How the Indian National Congress is establishing its digital presence before the General Elections

The Indian National Congress (INC) is gearing up for the upcoming elections by leveraging social media and on-ground initiatives to rebuild its image and connect with younger voters. Through revamped marketing efforts, including a strong social media presence, humorous content, and highlighting key issues, the party aims to position itself as the primary opposition in the country. Here’s how it is executing it.

Harshal Thakur
New Update

Remember the BJP’s 2014 campaign? The campaign that made Prime Minister Narendra Modi a household name. You could find kids from the remotest part of the country and there’d be a high chance they would recall the name ‘Modi’ before any mainstream celebrity. That is what marketing coupled with organic charisma can do, especially when the marketing is meticulously planned and executed. And for political parties, winning elections boils down to visibility–no matter how good your policies or intentions are, if you are not visible in the public’s eye, you aren’t likely to secure winning margins.

The biggest democracy in the world is on the precipice of conducting its biggest elections: General Elections 2024. The preparations for this humongous event are already underway. Parties have pulled up their sleeves and marketing campaigns are in full swing.

In 2014, the BJP’s campaign brought in what was referred to as ‘Modi-Lehar’. And while social media was leveraged, the campaign involved on-ground activities with tremendous intensity. This in turn led to the BJP tapping into a major section of the Indian population that does not have access to the digital medium. This was a moment that brought to light the enormous potential of marketing for political parties. And although political campaigning has been happening for decades, this spotlighted how marketing can actually translate into a win for a party by building a nationwide narrative. 

Gearing up for the 2024 elections, parties have been placing emphasis on tapping into a younger demographic who are primarily digital natives. To amp up its presence on social media, all major parties have been engaging their followers on social media. One of the spearheads in this area has been the Indian National Congress (INC). 

Considering its current standing as the leading opposition in India, Congress is pulling in all stops to leverage social media’s pervasiveness among the youth of the country. Understanding that the party witnessed a setback in the last few years, Congress relied heavily on its communication to revive the party’s status as one of the frontrunners in the current political setup.

Here is a look at how the INC’s marketing strategy is establishing its presence before the elections: 

Rebuilding brand Congress

Overcoming the consecutive defeats that INC has witnessed at the hands of BJP, the party has put in significant efforts in its communication to build a stronger narrative. Efforts have been made to revamp Rahul Gandhi’s image as a serious leader with conviction to bring in a change. The appointment of Mallikarjun Kharge as the leader of the opposition in the parliament and as the President of the INC further helped the party’s optics.

However, to reposition the party more emphatically, the INC took long strides in its social media communication. The communication has been made more appealing to the sensibilities of Gen Z and millennials, and incorporation of a lot of trending elements has been emphasised. The party also positioned itself as a more trustworthy and connectable entity. The marketing strategy seems to have focused on building a humanised personality of the party–the way brands build personalities to consolidate communication on social media.

The social media strategy of the party seems to work well as it amasses a following of 3.9 million on Instagram, a 10.4 million following on X (Twitter), and 4.31 million subscribers on YouTube as well as 6.7 million followers on Facebook. Apart from this, Rahul Gandhi’s own YouTube channel has garnered 4.07 million followers thanks to the curated content shared by the leader. INC’s social media pages consistently provide content that is tailored according to the particular medium’s conventions and style.

Calling out the oppositions’ discrepancies   

With its recent communication, Congress has positioned itself lately as a party that asks questions and puts the ruling government on the spot with regard to its actions and policies–thus reinforcing its place as the leading opposition party in India. With this, the party aims to position itself as one taking a proactive stance that could enhance its credibility and support among the electorate. 

Through a combination of reels and static posts, the INC consistently highlights the ruling party's inconsistencies and advocates against injustices on Instagram. Embracing a revamped image, the party employs satire and cleverly juxtaposes trending meme templates to humorously critique the opposition. This approachable and authentic demeanour has resonated with the younger demographic, making the INC appear more relatable and genuine.

The INC’s social media strategy uses humour to connect with its target audience. It uses trending meme templates to appeal to the younger generation. Along with that, reels are routinely posted which feature audios that are viral and editing techniques that are more in line with the tastes of the younger demographic. Particularly on Instagram, the party uses an unhinged approach to stand out and make its content palatable for casual consumption. Through lighthearted content, it makes heavier political discourse more suitable for the ordinary social media user.  

Speaking about national issues

As with anti-incumbency, prolonged tenure in power often leads to a diminishing focus on the original campaign promises. A sense of complacency emerges, contributing to the removal of incumbent governments. This trend was observed in the 2014 ousting of the Congress party after its consecutive terms in office. Having been out of central power for nearly ten years, the party now aims to reinvigorate its sense of purpose and dedication to addressing pressing issues. The INC's marketing approach highlights the policies and reforms it would champion if elected into power.

Attempting to position itself as a proponent of democratic values, the marketing places significant emphasis on the party’s socialist endeavours highlighting its repurposed approach. The messaging on social media aims to portray the INC as a progressive and inclusive political force committed to the welfare of all sections of society. Key messaging themes often include social justice, economic development, secularism, and democratic values.

Congress’ plans and schemes for 2024 are highly publicised in its communication. The party has fully laid out plans to execute its strategies. Right from the beginning of the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, the INC has been emphasising the key areas of focus that it will be implementing in its manifesto. The communication prioritised these elements as Rahul Gandhi travelled through India as part of the expedition. Content was made around these focus areas ultimately leading to the official release of the INC’s manifesto. Released on April 5, 2024, the party’s manifesto focused on five “pillars of justice” (Yuva Nyay, Naari Nyay, Kisaan Nyay, Shramik Nyay and Hissedari Nyay) with 25 guarantees under them.  

Bharat Jodo Yatra and on-ground initiatives

The Bharat Jodo Yatra, organised by the INC and led by Rahul Gandhi, aimed to unite India–in the party’s words–against the ‘divisive politics’ of the ruling party. It covered 4,080 kilometers from Kanyakumari to Jammu and Kashmir over 150 days. It protested against fear-driven politics and economic injustices; and was a heavily publicised event. The movement saw the election of a new INC president and a significant victory in the 2022 Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly election. 

The aim behind this initiative was to bring in a proverbial renaissance of the party with the yatra seeming like a way of redemption. It was intended to reestablish Rahul Gandhi’s image as a ‘serious’ leader and the face of the opposition in India. The coverage of the expedition kept the INC in the news with emphasis being on Rahul Gandhi’s journey through India understanding the nuances of its regions and first-hand witnessing the issues surrounding the rural population of the country. This reinforced the socialist and democratic intentions of the party which would be contesting points in the forthcoming elections. 

The initiate has a separate page on Instagram that has a following of 296K. It has a 382K following on X, 321K following on Facebook and 55.5K subscribers on YouTube creating significant buzz on social media. 

Following this, just months before the general elections, the INC organised a sequel to the yatra titled ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yaytra’. Commencing from Thoubal in Manipur on January 14, 2024, and concluding in Mumbai on March 16, 2024, the journey traversed the east-west expanse of India. Its primary objective was to enhance the party's electoral involvement across the country, strategically gearing up for the forthcoming national elections. The party stated that the earlier Bharat Jodo Yatra had drawn attention to issues such as economic inequality, societal fragmentation, and authoritarian governance. In contrast, the forthcoming Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra aimed to prioritise the pursuit of social, economic, and political justice for the nation's populace.

The party also launched an app titled ‘Nyay Yatra App’ that covered the expedition and revealed all the statistics relevant to the yatra. Along with that, the INC also launched official anthems for the Bharat Jodo Yatra as well as the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra.  

Furthermore, to capitalise on the on-ground momentum, Rahul Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, and other Congress leaders attended press conferences answering questions and raising national concerns–something which the leaders of the ruling government have been avoiding.

Video commercials

The INC also created a series of video commercials that put the ruling government in question by raising pertinent issues such as unemployment and inflation. The videos emphasised on Congress’ tagline for this election, “Haath Badlega Halaat”. These commercials highlight the daily struggles of the country’s populace, targeting the ruling government for the current state of affairs.   

In the lead-up to the General Elections of 2024, the INC has embarked on a strategic journey to rejuvenate its image and amplify its presence in the digital sphere. Recognising the pivotal role of marketing in modern politics, it has focused on rebuilding its brand, engaging with the younger demographic, and addressing pressing issues head-on. Leveraging social media platforms with humour, satire, and engaging content, the party is connecting with a wider audience, particularly the youth. With its initiatives, the INC intends to position itself as a key contender in the upcoming elections.

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