Rahul Gandhi, a senior figure in India’s main opposition party Congress, has unfollowed nearly 50 social media accounts on Twitter, most of them belonging to scathing critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Sources told Sputnik that among the Twitter handles no longer followed by the senior Congress parliamentarian are those of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) activist, Harsh Mander, the caste campaigner, Dilip Mandal, the comedian, Kunal Kamra, the founder of fact-checking news website Alt News, Pratik Sinha, and senior Indian journalists Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai.
All these people have consistently criticised the Hindu nationalist ideology espoused by Prime Minister Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Notable journalists still followed by Rahul Gandhi include Mrinal Pande, the group editorial director of Indian publication National Herald, and Raghav Bahl, the founder of news website Quint.
Among the media organisations which Rahul Gandhi now follows are National Herald and its sister publications Navjivan (Hindi) and Qaumi Awaz (Urdu), which are known to sympathise with the Congress party. Sources added that the Twitter handles of all other major news organisations had also been unfollowed by the former Congress chief.
The recent “overhauling” of Rahul Gandhi’s popular social media account, which has nearly 18.8 million followers, is meant to send out a message to a broader base of followers as well as to these people themselves. It is also understood to be a step towards "reinventing" Rahul's image, sources say.
They add that Rahul's media strategy is in the process of being further overhauled including the removal of “liberal activists and journalists” who no longer engage with the broader public.
Many supporters of the BJP have described the unfollowed Twitter handles as part of the “Congress ecosystem”, using their public comments and reports (in the case of journalists) to mount politically motivated attacks on Gandhi.
Sources say that the social media-related decisions contribute to creating a “more favourable image” for Rahul when the opportunity for him to be “re-elevated” to the post of party president arises some time in the future.
Rahul Gandhi is descended from the most famous political dynasty of South Asia - his great grandfather (Jawaharlal Nehru), grandmother (Indira Gandhi) and father (Rajiv Gandhi) all held the post of Prime Minister.
However, the Congress party faced a series of electoral humiliations under Rahul’s leadership in 2014 and 2019 federal polls, both times losing to Prime Minister Modi’s BJP in landslide defeats.
Acknowledging responsibility for the drubbing the party received in the 2019 poll, Rahul stepped down as Congress President but demanded accountability from fellow leaders for the party's poor show.
Since then, the party has been without a full-time president, with the Congress Working Committee (CWC) - the decision-making group of the party - appointing Rahul’s mother, Sonia Gandhi - the Italian-born widow of Rajiv - as interim president.
The election to the party’s top post has been delayed several times, most recently in January because of the state elections. Congress sources say that the real reason for the delay is the “lack of consensus” about whether Rahul should be party president.
However, momentum has again been gathering to appoint Rahul to the top job, with the youth wing of the Congress party passing a resolution in March demanding he be made leader.
“Of course, he will become Congress President,” say party sources, when asked whether Rahul would assume the role of president at the next CWC meeting scheduled for 22 June.