Monday, 23 May, 2022
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Modi’s Covid-19 strategy has Congress party’s ‘first family’ split in its political response

Modi reacted a bit late to the Covid-19 crisis but has won the battle of optics. His adversaries though remain their usual self — confused and full of self-doubt.

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The coronavirus crisis has brought to fore what many Congress leaders felt for long but chose to overlook: That the party’s ‘first family’ may be close-knit but its three members don’t necessarily share a common political outlook in terms of their responses to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his politics and governance.

To repeat an oft-made point for emphasis, Covid-19 is to Modi what Hurricane Katrina of 2005 was to then US president George Bush. Both leaders’ ‘war on terror’ secured them a second term in office.

Bush reacted to Katrina too late and lost the battle of perception. Modi, also in the tenth month of his second term, might have reacted a bit late but has managed to win the battle of optics, emerging as a guardian angel who is prepared to take tough decisions for the common good. Reactions of his political adversaries are on familiar lines — unsure, confused and full of self-doubt.

The approaches of the three members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, especially the siblings, are noteworthy — not because of any radical departure from their usual self-preservatory practices but because of the seeming differences in their political outlook, a factor Congress leaders would be eagerly watching.

Sample the words and actions of each member of the Congress party’s first family since March 19 — when Prime Minister Modi addressed the nation, his first of three since then, to call for a day-long ‘Janata Curfew’.

Also read: War on terror bind Modi and Bush. Now COVID-19 threatens to become new Hurricane Katrina

Sonia Gandhi: Bide your time

Sonia Gandhi’s response has been on predictable lines — issuing statements of support to the Modi government but with a lot of caveats about the results of the “unplanned” nationwide lockdown. So, is the Congress opposed to how Modi has been dealing with the coronavirus crisis? No. The opposition party has extended support to the government and says the lockdown “may be necessary”. But does the Congress really support the government’s action? No. It has a lot of issues with the government’s delayed response, limited testing, neglect of the poor while planning the lockdown, and lack of foresight about the Covid-19’s impact on the Indian economy. So, if you are confused about the Congress’ stand, welcome aboard. Not many Congress leaders can decipher it either.

That’s the Congress party’s way of playing the role of a constructive opposition. The sum and substance of Sonia Gandhi’s politics is: Be patient and bide your time. Sonia Gandhi had waited six years for power at the Centre after taking over the leadership of the Congress in 1998 and she can wait for a decade this time, if not more, as long as she is able to ensure that her children (the son, preferably) controls the reins of the party.

Mind you, the politics of Sonia Gandhi doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the entire Congress; it represents a section comprising the old guards who have stood by her for over two decades. Rahul Gandhi’s loyalists have been demanding his return as Congress president but he wouldn’t do it under the shadow of party veterans, a wish his mother wouldn’t fulfil, given how his young lieutenants have reduced him to a butt of joke in Indian politics.

Also read: After demonetisation and GST, slow response on corona is latest disaster of centralisation

Rahul Gandhi: Would-have-been PM’s I-told-you-so moment

Let’s not divert from the main subject — that is, the politics of the three members of the Congress party’s first family in times of coronavirus crisis. If Sonia Gandhi’s response has been the familiar wait-and-watch policy, Rahul Gandhi’s seems to be the lament of someone who was once described as the would-have-been Prime Minister of India by a foreign magazine.

A perennial rebel in search of a cause, Rahul Gandhi has been living the I-told-you-so moment for the last fortnight. “The Corona Virus is an extremely serious threat to our people and our economy. My sense is the government is not taking this threat seriously,” he had tweeted on 12 February. He has been harping on it since then. Although he does have a point about the Modi government’s relatively delayed response to the Covid-19 threat — probably because of preoccupations with US President Donald Trump’s visit and then the political instability in Madhya Pradesh — to expect the government of India to swing into action because of his tweet is a bit rich.

The former Congress president has been seeking to fulfil his responsibility as a prominent opposition leader by berating the Modi government on Twitter where he has 12.8 million followers — barely 10 per cent of even the total Congress voters in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. “Making people clap & shining torches in the sky isn’t going to solve the problem,” Rahul tweeted on Saturday, unmindful of the overwhelming public response to the prime minister’s calls. Rahul’s message is unmistakable: Only the Congress, especially the Gandhi family, knows how to rule and people must realise it by now.

Also read: Coronavirus was a test of secular nationalism. Then Tablighi Jamaat became the scapegoat

Priyanka Vadra: No dig at Modi, constructive criticism of govt

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s response to the coronavirus crisis has been in sharp contrast to her brother’s and mother’s. Tweets by her and her brother on 21 March, a day before the Janata Curfew, were indicative of this. Priyanka uploaded a 1:04-minute video, washing her hands with liquid soap to convey to the people how “small precautions” would strengthen the fight against the coronavirus. On the same day, her brother tweeted how small and medium businesses and daily wage earners were the worst hit and “clapping won’t help them.”

Unlike her brother, Priyanka Gandhi has refrained from attacking PM Modi’s popular decisions. Even while taking up the cause of migrant workers, she has been subtle in her criticism of the “government”, without bringing the PM into it: “Praja Kare hahakar, jago he Sarkar (citizens are in grief, government wake up).”

As the in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka has deployed Congress workers on the ground to help the people, a move the central leadership of the party has failed to emulate. So, while Union ministers are tweeting pictures of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)’s relief works — and sometimes of the BJP’s too — Priyanka has been showcasing the assistance being provided by Congress workers to the needy people in Uttar Pradesh. She even wrote to Mukesh Ambani of Reliance, Sunil Bharti Mittal of Airtel, and BSNL authorities among others to make incoming and outgoing calls free for the next one month to help migrants keep in touch with their families.

Priyanka’s politics in times of Covid-19 threat seems to suggest a conscious attempt to refrain from Modi-bashing, her brother’s favourite pastime, which has done little to improve the Congress party’s image among the people. She also refrains from retweeting Rahul Gandhi’s tweets in which he seems to be attacking the Prime Minister. Incidentally, Rahul seldom retweets her tweets. He is not known to retweet, anyway — except his own tweets, sometimes.

It’s too early to judge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s politics by her words and actions in a fortnight. The fact is that all her advisers and associates, mostly Left-leaning, were picked up by Rahul Gandhi and it’s only a matter of time when they re-set her politics to make it more in tune with her brother’s. Congress leaders may just hope otherwise.

Views are personal.

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  1. The Print shout think before publishing such half-baked attempts. Or, is there an agenda? Sonia’s response was statesman-like:Wr support you at this moment of crisis, but note that you are not faultless. Perhaps such refinement is beyond the author. Rahul was entirely justified in saying what he did and the choice of the word ‘rich’ shows the author’s prejudices. Priyanka stopped short of harsh criticism. Good tactics. I am as much against the dynasty rule as most others. However, I think that is an internal matter of a party that still manages to get 20% of the national votes.


    P M

  3. Why be obsessed with the past. India has learnt from it and Moved On Forward. So be it. A country fully in Sync with karma theory has witnessed its timely , and brutal visitation on the Congress Party. It is only appropriate that we all Live in Today, as a vibrant hopeful nation: savour the quirky rations of life with passions of faith and brotherhood, leaving it to the Architect to navigate us to our Destiny . Ham Honge Kaamyab.🙏🏼

  4. The bottom line is all three are thieves, cheats, and engaged in looting the country.
    Hindus & Sikhs realized it long ago. Muslims are realising this. Christians will realize this tomorrow. Buddhists, Jains, Parsis don’t matter to the trio.
    SC & ST have other leaders.
    The Corona Party is doomed. It’s like an ant hill or termite-infested tree ready to collapse at the slightest bump.
    Only stupid morons follow any of the three.

  5. रागदरबारी चाटुकार चम्पू पहलवान,चारण, भाड़, विदूषक, हमेशा-हमेशा राजदरबार की शोभा बढ़ाते रहे ,अपने मूर्खतापूर्ण कार्य कलापों से । बहुत बढ़िया लेख है ,शायद लेखक राजपरिवार के अंदर की अच्छी खासी खबर रखते हैं। एक बहुत बढ़िया डायलॉग और कल्पित अवधारणाएं लिखने में माहिर श्री जनार्दन द्विवेदी बहुत सेवा कर आराम फरमा रहे हैं।
    कोई बात नहीं,कहीं की ईंट कहीं का रोडा भानमती का कुनबा जोड़ा,,,, आप के इस सुंदर लेख के लिए टिप्पणी।

  6. Why ThePrint and journalists of like-minded journals, Web sites spending their time and energies in writing
    useless articles. Are they became so naive to gauge in which directions political winds are blowing in India since 2014.? What remains relevance of this trinity ,which some old faithfuls still wants to highlight. ? Let them take rest. Let them enjoy what ever they have earned, or amassed. Their level of educational and professional knowledge, administrative experience, even legislative participation and achievements are known to majority of Indian voters except some extra-loyal journalists. Please note the chances or probability of Congress getting majority or having Congress PM in India ,are equal to probability or chance of Britisher Union Jack again flying on Lal Quila in Delhi. SO FORGET THAT FAMILY.


  7. True this is what happening. Nobody knows where they are taking the party all together.

    Nagesh Rao

  8. Publisher should remember this is new virus and gandhi family is old virus . Now let’s talk on decision taken late let’s telly to countries where virus reached late then India is far more better then other . Except one cummunity has not supported which contributed to tally with full force ….. So still modi failed…. How come dumb publisher publish this ….

  9. I wonder is their any strength lies in opposition now?. It’s like barking on an elephant calmly walking on his road map looking ahead.
    The whole media still follows the whispers but can’t hear the roaring.

  10. Why resurrecting the faded characters of history to life when there are so many vibrant beings enthuse positive thoughts for the welfare of humanity. We are not enthralled by knowing these inconsequent earthlings behavioural patterns just because of their hereditary disentance. Let us move on.

  11. The political parties who claim that Govt acted a bit late should have spelt at what stage the Govt should have started. Why they did not warn the Govt in the parliament instead of shouting against Article 370? Did they ever know a virous of this type existed and would engulf the whole nation nay the whole world ? It is easier said than done . Just as staying home is a great service to the nation now staying quiet will also be a great service to the nation.

    • very true.while their is a crisis.we the indian should be togeather.inspite that we are critising.we should learn to salute the personwho things for contry

  12. No need for congress partying give opinion on every thing the government does. Let the time decide who is right and who is wrong. In the meantime it is the population that suffers most for actions / inactions/ late actions whether rich, well to do or poor.

  13. The author has hit the nail on the head. Congress is indeed direction less.By continuing to project the buffoon RaGa in the forefront they are pulling the shutters from relevance in the present context .It is high time they show some sort of cohesiveness not only amongst the three Gs but also within their leaders.

  14. Are “The Gandhi Family” relevant? They have no qualification worth mentioning, other than heritage. Ah, yes, we forgot that one of them has a nose that resembles her grandmothers’.

    After 70 long years, India has finally found a great commander. As responsible citizens of India, we should lend him total support, especially in this time of crisis.

    It will be best if “The Gandhis” & their durbaris fade away. Otherwise, best ignored or tolerated – as the gadflies that they are.

  15. Congress as a party is on s down hill journey. They are out to protect themselves and the mountains of wealth accumulated over the last several decades. Country is no where ok their priority list except by accident.

  16. Can only laugh at the author’s pet subjects, Congress, RG and PV. The preparations of the government have been adequate though not top notch. But for the facilities that the country had before the outbreak of this pandemic, Modi’s government has done remarkably well. There is lot of politics in the migration and related events, but unfortunately, they too did not succeed ,the majority of the country is firmly behind Modi.

  17. Every now and then this type of features appear which takes us to the era of Raja Maharaja’s. It is not even the era when Ex PM Shastra ji was made to resign from congress president for Ex PM Indira ji.
    Such writers think themselves omniscient but don’t forget the man in the fields in not lesser intelligent. He has the experience of all these sycophancy since last 73 yrs.

  18. This Gandhi family dentistry they are awaiting for chance to show their faces for any reason.
    Please we request to electronic midia and print media don’t promote this family dentistry Indian common man they are not going to support my more anything.
    This family dentistry they are only for power nothing else even common people. we have seen from the last three role in India they are promoting only one family looks like no one India can handle except Gandhi family dentistry what a shame.

  19. Modi failed to act during February is Himalayan mistake. He is very good manipulator and not a good administrator.

  20. Covid 19 is not child’s play and no optics can hide or obfuscate the ultimate reality. it will be Modi’s moments

  21. !. Mrs. Gandhi is willing to take it easy because there appears to be no fight left in her and her chamchas who have an average age of over 80/85 years. Given the speed of the law it is unlikely, that any of them will face the music, so PATIENCE is the only option.
    2. RAGA at 50 does not have the luxury of the 85 years old. Despite the speed of the law there is a good chance that it may catch-up with him, and as a solitaro he might even succeed in jumping the ship.
    3. The third one with the illustrious partner vulnerable to the law and the family to look after is making some peace overtures which is understandable.

  22. The views above on SG and PV seem to be acceptable. RG’s political outlook and views are motivated and driven solely by one thought and goal, and neither logic nor sense enters into it: “Modi has ‘gatecrashed’ into “The Family’s” Delhi, usurped what was divinely ordained as Rahul’s throne, and must be made to vacate it forthwith. Never mind Democracy. elections, majority, 2024 and all that”. This is exacerbated by his intense hatred for Modi which is evident to everyone.

  23. It has a lot of issues with the government’s delayed response, limited testing, neglect of the poor while planning the lockdown, and lack of foresight about the Covid-19’s impact on the Indian economy.
    What is a delayed response and lack of foresight? Both are already lacking since Independence. A delayed response cannot be visualized in a Democracy for an abrupt incidence of a pandemic.
    Making arbitrary statements is the order of the day, only to give rise to controversy and only to be capitalised by the opposite side. With a population of 130 crores+, can there be a planned response within a short period, in a democracy of undisciplined citizens. Some do not even believe in the pandemic and abet spreading it further. Politicians go to the extent of backing such moves, looking at their short term gains.
    All this is better said than done, because you oppose the leader taking the lead. The shoe pinches only after you wear it, not till then. You are not able even to buy this shoe, hence you crib.

  24. The author should explore the premise of the Modi government acting too late, a bit further. It’s unclear what it is that the government should have done. India had already started flying citizens back in early February and the military had already set up quarantine zones by then. Should one hand declared a lockdown then? By all measures, including random sampling, the timing of India’s response seems to have been ok. It’s true the execution had been chaotic but what in India is not? One cannot forget that in the pursuit of herd immunity timing is paramount. The world choosing to clampdown on movement in unison isn’t a coincidence. But RG wants to sing his own raag, as is his want.

      • That person himself went out the country on 25th February ‘2020 after cautioning the country in a foolish way for 9 days for a foreign country’s jamboorie . Can any body justify its occurance , if there was really such a high cast emergency in the country

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