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RaGa n.0

opinionRaGa n.0

Rahul is likely to double down on the strategies that worked for him, including caste and class divisions, indiscriminate freebies, and personal attacks on PM.

In an opinion piece published on 28 June, Sonia Gandhi wrote that there is not even the slightest evidence that Prime Minister Modi has understood the verdict of 4 June. However, this assertion is more applicable to her party and her family, who have regarded their third consecutive loss as a form of victory. They continue to flaunt the small red book, claiming to protect the Constitution, but are refusing to accept a democratic verdict. Ironically, while questioning Narendra Modi for not taking responsibility for failure, the Gandhi family secured prominent positions despite experiencing a hat-trick of defeats in the general elections.

Since Modi 1.0, Opposition parties, especially the Congress, have resorted to disruptions in both Houses of Parliament. This trend shows no signs of abating in Modi 3.0, as evidenced by persistent heckling during the Prime Minister’s address in the Lok Sabha, with Rahul Gandhi urging Members of Parliament to storm the well of the House.
As the Leader of Opposition, Rahul Gandhi is unlikely to be any different from what he was in the last decade—confrontational, often resorting to misinformation or half-truths, and disregarding established norms. The nation deserves concrete suggestions and solutions, not just rhetoric from the largest Opposition party. However, Rahul Gandhi’s primary focus was, and will be, to use Parliament to deliver political messages to his vote bank and his domestic and international supporters. While this style may work for him, the furore created by his unsubstantiated claims often overshadows any valid points he raises.

POWERED BY 99

The rebranding of Rahul Gandhi as an anti-corruption, pro-poor, pro-minorities, mass leader—a kind of new-age Mahatma—was planned over a decade ago, but failed to gain traction at the time. It was fully revived with the Bharat Jodo Yatra. While undoubtedly a good plan, the issue is that Rahul carries the burden of dynasty rule and is prone to double standards.

He refers to the BJP as sattagrahi, yet his family maintains a tight grip on the Congress party as if it were a private enterprise, inheriting leadership positions. He claims to champion the Constitution but has never unequivocally condemned the Emergency imposed by his grandmother, and the atrocities committed during that period. While he vocally addresses the Manipur issue, he remains silent on Sandeshkhali and the high number of rapes during Congress rule in Rajasthan. He visits Hathras to meet families of the recent stampede victims but shows no concern for hooch victims in Tamil Nadu. He once stood for the freedom of speech of “tukde tukde” sloganeers but has never condemned the arrests of citizens for social media posts against Congress or its allies. He asserts that he fights for India, yet indulges unabashedly in divisive caste and class politics that could severely undermine social cohesion, and makes khatakhat promises that could negatively impact the economy. He has depicted India and its democracy in a poor light, made comments that seem to invite foreign interference, and cast aspersions on the judiciary, electoral process, investigative agencies, and the armed forces. RaGa professes the politics of love, yet his words often reveal nothing but animosity or contempt towards Prime Minister Modi, the BJP, and the RSS.

Of course, Rahul Gandhi is not the only politician seeking power at any cost, displaying double standards, engaging in divisive politics, or offering indiscriminate freebies. However, given that he is no different and considering his party and family’s history of abusing power, his crusader act is a hard sell. Additionally, there is a genuine apprehension among non-Congress voters regarding the Congress and its ecosystem’s potential for vindictiveness. RaGa will have to work towards addressing their concerns.

HINDU VOTES MATTER

In his maiden speech in Parliament as the Leader of the Opposition, Rahul Gandhi stirred controversy when he stated that those who call themselves Hindus, keep talking about violence, hate, and lies 24 hours a day. He clarified that his comments were directed at Modi, the BJP and the RSS, and not at the Hindu community. However, the benefit of the doubt is extended to a person who makes a one-off mistake in framing a sentence. RaGa is a repeat offender. Three months back, he said that he is fighting Shakti, and that he was using the word in the Hindu religious context. He not only skipped the Ram Mandir ceremony, calling it a political event, but baselessly asserted that individuals from marginalised communities were excluded. He cooked and ate mutton in the holy month of Shravan. He did not condemn DMK’s vitriol against Sanatan Dharma and did not stop some Congress leaders from supporting it. He never offends the religious sensitivities of Muslims; mistakes only seem to occur with Hindus.

PM Modi mentioned in his address that Congress tried to coin the term Hindu terrorism; their partners compared Hinduism with words like dengue and malaria. He added that Hindu society will have to think about whether RaGa’s insulting statement was a coincidence or a preparation for an experiment.

The Congress party has a long history of appeasing minorities at the expense of the majority community. It will require a separate article to give details of the same. Even if one overlooks the boycotts of the Somnath and Ram temple ceremonies by Jawaharlal Nehru and Rahul Gandhi respectively, it is difficult to ignore the Congress-led UPA and the Congress ecosystem’s efforts to dismiss the Godhra train burning as an “accident” and promote the narrative of “saffron terror”. According to an August 2009 US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, when asked about the threat posed by the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, Rahul Gandhi warned the then-US Ambassador that the growth of radicalised Hindu groups might be a larger concern—a statement made when the wounds of the horror unleashed by LeT on 26/11 were still fresh.

By birth, RaGa is half-Parsi and half-Christian. Just before the 2017 Gujarat Assembly polls, his party confirmed him as a janeu-dhari Brahmin (his great-grandfather Nehru’s religion and gotra). Then, 8-9 months before the 2023 Karnataka Assembly polls, he was initiated into the Lingayat sect. However, his form-fitting white T-shirt shows no indication of either janeu across his shoulder, or Ishtalinga around his neck. In any case, his faith is his own concern, but his audacity to lecture on Hinduism as if an authority on the religion, and issue certificates defining who or what qualifies as a Hindu, is offensive, especially considering his and his party’s above-mentioned actions and views.

The BJP’s vote share of 36.5% largely consists of Hindus. Are these Hindu voters violent or supporters of violence? RaGa once said that Hindutvavadis should be expelled. As a leader, will he target those Hindus who do not subscribe to his definition of Hinduism? While Hindus may not vote as a religious bloc, they are increasingly rejecting the old idea of India that kept them as second class citizens. Congress will not cross a 30% vote share if it continues to deliberately or indeliberately target or annoy the majority community.

NOT A ‘BALAK BUDDHI’

Rahul Gandhi is no longer a reluctant politician. Regardless of whether he is driven by his own political instincts or influenced by others, and whether his party’s increased tally resulted from his campaigning and alliances or the BJP’s missteps, one fact is undeniable: he has shown a willingness to fight and do whatever it takes to win.

The BJP appears to believe that the Gandhi family, especially Rahul Gandhi, can resort to any means to regain power. PM Modi himself highlighted Rahul’s falsehoods, the potential employment of the scorched-earth policy, and the conspiracies of the Congress ecosystem. Therefore, it would be unwise for the BJP to dismiss Rahul Gandhi as balak buddhi. PM Modi did mention in Lok Sabha that the Leader of Opposition should not be given a free pass over some of his comments. However, using movie-style jokes about the immature behaviour of an opponent is not the most effective way to signal to your party and supporters that they should take him seriously.

TURBULENCE AHEAD

During campaigning, NaMo sounded defiant and determined to take on forces that were interfering in Indian elections. The results, delivering a 240-seat jolt, will definitely force him to put aside his saint-like avatar and embrace the popular 56-inch image. The grouse among his supporters is that his government has not cracked down on “anti-nationals.” NaMo’s warning in Lok Sabha that those conspiring against India’s growth will not be spared was met with approval from his supporters, who eagerly anticipate any decisive action in this regard.

While Rahul is likely to double down on the strategies that worked for him, including caste and class divisions, indiscriminate freebies, and personal attacks on PM Modi, he needs to remember three things: Firstly, consistent negative and confrontational politics does not have wide appeal, and credibility is earned through action, not just promises. Secondly, his ambitions for the Prime Minister’s office are not acceptable to his allies, and as he continues to assert himself as a leader, maintaining alliance cohesion will be a challenge. Lastly, it would be extremely foolish to underestimate NaMo’s ability to turn things around. He has battled powerful forces throughout his political life and emerged victorious.

Semu Bhatt is a political analyst.

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