Modi and BJP can no longer afford to ignore Rahul Gandhi
The Congress VP has given the ruling party a lot to worry about.
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Since the drive was launched, the Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has fiercely attacked the BJP over demonetisation, calling it "fire bombing" on the poor. He has levelled allegations of "personal corruption" against the prime minister.
However, instead of responding to his allegations, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has resorted to trite arguments about whether or not people should take Rahul Gandhi seriously. They have questioned the seriousness of Rahul's claims and mocked the Congress, calling it a marginalised party irrelevant in Indian politics.
A neutral observer will, however, wonder why several BJP ministers and spokespersons react to the Congress vice president's statements instantly if indeed he is irrelevant — especially when senior Union ministers hold press conferences within 15 minutes of Rahul Gandhi's speeches.
The PM too has responded to Rahul Gandhi many a time without taking his name, though he never answered the actual questions the Congress VP put to him — and continues to attempt to mock Rahul Gandhi in his public addresses, only belittling himself and the stature of the PM.
The latest charges of "personal corruption" made by Rahul Gandhi against the prime minister were not new and had been made by Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan a month back followed by a PIL in Supreme Court — also published in the November issue of The Caravan.
However, if you recall, this was largely ignored by the electronic media and a large section of the print media too until Rahul Gandhi raised the issue at a public rally in Gujarat. Now it's evident that whether or not the BJP takes Rahul Gandhi seriously, the nation does — and India's people are willing to hear him and debate on his pronouncements.
The "earthquake" comment by Rahul Gandhi was ridiculed by the media and the PM, as the information was already in the public domain. It did not live up to the expectations of the media as everyone was expecting that Rahul would disclose what was not known. But those who know the Congress VP know it well that he studies the subject well before he can talk about it publicly — only after he is fully convinced. We can expect more in the near future, ahead of next Parliament Session.
That is not all BJP should worry about. Critics opine that politics is not Rahul Gandhi's cup of tea. When the Congress undertook a 2,000 km Kisan Yatra recently, journalists and political rivals made fun of him and claimed that he doesn’t have the political stamina to complete his yatra.
They had to eat the humble pie as he not only completed the yatra successfully, but also established a connect with farmers. When he met the PM on issue of the farm loan waiver, still others opined that it was a bad move and dismantled the Opposition's unity.
But Rahul Gandhi showed his political maturity by brushing aside his differences with Modi — he was willing to walk the extra mile to bring relief to the farmers reeling under debt. What other parties showed was sheer opportunism instead of joining hands with Rahul for the larger cause.
The Winter Session of Parliament went into a logjam over the demonetisation issue demanding that the PM be present in the House during the debate. Rahul Gandhi displayed his political tact by ensuring that Manmohan Singh, who is one of India's most creditable economists, presents his view on demonetisation in Parliament.
Even the treasury benches were unprepared for what came next. Manmohan Singh cautioned the nation that demonetisation is a "monumental mismanagement" and "organised loot" and would set back the GDP growth by two per cent.
Till then the nation believed demonetisation was for the best, but public opinion took a sudden U-turn and it gave a new lease of life to the Opposition as well as critics.
He further silenced his critics who often call him a part-time politician who addresses rallies in poll-bound states.
With politicians breaching new lows in public discourse by indulging in mudslinging and personal attacks, Rahul Gandhi, an ardent follower of Gandhiji’s ideology, displayed immense political etiquette when he stopped his followers from raising the slogan “Narendra Modi Murdabad” and assured them that the Congress could defeat Modi politically, without resorting to personal attacks.
This gesture has been appreciated not only by the media, but also by RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, once a critic of Rahul Gandhi’s oratory skills. Lalu Yadav stated that Rahul Gandhi seemed a bigger leader than Modi who chose to mock the Opposition by labelling them "Pakistanis" rather than responding to Rahul's questions.
Even though vilified by the media, it is not the first time Rahul Gandhi proved his political mettle. He earlier successfully opposed the Modi government over the land acquisition ordinance and the issue of net neutrality.
On both counts, the Modi government had to give in. His jibe "Suit-boot Ki Sarkar" left Modi so embarrassed that he had to sell his suit, and the government's pro-corporate and anti-poor leanings were exposed.
And now Rahul Gandhi is trying to ensure India returns to issue-based politics of growth and development rather than the narcissistic, cult-driven politics of Narendra Modi. It will augur well for the BJP if it realises that Rahul Gandhi is emerging as a mass leader and faces him with facts rather than personal attacks.