Congress scion Rahul Gandhi is turning out to be a bigger conundrum for Messrs Narendra Modi & Company on each showdown. His latest ‘hug’ and ‘wink’ imagery had all eyeballs glued at the Parliament and beyond it. Social media went amok with images of Rahul shuddering the Prime Minister with an unexpected bear hug. The act served as a lesson or two for the master orator Modi that his sworn rival in the Congress camp can mesmerise with optics as well.
The media is abuzz with one liner post mortems of the no-confidence motion- Modi won the trust vote by handsome numbers (NDA’s 325 to the Opposition 126) but Rahul stole the show and, possibly stole his way into the hearts of the people watching the live session. Such was the impact of the overture that Modi seemed to have lost his rhythm while defending the trust motion later. The usually captivating communicator, Modi rambled on with his jibes on Congress and sounded divorced from the country’s real issues. Belying expectations, Modi’s address was insipid, desultory and uninspiring even to the treasury benches. One could witness the BJP MPs mechanically thrusting their palms on the benches. And, when the 12-hour motion finally drew to a close, the BJP MPs were seen staging a rapid walk out from the Parliament as if jaded from an enervating session.
Rahul, on the contrary, was a visual delight to this otherwise dull session. His calibrated attack on the NDA government on genuine concerns and then walking up to the Prime Minister’s seat for that historic embrace will be archived in our memories. For someone like Rahul who is not an adroit public speaker, this has to go down as an eminently memorable performance. The dearth of leaders in the Opposition who could rival Modi in spontaneity is well known. For Congress, the no-trust vote irrespective of its outcome, was a platform to showcase their rookie President Rahul as a perfect foil to Modi’s propaganda stuffed politics. Rahul revelled in the moment, made the most of it and showed the skin of his ‘Congress’. “You may hate me, you may be angry at me; you may even call me Pappu. You can hurl abuses at me but I do not have any anger or hate for you. I am Congress, and all of them (the Opposition) are the Congress. This feeling and the Congress have built this nation. And you should never forget that”, he said. By invoking the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, the revered apostle of peace and non-violence, Rahul lambasted the BJP’s politics of hate and lynching. This invocation should resonate with the people as the country gears for up for elections next year.
The issues where Rahul upped the offensive on the NDA government could not be more pertinent. He dared to question the government’s patronage to big industrial houses to the detriment of the poor and dispossessed and the swelling apathy towards farmers. By flagging the Rafaele deal with France, he touched upon the raw nerves of the Modi government. The government is still mute on why price trebled in the deal and its avowed hesitation to make public the deal’s valuation. Rahul’s barbs then veered to serious graft charges against BJP president Amit Shah and his son Jay Shah and the Prime Minister’s inexcusable reticence on his countrymen being flogged and oppressed.
Rahul indicted Modi and Shah of keeping much under the wraps, their lust for power and its results if they are toppled. By his witty use of ‘jumla strike’, Rahul added to the NDA’s discomfiture, reminding them of the widening gulf between articulation and implementation and of the many unfulfilled promises to people on which they rode to power.
Rahul tearing into Modi’s skin with his fiery address and the ‘hug’ imagery is a colossal morale booster to his party cadres. For Congress, a lot of ground needs to be tromped on to translate their President’s Parliament ‘Act’ into electoral gains. But, for starters, Rahul has not just scored a self goal but stepped into the election theatre with an ounce of extra edge over Modi & allies.