With the general elections coming up in the next few months, it is critical to know as much as possible about the candidates in order to put in an informed vote. Along with policies, the personality, leadership style and track record of a national leader also matters. A SWOT analysis of the two probable current prime ministerial candidates for 2019 is below. 


PM Narendra Modi 

•    Bold, progressive and has quick decision-making ability. Decisions are implemented quickly as can be seen in several areas. The GST has now led to more accountability and transparency. According to Arun Jaitley, only 3.8 crore people were filing income tax and as of 2018, it was 6.8 crore. Around 111 million toilets are being built under the Swachh Bharat mission with over 90 million already being built according to an official statement released January 9. 

•    Incorruptible and clean character. Even his adversaries are trying hard to tarnish his clean image. 

•    A plethora of schemes have helped the population increase connectivity (Digital India), establish identity (Aadhar) and become financially independent (Jan Dhan accounts). By 2019, India is going to be open-defecation free in the near future thanks to Swachh Bharat. 

•    Brilliant track record as a leader. In Gujarat, road construction, power reforms and cleaning up major water bodies and improving industry helped transform the state. This change was recognized nationally and internationally.

•    Relations with world leaders have been established. 

•    India remains miles ahead of China as the world’s fastest growing GDP. The FDI has increased and more foreign investors are attracted to India with the United States being the biggest one. In fact, India now has a unicorn club it can boast about with members like Flipkart, Ola, etc. 

•    The PM’s outreach to the people encompasses traditional and modern methods of communication. Informative and robust social media handles not only cover policies and information, they also track a more relatable and engaging side of him. In fact, among world leaders, he ranks first in the most number of likes and engagements on his Instagram handle. His messaging to his follower base (currently over 45 million on Twitter) is unpretentious, vibrant and gets to the point.

•    A mass leader who is also accessible to the public.  Asks for public opinion for Mann ki Baat and surveys through the NaMo app which is updated daily with content and information 

Rahul Gandhi 

•    Born into an influential family that carries a political legacy.

•    Became an MP at age 18 because of his family seat. This gave Gandhi a solid foot in the door in Indian politics automatically without a prior track record. This also gives him unequivocal support to become the party’s president, and also no problem of dealing with opposition within the party.

•    Age is his strongest asset. At 48 years old, he is significantly younger to Modi (68 years old). Being a younger age, he carries no previous political baggage and can bring a fresh start to the Congress. 

•    He enjoys privileges as the Congress party president including speaking on international platforms and getting global media attention. 

•    Gandhi seems to be comfortable in his own skin. Although he still occasionally blunders, he is showing a sense of purpose and determination in spouts. 

•    Unlike Modi, Gandhi can speak more freely and get away with it since the ecosystem turns it around intellectually. He will also get another chance to speak no matter how hard he bombs. 

•    Lutyens media support is with Gandhi. The team assigned to him displays high level strategic planning for his political image from trusted confidantes. 


PM Narendra Modi

•    One man. People are quick to criticise Modi for each and every small thing happening, even at the local level. This is common for any leader on a world stage. This may play a part in upcoming elections. 

•    Although the GST and demonetisation took some time to show benefits, the immediate backlash was on the PM. However, the benefits of these schemes are more long term for the nation rather than quick short term and temporary wins. 

•    Irrespective of the government’s actions, at times, the media paints a picture of PM Modi’s government as communal. 

Rahul Gandhi

•    Very poor oratory skills. If one is to go on social media, he is considered laughing stock. One can even feel sympathetic to him but cannot deny that he is a speaker who is consistently unable to motivate his audience- be it industrialists or students. 

•    No significant policy ever passed in the entire span of his career. Gandhi resorts to criticising opponents or theatrics which makes it impossible to see him as a leader capable of running the country responsibly. For example, his hugging the Prime Minister Modi after the speech was not taken well and was out of decorum in Indian Parliament. Nowhere else in the world is this tolerated; as it should be. 

•    Gandhi has a scattered vision of the nation. His flip-flopping on views is also a sore point. For example, he had earlier stated that all women should be allowed to visit the Sabarimala temple. Earlier this month, he stated that he cannot take an “open-and-shut position on the issue as there is validity in the arguments of both the sides.” This decreases his credibility as an individual leader and also gives the impression that he is indecisive. 


PM Narendra Modi 

•    Schemes have tremendous scope to develop and expand. Swachh Bharat is the largest initiative of its kind in the world. Thus far, over 90 million toilets have been built according to an official statement earlier this month. This is a record within itself. 

•    India has one of the fastest growing GDPs in the world. The slump in China’s GDP growth rate opens up great possibilities of emerging Indian markets that could boom. This can be seen in areas like manufacturing and e-commerce which are expected to grow exponentially in the near future. Improved ease of doing business along with a supportive atmosphere for MSME’s serve as major boosts for the business environment. India ranked at 142 on the World Bank Index for ease of doing business as of 2014. As of 2018, India ranked 77 and Modi is aggressively trying to improve this rank further to get India into the top 50. 

•    There have been several schemes that bolster Modi’s credibility even in front of the worst of critics. One example is the Sagarmala project which has shown steady growth and progress on port connectivity. Over the past two years, there has been marked progress on port connectivity, efficiency and capacity. If these projects are completed, this would also bring in more benefits including employment, increased trade and capacity. All three of these benefits, particularly increased employment will influence the young vote positively as this remains a major issue amongst many of them. 

•    Modi always engages with the young population of the country and communicates his policies and actions because he feels they are the future leaders. There are currently a lot of first-time voters who formulate a significant chunk of the population. This will swing the vote in his favour dramatically. 

•    The digital revolution can bring in a plethora of benefits including accessibility, increased use of technology, skills and employment. 
Rahul Gandhi

•    Has the chance to prove himself as a leader of the Opposition by making his stance clear on important issues and using his recent three-state win to change the mood of the country.

•    Develop a consistent leadership style and image through public events and rallies. Establish himself as a credible personality on these platforms. 

•    Can ramp up his social media significantly by posting more informative content rather than troll messages and propaganda to rile up reactions. While propaganda and criticisms are allowed, RG should utilize his social media to portray his stance on issues and how his party- if elected- can solve problems more effectively than the BJP. 


PM Narendra Modi 

•    Trade bullying by US President Trump on the projected economic surge India will experience may cast a shadow of doubt on Modi. A solid economic surge creates jobs, appeases agrarian distress and revive voter enthusiasm. But will it come on time for elections is the question. 

•    Lack of data on jobs which is discrediting the number of employment opportunities and support schemes that have been implemented. Lack of jobs is one of the most major criticisms, particularly from the youth of the nation. 

•    Many remain largely unaware of just how many schemes are in place. Better messaging and information sharing of these schemes to create awareness would help improve the public’s perception of the government. 

•    Assassination attempts as a leader on the world stage. 

Rahul Gandhi

•    Narendra Modi. He is a leader with a presence and a track record. And he will not go down without a solid fight. Empirically, he has stronger statistics both on image and policies than Gandhi. 

•    Scattered vision of the country. Gandhi has not spoken about what his constructive measures, plan of action to solve certain issues or vision on for the nation is. 

•    To be overshadowed by regional satraps as leader of the opposition, thereby making him as a clear second fiddle. 

•    His image works against him as even his own party at times laughs at his buffoonery. 

•    Mud-slinging is something that the youth do not perceive well. The repeated criticisms of the Modi government (such as the Rafale deal) touted by Gandhi get tiresome and old to hear. And, as Hillary Clinton found out the hard way during the final presidential debates, just criticizing an opponent does not result in a win. One needs to show a track record, an image of a capable leader and a clear stance and vision to win. It may be too late in the election game to begin to build that now. 

•    The other major issue is just how many seats Congress will get in the upcoming election. Congress may enter 2019 as a fighting party. Over the past few years, many Congress leaders switched over to the BJP and have not switched back. The inability to keep the party together could be a challenging threat to Rahul Gandhi’s continued leadership. 

Priyanka Deo is an executive producer and anchor at New India Junction. She holds masters' degrees from Harvard, the University of Southern California and the London School of Economics and Political Science.