to ‘jodo’ India, making his image sharply contrast with other politicians,” says N Chandramouli, chief executive officer (CEO) of Mumbai-based brand intelligence and advisory firm TRA Research.

The appearance of RaGa’s images on social media, however, is not purely algorithm driven. The congress party has been generously spending to market and promote the campaign.

"With the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi is certainly trying to establish a clean break from his past image,” says Vishal Nicholas, EVP, brand strategy (South), Dentsu Creative India.

Per the Meta Ad Library report, the Indian National Congress has spent around Rs 65.67 lakhs on Rahul Gandhi’s Facebook page in the last ninety days. The party has also spent close to 100 ads on the platform for the official Bharat Jodo page. The spend on that page during the same period was close to Rs 23.43 lakh.

In the last three months, Facebook pages of Rahul Gandhi, the Indian National Congress and Bharat Jodo were among the highest spenders from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Telangana. All three states have already been covered by the Yatra.

Per Socialtracker, a platform that tracks the performance of social media influencers and brands, in November, Rahul Gandhi’s Twitteraudience grew by 0.03% per day and he saw 30.41 retweets per 100 likes whereas the average of similar accounts is 14.78 retweets per 100 likes.

On the other hand, the party also pushed their messaging through ads on traditional media. According to TAM, between September and November, the Congress party’s ad insertion share in the political ad category on television was 40%. In September when the Yatra started, the party’s ad insertion share went up to 64%.

Touch of influencer marketing

A part of the Yatra’s branding and packaging also includes celebrities. The presence of boxer Vijender Singh, actor Sushant Singh, Pooja Bhatt and Amol Palekar, Swara Bhasker, Akanksha Puri, Rashami Desai and others bring in the glam factor to the walk.

While the walk is yet to be joined by Bollywood A-listers, the mix of medium and macro influencers has added to the celeb mileage of the walk.

The images of Rahul Gandhi walking, holding hands, hugging and smiling with people from all walks of life, is seeping into the minds of hearts of those viewing these pictures. It shows him as a benign, caring leader, who genuinely wants to ‘jodo’ India, making his image sharply contrast with other politicians,” says N Chandramouli, chief executive officer (CEO) of Mumbai-based brand intelligence and advisory firm TRA Research.

Will an improved brand image help RaGa get votes?

The jury is out on whether RaGa’s new and improved brand image would translate into votes.

Chandramouli of TRA Research says it is only half time and by the time it's finished, the Bharat Jodo yatra has the potential to raise an alternative narrative among voters.

However, Rediffusion’s Goyal feels that while the campaign has created outreach, whether that will translate into votes is difficult to say.

First Published on Dec 6, 2022 1:30 AM