Friday, 2 December, 2022
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Rahul Gandhi will benefit from personal jibes just like Narendra Modi once did

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The Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duopoly have made the same mistake as the Congress.

Rahul Gandhi is no longer a political ‘untouchable’. Andhra Pradesh chief minister and president of Telugu Desam Party, N. Chandrababu Naidu’s reach out to Congress president Rahul Gandhi is one indication.

If they were really honest in their self-appraisal, the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duopoly cannot but conclude that they may have made the same mistake as the Congress did since 2002 when it constantly targeted Modi. History tells us that Modi has reasons to thank leaders of the Congress party for repeatedly heaping slurs on him – whether it was Sonia Gandhi’s maut ka saudagar barb or Mani Shankar Aiyar’s neech aadmi insult.

Consistent verbal assaults on Modi for his Hindutva politics over a considerable period of time eventually resulted in the saffron fold closing their ranks behind then Gujarat chief minister.


Also read: Rahul Gandhi can’t imitate Modi to defeat Modi


Likewise, by ridiculing Rahul Gandhi for almost five years from early 2013, Modi might just have ended up benefiting the Congress president. The Pappufication of Rahul Gandhi surely provided reasons for much mirth among Modi believers, but it also elevated Rahul Gandhi’s public stature because of a basic law of public response: Anyone who is viciously and repeatedly attacked by an adversary is never seen as dim-witted and inconsequential. After all, only the foe with the capacity to pose a serious challenge is scoffed at.

The situation has altered stunningly from that in the immediate aftermath of the party’s sweep of Uttar Pradesh in March 2017, when Modi’s return was considered a “settled affair”. Now, it is time for Modi to deliberate if he and his party had erred by personally targeting Rahul Gandhi over the past five years.

This is why Chandrababu Naidu’s handshake with Rahul Gandhi last week is significant.

First, it heralds the willingness of regional parties opposed to the BJP’s political dominance to ally with the Congress under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. This was a situation unimaginable till recently because of doubts about his capabilities. Already, DMK president M.K. Stalin has welcomed this meeting stating that regional parties must unite to defeat BJP.

Second, the handshake and decision of the two to speak the same political language indicate that regional parties previously steeped in anti-Congressism, are now looking at anti-BJPism as its immediate doctrine.

This poses a hurdle to the BJP’s objective of securing re-election in 2019. But, the consequences of the inability to return to office are greater for the personal political fortunes of Modi and Shah, than for the BJP or the sangh parivar. So, it is for the two leaders to evaluate if their barbs are shrinking Rahul Gandhi’s image or making him into a legitimate opponent.


Also read: The real 2019 fight isn’t between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi


Eventually, Rahul Gandhi did turn the jibe against him on its head with the theatrical speech in Lok Sabha in July this year.

Rahul Gandhi thanked Modi and the BJP for castigating him over and over again because this, he claimed, taught him what the Congress was, what it meant to be an Indian and, above all, what it meant to be a Hindu.

In Parliament, Modi chuckled when he heard Rahul Gandhi declare that he did not have an iota of hatred towards Modi and the sangh parivar even though he was repeatedly called Pappu. Modi’s nervous laughter and his unsure response to the mother of all hugs was a pointer to the realisation of the impact of Rahul Gandhi’s audacity to own that derisive label.

Previously, he had also turned around the shehzade taunt at Amit Shah’s son, Jay, after allegations of corruption surfaced against him.

With these, the Congress president virtually defanged the social media campaign against him. This also coincided with the period when Modi lost his mojo and Rahul roared to life on Twitter.

It was the BJP’s misdirected assault that provided credibility to his “main Congress hoon” claim. Indeed, the more the BJP mocked Rahul Gandhi, the more they strengthened him, not just within his own party, but even among the opposition ranks, as Chandrababu Naidu’s decision to seek him out shows.

By targeting Rahul Gandhi more than other opposition leaders, the BJP effectively accepted the Congress and his position as the principal challenger. The present scenario makes it necessary for astute opposition leaders to accept the Congress as the first among equals.


Also read: Here’s why Modi gets away with his gaffes, while Rahul Gandhi gets called Pappu


Modi, in fact, overlooked his own experience that Indians back underdogs and are inherently prone to questioning authority. That there has been only one instance when an authoritarian leader held sway – Indira Gandhi post 1975-77 – indicates the free-thinking spirit of the people.

Yet, for a leader who benefited greatly by depicting himself as an outsider delegitimised by the Congress, Modi is curiously choosing to undermine Rahul Gandhi in a similar way.

The author is a political columnist who wrote “Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times

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5 COMMENTS

  1. First we had RK Karanjia’s Blitz.Then came Vinod Mehta’s Outlook.Only a couple of names as sample.Their hatred for anything pro-Hindu was viciously attacked while anything demeaning Hindus got the front page space.Now,we have The Print who cannot tolerate Modi but eager to welcome Rahul G’s rule.Somethings never change in our country.

  2. Actually 2019 will not be so much about Shri Rahul Gandhi or individual regional leaders like CM CBN, although they will be important actors, especially in their own states. The issue will be whether the incumbent deserves a second term. Few have made that cut at the federal level for the last thirty years or so. Inevitably, the conversation will centre on the government’s performance and track record. Promises made at election time are sometimes extravagant; no one seriously expected 15 lacs to be credited to their savings bank accounts or twenty million jobs to be created each year. However, by the past experience of earlier governments, there are reasonable benchmarks that need to be cleared. People will expect to be told what has been delivered. If claims / statistics do not get reflected on the ground, that will not convert into votes. If 2,000 crores has been allocated for the new insurance based healthcare scheme, that will not win the votes of 100 million families. The opposition focused on track record and delivery in the Gujarat Assembly election last year. They are likely to do the same for these state assembly elections and then the general election.

  3. The author of the article is divorced from reality since he thinks Congress is on the receiving end of jibes. Has he been living in a parallel universe that he is not acquainted with “merapmchorhai” and “chowkidarchorhai”? – all terms coined by a half wit leader of the opposition who promises to not have an “… iota of hatred towards Modi”. More to the point, it is publications like The Print that is championing a man that has to date produced not a shred of evidence that indicates corruption in the ruling party, that ends up benefiting the Congress Party. In no country on earth does any one get away with calling the leader of country a thief .. but in India it happens because of publications like The Print.

    • He is saying the truth, just talking about politics. If you missed his mark and think he is praising Rahul Gandhi then its your fault.
      I would say read it again.

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