Congress launches own new channel, but will it work?

·3 min read

The process of rebuilding a political party or reviving political fortunes is long-drawn and rarely changes over time. In addition to changing the electorate's mind, political outfits also have to outdo their rivals across the spectrum. 

The decision of the Indian National Congress, last month, to launch its news channel on YouTube appears to be a step in this direction. 

The 'grand old party' has seen its popularity with the young voter fall consistently, and it believes that biased media is one of the reasons for its state. This 'slanted' reportage is also why in the past few months, the party has refrained from sending its spokespersons to television news debates.

In an era of instant gratification, where the number of tweets can decide the degree of acceptance of an idea, Congress believes that a digital presence to disseminate information would help to come on the same platform as the competition. 

It would also seem like the thing to do, but at the same time, the party's digital media platform on YouTube, INC TV, also runs the risk of being a one-way street.

While India doesn't have a Presidential style election, the last two elections have been fought on the face of who would be the prime minister. Narendra Modi might have the lead over most of the opposition in terms of popularity, but this doesn't stop the opposition from pitching the ideal opponent. 

In 2014, the fight was clearly between Rahul Gandhi and Modi, although the then incumbent Manmohan Singh was the UPA's prime ministerial face. During the 2019 elections, the opposition took umbrage at Gandhi proclaiming to the automatic PM candidate for the opposition looking to take Modi on jointly.

For a brief period, Mamata Banerjee was also seen as the prime ministerial option, but for all practical purposes, it's always been a Modi-versus-the-rest kind of a fight, with Rahul Gandhi having a slight edge. The reasons for this could be that Congress, more often than not, ends up being the single-largest party amongst the opposition. 

The number of seats might not reflect the sentiment. However, Rahul Gandhi has been projected as the contender to challenge Narendra Modi. Congress also seems to be at a loss when communicating to the voter what it offers. In its 2019 election manifesto, Congress promised to repeal "the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) Act and make trading in agricultural produce—including exports and inter-state trade—free from all restrictions." Yet the same party opposes the new Farm Laws that do precisely this.

Congress observers have also commented on how some of the policy decisions initiated by the Narendra Modi government are repacking its policies. They might not be wrong, but politics, at the end of the day, is all about winning elections. 

Also, Modi is a communicator par excellence. Take the speech in parliament where he lamented as MNREGA as a living monument to Congress failure, but his government would not end it. Amongst the Modi government's outstanding achievements is how the final mile has been bridged when it comes to delivering social schemes, making a stronger case for communication.

In its bid to make its voice heard on social media, the Congress party's INC TV poised to start on 24 April, the birth anniversary of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, will also live stream 24 hours and be round the clock on the news. 

This is also its take on Namo TV, the channel available freely on DTH operators in March 2021. It shows how Congress has decided to ramp up its presence on the communication roadmap. Internally, some party members have been questioning the need for such a channel and pondered what kind of material it would air. 

The question of whether INC TV manages to be a success in connecting directly with the masses or pave the path for the next battle would only be answered in time.

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