Congress workers carry out a protest against the Rafale deal in Kolkata | File Photo/Saikat Paul/Pacific Press
Congress workers carry out a protest against the Rafale deal in Kolkata | File Photo/Saikat Paul/Pacific Press
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Rahul Gandhi has got many things right with Rafale – until he takes the next holiday.

The Rafale controversy won’t bring down the Narendra Modi government the way Bofors undid Rajiv Gandhi. But Rafale appears to be more like the CWG, 2G or Coalgate controversies during Manmohan Singh’s second term as the Prime Minister. Every week there’s a new document, a new development, a new protest. Rafale isn’t about to die down with the 2019 elections. It’s going to affect Narendra Modi’s image even if he returns as Prime Minister for a second term, as he is widely expected to.

The documents flowing in from France, the media’s inability to ignore Rafale, the controversy becoming a matter of public debate – none of this would have happened without Congress president Rahul Gandhi taking up the issue in a big way.

With Rafale, Rahul Gandhi has shown he has the ability to set the agenda. That alone is a huge achievement for Rahul Gandhi. It is arguably his biggest achievement ever. It shows Rahul Gandhi has to ability to learn from his mistakes and grow as a politician.


Also read: Is mandatory clause a smoking gun to make Rafale BJP’s Bofors or an opposition stretch?


L’affaire Rafale may not be able to defeat Modi yet, but it is certainly coming in the way of Modi’s desire to not let anyone else set the agenda. It is, by now, difficult for anyone to say there’s no wrongdoing in the acquisition of Rafale fighter jets. At the perception level, the Congress has made a dent in the Modi government’s claim of being scam-free.

On the streets people aren’t calling the government ‘corrupt’, not least because the memories of the collapse of UPA-2 under the weight of corruption charges are still fresh in people’s minds. Rahul Gandhi is not V.P. Singh, sure, but he is nevertheless succeeding in making people ask: is Rafale a scam?

D’assault on the government

For most of the last 4.5 years, the Congress party has been found wanting in its duty of playing a good opposition, keeping the government’s excesses in check. Central to this problem has been Rahul Gandhi, a leader unable to find his own standing in national politics for the longest time.

It is difficult to say that Rahul has come of age with Rafale, because he comes of age at least once every year, frittering away the small gains and abruptly disappearing from the national stage.

Then, what did Rahul Gandhi get right about Rafale?

In one word, the answer is consistency. In July this year, Rahul Gandhi made headlines by hugging the Prime Minister in Parliament. He said he was making a point against ‘hatred’. But then he forgot all about making the point. The hug is now forgotten. If Rahul Gandhi wanted people to remember his point about Hatred vs Love, he should have made hug a Gandhigiri campaign. He should have asked the Congress leaders and workers to go around hugging the BJP leaders across the country, sending cards and flowers to the BJP leaders who make outrageous statements, and so on.


Also read: Rafale isn’t Modi’s Bofors scandal — at least not yet


That’s exactly the kind of consistency that Rahul Gandhi has shown with Rafale, an issue he raised in the same speech that ended with a hug (and a wink). He didn’t forget Rafale after that speech in July, which unnerved the government so much that it immediately got the French to issue a rebuttal.

At the Congress Working Committee meeting soon thereafter, it was decided that Rafale would be raised as one of the issues. The party has since gone after Rafale with protests and events across the country, not just in Delhi.

Rahul Gandhi seems to have finally realised the value of consistency. Advertisers show you the same ad again and again and again until you’ve almost memorised it. Planting an idea in public memory requires repetition. Known so far for shoot-and-scoot, Rahul Gandhi has perhaps learnt his lesson.

BJP unnerved

On its own part, the Congress party feels it has been raising the Rafale issue since 2015 itself, but public opinion and the media weren’t willing to listen. After events such as Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi fleeing the country in the wake of bank frauds, it has become more convincing to make the charge of crony capitalism against the government. There may be some truth to it, but it’s a chicken and egg question. Had the Congress shown such consistency on the Rafale issue earlier, it may have seen results.


Also read: Rafale deal is Bofors many times over, what it lacks is a V.P. Singh


The BJP first went on a defensive on Rafale, trying to explain its position, even deploying a TV actor to do so through a special video. Then it went on an offensive, attacking Rahul Gandhi for “playing into the hands of Pakistan and China”. Eventually, the ruling party has decided to not respond to allegations on Rafale, but that’s easier said than done.

The flip-flop in the BJP’s position shows it has been unnerved by the Rafale controversy. That Rahul Gandhi is finally able to stand up and put Modi-Shah on the back foot even for a bit needs to be noted even by his critics.

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6 Comments Share Your Views

6 COMMENTS

  1. I read the article twice.Still confused.the writer says Congress has achieved its goal.Then he says the man on the street is still not serious about the charges and the allegation need not necessarily win them{Congress} election. Is not tarnishing the image of the Govt and winning election the AIM of the allegation?
    What will happen after 29th Oct when the Govt submits their clarifications to Supreme court as directed by the court?

  2. If BJP remains indifferent to this issue and CAG and SC reports are OK, the issue will die down irrespective of frequent French media reports which are sketchy.

  3. It is indeed Rahul Gandhi’s greatest success as an opposition leader. He literally led from the front and more importantly galvanized his party behind the Rafale issue. In fact, it has brought forth another commendable success – media and communication wing headed by Mr. Surjewala.

    • BS.

      He is not that capable. These issues are manufactured internally by the party and handed over to him to run around and shout.

  4. Media Hawks – who peddle the Congress Party agenda.

    There is a concerted effort in the digital as well as print media to project the novice Rahul Gandhi as a prime minister material to replace Narinder Modi. I do not watch Indian News TV programs, only occasionally when flipping the channels, I do see political shouting matches on an issue or another, in progress. The Indian TV managers have copied from the West but political debates are totally impolite. It is a fish market out there and TV journalist seems be encouraging it.

    The real issue is, projecting a learner into a worldwide leader. That is what Congress Party is doing. The party has its paid operatives manipulating the media. The Federal elections are six months away, but the campaign has already started. The left oriented media (I do not mean Communists) mostly housed in Lutyen Delhi are heading the charge. They are well fed, well housed and well schooled people of Delhi elite, but for business purposes, they have taken anti government anti establishment attitude. For them everything which the government says is a suspect. They have not yet understood that sixty years of Congress Party misrule is over. There is new Sharif in town and he is not cut from the same block as the Congress Party or supported leaders were. But all three media branches have adopted the same attitude as before I.e. take everything the government says, with a grain of salt.

    Print media have got into a bit of a background, electronic media has taken the charge. Retired and older print news editors who had been sent home to unwind and relax after their full service have found a way out with electronic media. They have started their own websites. At present, they are unhindered by the publisher / owners dictates. They are their own boss and easily get tempted if money is waved in front of them. Incidentally, with this attitude of theirs, they have fallen into the Congress Party lap. Instantly I am quoting sources that one of the key media operatives of the Congress Party sometime back boasted that they have greater than one hundred media bosses affiliated to them and they can pay or persuade all of them to fall in line with the Congress Party agenda.

    In other words, they are drummer boys for Rahul Gandhi.

    And Rahul Gandhi advised by his advisors is being given a one issue election agenda l.e. Rafale corruption case. He has lost his balance that India is 120 crores souls and one issue alone does not win elections. Unmindful, he is barging ahead and loosing his arguments one after the other. Only recently the Supreme Court cut his lawyers to size by disagreeing to open government files on the issue which are bound by the Secrecy Agreement which Saint Anthony signed in 2008. Just a few days back HAL employees backed off from absolute support to redo the deal in HAL’s favor. They know India needs two assembly lines to make fighter planes of different categories. They have the one and the other will be in the private sector.

    Now the election will be fought on one issue alone and that issue is Rafale deal. I can predict that the Lutyen media barons will dance to the Congress Party tune. I can reassure that Rahul Gandhi is no V.P. Singh that Bofor issue will win him the elections. Unlucky for Rahul Gandhi that there is no Quotorochi in the deal. So shouting hoarse is missing the elections on many other governance matters. The good part is that a huge sum of party funds would be gone fighting an unwinnable election on one issue alone. Once the election is lost, then there is another possibility that Lutyen media may become irrelevant because people hate liars.

  5. 1. Rafale aircrafts deal is just one instance of alleged corruption in defence deals. My question in this regard is very simple: Do Congress & other opposition parties wish that corruption in all fields, including defence deals, be curbed? Or they just wish to be in power by making allegations of corruption to secure votes? 2. If political parties wish to curb corruption in a systematic and professional manner, they have to agree (a) to setting up of separate administrative and legal machinery to investigate all fraudulent deals and (b) for establishment of Special Fast Track Courts to deal with all cases related to corruption. 3. It is also necessary to recognise that our electoral laws need reforms, particularly with regard to use of unaccounted (black) money in elections. Is it not true that BJP and Congress (and other political parties too) are NOT serious about curbing use of unaccounted money in elections? They do not wish that there should be an independent audit of accounts of political parties. They do not wish to empower the Election Commission to check whether individuals who contest elections have made factual declarations about assets. Therefore, I think that implementation of election law reforms should be a top priority. We the citizen-voters must make parties realise that they cannot fool us anymore.

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