5 ways Rahul Gandhi, new Congress president, can keep the heat on Modi

The run-up to the day has seen more action in the past two months than in the past 13 years since he first became an MP.

 |  8-minute read |   16-12-2017
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It’s "coronation day" for Congress party heir Rahul Gandhi to take over as president of the organisation, and the run-up to the day has seen more action and zip in the past two months than in the past 13 years since Rahul became a first-time MP in 2004.

The Congress prince has shown surprising enthusiasm as president-elect, in his first election campaign for the Gujarat Assembly. The sniper retorts, tweets and barbs against his main opponent, none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi; eruptive speeches and pointed attacks against main rival party, the BJP; stormy tours in the state; and most importantly, a new-found persistence and continuity in his new task.

Of course, Rahul also looks to his inner Buddha (he’s known to set off on spiritual, inner self-discovery journeys from Myanmar to Cambodia) when he talks of love, not war, to his political nemesis Modi, who has run away with a vehement hate campaign in the election.

When asked what his feelings were to Modi’s incessant and venomous attacks against him and his family, Rahul responded saying, “The more someone hates you, the more you show love to them… I have no feeling of hate towards Modiji.”

twiteer_121617021140.jpgImage: Twitter/@HasibaAmin

However, to retrieve his hero-to-zero image (2004 to 2017), it’s time that Rahul junked Prem Rog (love sickness) for Raj Yog (kingly yoga). The poll results of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will come barely a day after Rahul formally takes over as Congress party president, and if exit polls are to come true, it’s a heavy defeat staring at the new Congress chief. The jeers and taunts notwithstanding, Rahul can energise and vitalise his party leaders and colleagues, fire them up with new energy and punch, and march on unmindful and unhindered by the past.

Here are five ways he can hope to take on Modi and his political adversaries:

Keep the heat on the CEC: Now, the commentariat may be divided on whether the Congress should have held a raucous protest outside the Election Commission office and denounced the Chief Election Commissioner of partisanship on the last day of polling in Gujarat, as it could be an admission of defeat even when polling was going on. But the move certainly infused new energy as full-throated Mahila Congress and Youth Congress members jeered and sloganeered outside the EC gates.

The Modi-appointed CEC AK Joti has come under a cloud with his recent posture and stance - beginning with the delay in announcing the election dates for Gujarat, thus inviting accusations that he was giving the BJP government time to announce "sweetheart schemes" to voters before the election code of conduct came in. It does not help matters that Joti is seen as a Modi groupie - after all, he has served as a loyal bureaucrat-officer to Modi in many crucial posts, until he retired as chief secretary in 2013.

In the latest incident, the Congress has fired from all sides accusing Joti of acting like a “captive puppet of Modi” and “a private secretary of the PM” after the CEC ignored Congress pleas to look into the violation of election code of conduct after Modi held an impromptu road show on voting day.

The Congress’s dharna and non-stop public attack on Joti and the EC certainly jolted the establishment awake - BJP ministers too were forced to march to the CEC’s door with their grievances; news agencies whirred with non-stop coverage of Joti and highlighted his long association with Modi, the special favour he got from Gujarat government to keep his house, etc, apart from editorials in leading newspapers cautioning about the independence and immunity of the constitutional office.

EVM expose: It’s not about whether EVMs can be tampered with or manipulated, Rahul and his brigade must get a full report and disclosure from the EC on how many electronic voting machines and Voter Verifiable Paper and Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines were deployed, and worked in Gujarat. In this atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust, it would help to know how efficiently the apparatus worked as media reports suggest otherwise.

If the EC notified that to ensure free and fair elections, it deployed EVMs and VVPAT machines in all 52,128 polling booths in Gujarat, the media has been agog with breakdowns and non-availability of VVPAT machines in all booths.      

For instance, DNA newspaper reported that 1,517 EVMs and VVPATs were replaced during election, even as television journalists reported about the VVPATs that were deployed in “almost” all polling stations.

All this, because the EC has refused to tally at least 25 per cent of VVPAT machines with EVM vote count, as many political parties have asked to ensure credibility. Why is Joti being so obstinate?

In fact, a persistent Congress even petitioned the Supreme Court to force the EC to allow a comparison, but the court refused to pass an order on the Congress petition, saying it must submit a proper plea for election reform. Rahul and his team must carpet bomb the CEC on this matter.

Communal rhetoric: The Congress has always been mightily mortified and befuddled about its stand on secularism, and as the Gujarat election campaign has shown, it has refused to utter the "S " word or rise to the communalism bait by Modi, despite several provocations like comparisons to Mughal dynasties and mindset. The Congress leadership has always pleaded shy of taking a stand on Hindutva’s murderous cow vigilantism, "love jihad" and other hate campaigns for fear of being seen as pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu, but RG and his team can overcome their squeamishness thus:

First, run a campaign to differentiate between Hinduism and Hindutva, as senior leader Kapil Sibal did, and enshrine what Hinduism really means - inclusiveness, plurality and diversity. Then, they must call the violent, murderous acts of lynching in the name of so-called religion as acts of terrorism, and trip the BJP in its own game. For instance, the BJP has always virtuously claimed that terrorism has no religion, so call out the BJP by insisting these are acts of terrorism and not a holy war to save Hindu culture and pride. It would take religion out of crimes and criminality and protect the idea of secularism as enshrined in the Constitution. It will also stop communalising politics.

Pakistani hand and Manmohan treason: If Modi believes, as he said in an election rally, that his predecessor Manmohan Singh, along with former vice-president Hamid Ansari and assorted former Indian ambassadors, was plotting with Pakistan to "fix" the Gujarat election and install Congress's Ahmed Patel, a Muslim as chief minister; then the PM must prove his charges of treason, apart from investigating the serious security lapse made by his own government.

RG and his band must not lose this opportunity to trap Modi, and if his allegations are not true, they must go to court and slap criminal defamation charges on the PM.

Degree of truth: Now, US President Donald Trump, also BFF of Modi, may be under siege for all the lies he peddles, but why has the Congress let off both Modi and his cabinet colleague Smriti Irani over "false claims about their university degrees"? It’s time the Congress young brigade worked relentlessly to expose Modi’s alleged false affidavit about his education qualification and pin him in court with a legal case.

The Central Information Commission had directed Delhi University to allow inspection of records of all students who had passed the BA degree in 1978 (it was the same year Modi claimed to have graduated) after an RTI enquiry. Despite BJP president Amit Shah and finance minister Arun Jaitley flashing the degrees at a press conference, it left many sceptical about the authenticity of the degrees because of several discrepancies - from multiple entries of date of birth to different names for Modi and year of graduation to suspicious name of the course - "Entire Political Science".

Also read: Rahul Gandhi is a winner, irrespective of whether BJP wins or loses Gujarat polls

Writer

Vrinda Gopinath Vrinda Gopinath @vrinda_gopinath

The writer is editor, altgaze.com.

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