(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)
Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi might find that fighting each other over who will be India’s next prime minister is easier than fighting the perceptions of more than a billion of their countrymen about who the candidates really are.
Modi’s big battle, even if he doesn’t bring it up much, is against the perception that many people have of his role in encouraging the 2002 religious riots in Gujarat that left thousands dead. Many people meanwhile see Gandhi as a clueless kid, or “pappu”. Sample Rahul Gandhi’s speech to industrialists today in New Delhi.
Gandhi described a broad vision for India, and showed some real seriousness about addressing problems in the country. But many viewers and attendees thought he came up short on execution, and didn’t share enough thoughts about getting India out of some of its most pressing economic predicaments.
Yet he appeared to make a serious effort to link capitalism and populism, a refreshing approach from someone near the top of the Congress party, which traditionally has relied on populist measures to appeal to voters.