This is a part of a series where we pick data from the MTS Election Tracker, crunch numbers and build a graphical representation of them. We have used Konnect Social to track the data along with support from our knowledge partner, Social Rajneeti. Read other articles about Election tracker here.
Poster boy for the Congress, champion for inclusive politics, ‘crown prince’ of India’s most powerful political dynasty…a trail of titles follow Rahul Gandhi wherever he goes and whatever he chooses to say, or not.
Rahul’s rise has been interesting, mainly because one wonders how much he really wants to be at the helm of Indian politics. His speeches, his now-infamous interview with Arnab Goswami all hint at a man who would rather be almost anywhere else. A do-gooder in principle, but not really a go-getter. Little wonder, for as successful as the Rahul’s family has been in politics, it has also been touched by tragedy, time and again, with both Rahul’s father and grandmother having been assassinated.
Maybe that’s why Rahul’s presence on social media is almost negligible. As a leader of the Congress’ youth wing and as a fairly young (for Indian politics) politician himself, one would think Rahul would have harnessed the power of Facebook groups and Twitter handles. After all, what better way to engage with youth than to use their means of communication.
Sadly, this doesn’t look to be Rahul’s way. While BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is storming the digital space, and even Arvind Kejriwal has notched up nearly two lakh followers, Rahul has sidelined the entire social media space. He does not have an official Facebook group or a Twitter handle, and seems unperturbed by this. Is this part of a larger strategy, or is he simply not interested. Let’s take a closer look at his social media status.
As the keywords’ box signifies, the online terms associated most frequently with Rahul are ‘BJP’ ‘Modi’ ‘Smriti Irani’ and so on. This means Rahul is most often discussed in relation to the opposition, which is not surprising since he and Modi have been having quite the taunt –match.
While there are a few ‘Rahul Rahul’ groups and communities, none serve as the Congress Vice-President’s official mouthpiece. These groups have a good number of followers, but live updates are rare, and they end up being more an online archive of Rahul’s life and background, than his current political standing, which are things easily found on Wikipedia anyway.
If nearly 1.5 lakh people are following these groups, imagine the number that an official Rahul Gandhi Facebook page could attract. Maintaining a Facebook page isn’t that much work and Rahul could definitely use some help with his communication and accessibility.
What is good news is that the Indian National Congress maintains an official Facebook page where Rahul’s political whereabouts are regularly updated. His entire campaign trail is documented here, with plenty of photos and information. With nearly 2.9 lakh followers, the INC page is certainly not short of attention.
However, Rahul still definitely needs to work on his Facebook skills as he doesn’t figure in the numbers at all.
This sphere of the social media is as quick and immediate as it gets, but unfortunately, Rahul hasn’t caught the wave. An article on livemint.com titled ‘Will Rahul Gandhi join Twitter soon?’ on February 4, raised hopes that he might get a Twitter handle, but it doesn’t seem to have materialized yet. In any case, several people hinted that it might be too late anyway, given that Narendra Modi has been the darling of Twitter since he joined in 2009. However, Rahul may want to give Twitter some serious thought as it is an ideal platform for conversation and discussion, as many politicos have found out. His absence in this sector is rather glaringly obvious.
Rahul’s mentions on Twitter aren’t exactly flattering. Following his disastrous interview with Arnab Goswami earlier this year, the Tweetosphere exploded with #ArnabvsRahul jokes, none of them very complimentary towards RaGa.
Once again though, the Indian National Congress comes to the rescue. Their Twitter page is nearly as prolific as the Facebook one, with 1.68 lakh followers. Here too, Rahul is on prominent display, with links to his interviews and updates of his campaign trail, along with #WeLoveRahul and #RagaSaga doing the rounds.
Another positive sign is that quite a few Rahul Gandhi fan groups have sprung up on Twitter. What the man himself is not doing, his supporters are clearly happy to do for him. Pages such as Rahul Gandhi FN (@BeWithRG) and Rahul Gandhi (@rahulgandhi2020) have 7.61 lakh and 5.46 lakh followers respectively, and are fairly active and updated. What is missing is live chat and direct access to Rahul himself.
In March this year, Rahul held a Google Hangouts video session with Congress party workers across India. This was one of the rare occasions he engaged in direct communication with workers or supporters. Rahul has some sort of presence on Google Plus. Videos of his speeches have been uploaded, but there are no recent updates which shows the site has not been active. More videos, news updates etc would be welcome, and also, some sort of a forum where workers and supporters can reach him. This page currently has around 700 followers, a small number for a PM aspirant.
The Indian National Congress channel seems to be fairly active on Youtube, which is a good sign. Many of Rahul’s recent speeches have been uploaded, and many have been live-streamed – that’s quite a step up. Viewers however seem more interested in watching Rahul dance around Arnab Goswami’s mosquito-like questions (that interview has over 25 lakh views), than watching his rallies or speeches, which get a maximum of 5,000 views.
Other social media
Rahul is not on Pinterest, Tumblr or Stumbleupon, which is hardly a surprise. If the primary social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter are of so little interest to him, the secondary ones are not to be expected. There are plenty of cartoons and jokes on him up on Pinterest, but no word from the man himself.
There was a fair bit of negativity around Rahul in the last week, with 29 less-than flattering mentions of him going out in the media. Most of this revolved around Rahul’s attack on Modi and his (newfound) marital status, which most deemed as too personal to be a part of politics. With 8.5 per cent negativity and most people content to remain neutral, positive reinforcements of Rahul stand at a paltry 2.4%.
However, most of the sentiment stirred up by Rahul seems to be lukewarm. He’s had 35 mentions in the Times of India, of which 28 have been neutral. The Times of India has however, also carried the most number of negative mentions of Rahul, followed by Hindustan Times and The Economic Times. Zee News, IBN and VOA News have been kinder, each carrying three positive mentions of Rahul. With the Modi-Rahul war, and now the Zee News article ‘Arun Jaitley asks Rahul about illicit relation of Congress men’, mentions of Rahul online are certainly heating up.
Rahul’s social media strategy seems much like his political career, propped up by other people, with a little help from his ready smile. The Congress’ biggest weakness has too often been leaders who fail to engage with the people, and Rahul, for all his promises of inclusiveness, continues to remain remote and aloof. Perhaps knowing you’re political royalty merely by dint of your name does that to you. However, if he is to be a real leader, Rahul would do well to step up on his social media strategy and reach out to the people in as many ways as possible. Who knows, he may even start to enjoy politics that way.
Rahul Gandhi has continued to be in the news for more reasons than one; may it be his speeches, laughable or otherwise, or just his social standing as the freshest descendant of the Gandhi family. He initially made headlines with his visits to Dalit family homes and other such attention grabbing activities.
Yet, the man continues to be shy of conversing with the masses on a larger scale than a rally or a Google Hangout. Seems like he is conscious of maintaining a prolonged and sustainable dialogue owing to his foot-in-the-mouth fetish.
If the blue-eyed boy really wants to make a mark as a youth leader, he needs to realise the power of social media, sooner than later. To wrap up the verdict, the Gandhi family is staying out of the party being thrown in their name and causing some much-deserved dismay among the attendees.