PM Narendra Modi addresses a public rally in Churu, Rajasthan | PTI
PM Narendra Modi addresses a public rally in Churu, Rajasthan | PTI
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New Delhi: For Congress president Rahul Gandhi, India’s air strikes on a terror base in Pakistan never happened. Or so it seemed from his speech at a public rally in Guwahati Tuesday afternoon, about 10 hours after the Indian Air Force (IAF) pounded terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed’s base in Balakot, Pakistan, with 1,000-kg bombs.

“Indian Air Force pilots ko badhai,” said Gandhi, as he started his speech, complimenting the Mirage 2000 pilots who conducted the air strikes, without referring to the operation itself.

He then moved on to other issues such as the “ideology of hatred and violence” pursued by “Modi, RSS and BJP”, contrasting it with the Congress’ message of “love and non-violence”.

About 2,100 km west from there, in Rajasthan’s Churu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also addressing a rally around the same time.

He left none in doubt about the “importance” of the day as he started his speech with an assurance to the nation that India was in “safe hands”.

He then took repeated vows, swearing by “Mother India”, not to let India down, before moving on to the government’s proposed Rs 6,000 annual assistance to farmers and the Ayushman Bharat health scheme.


Also read: Pakistan strike, metro ride, rally & message to ‘demons’ — another day at work for Modi


The contrast in these two speeches delineated the battle lines, as re-drawn by Tuesday’s air strikes, for the coming Lok Sabha elections. These strikes have divested the opposition parties of five major weapons from their arsenal:

1) 56-inch chest jibe: Addressing a rally in Gorakhpur in January 2014, Modi had said that it would take a 56-inch chest to convert Uttar Pradesh into Gujarat (in terms of development).

Opposition leaders have since used this remark to take jibes at the Prime Minister. In October last year, for instance, when rupee fell to 73 against the dollar, Gandhi asked, “Till when will the 56-inch chest be on silent mode?”

He used this jibe against the Prime Minister very often in different contexts — continuing terror attacks, unemployment, defence deals, et al. After the air strikes, opposition leaders may not be inclined to talk about it again although leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are unlikely to let them forget this.

2) Rafale ‘scam’: The opposition had been going hammer and tongs at the alleged corruption in this fighter jet deal over the past few months. With most opposition leaders facing investigations on corruption charges, Gandhi led the pack to launch a no-holds-barred onslaught against Modi, accusing him of favouring industrialist Anil Ambani in the defence deal and coining the “chowkidar-chor-hai (watchman is thief)” slogan.

After Tuesday, the opposition parties will attack Modi for compromising national interest in a defence deal at their own peril.

3) Farm distress & joblessness: These were the two issues Gandhi and other opposition leaders were constantly raising to target the Modi government.

At a time when national security looks set to become the central theme of all electoral discourse, there are doubts about the effectiveness of these individual concerns, with leaders of the BJP set to play up the nation-or-self question as a counter to all other narratives.

4) Hug-and-wink politics: In the Lok Sabha last July, Gandhi spoke about how the BJP had “nafrat (hatred)” for him but he had only “pyaar (love)” for them.

After finishing his speech, he walked up to Modi and hugged him and later winked at his colleagues. The BJP and the RSS’ ideology of “hatred” as against the Congress party’s belief in disseminating “love” has been Gandhi’s pet theme. He repeated it in his Guwahati speech Tuesday.

But at a time the nation is celebrating air strikes against Pakistan, it’s difficult to say how much his propagation of “pyar aur ahimsa (non-violence)” as a poll plank will find resonance.

5) ‘Gathbandhan’ or alliance politics: There are about 20-odd opposition parties, mostly regional outfits, which have been holding joint rallies as a show of solidarity for what the BJP sees as the single-point agenda of ousting Modi.

Opposition leaders held out many reasons for their attack on Modi — victimisation of opposition leaders, demolition of institutions, and the “failing” economy, among many others.

In the absence of any seat-sharing arrangement among most of them, and given their conflicting political interests, their so-called gathbandhan was already faced with a crisis of credibility. The BJP’s projection of them as an opportunistic alliance solely aimed at removing Modi is likely to further undermine their credibility in public eyes.


Also read: India has called Pakistan’s nuclear bluff again, but Modi cannot become complacent


Check out My543, our comprehensive report card of all Lok Sabha MPs.


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5 Comments Share Your Views

5 COMMENTS

  1. There is no doubt that yesterday’s airstrike has shaken Pakistan reared terrorist outfit, JeM. But, at the time, it has refrigerated the Mahagathvandhan. Good luck to BJP that the question if national security has come to the fore, demanding for patriotic gesture from the Indian masses. It is happy to know that the public support to India’s retaliatory steps in the form of offensive at Pakistan is so much encouraging and overwhelming that another Modi wave seems to have marooned the Mahagathbandhan’ plan. It seems, the coming election would be one sided.The situation being built in across the country has something very good for India and this could not be provided by Congress in last three-four decades

  2. This is certainly ONE occasion when Rahul Gandhi was stumped in coming up with SOMETHING, even if totally unconnected and inane, to attack Modi using an issue ( or even a non issue).. He is used to going off tangent and pick some childish and meaningless acronym ( Gabbar Singh Tax for GST, Khao Commission Rao for KCR and his highly silly, Suit Boot ki Sarkar etc) to demean whatever Modi is trying hard to achieve and attempt to belittle Modi as a ‘person’. His so called love ‘hug’ was instantly exposed as completely hypocritical and HOLLOW immediately after, when he went back to his seat and ‘winked’ at his sycophants, with they duly and obligingly applauding him. The rest of the opposition comprising the likes of Mamata and Naidu do not even deserve a mention.

  3. Let’s pray to God that the situation does not escalate. Poor masses will die for no crime of theirs. If it does, then the present article will be deemed to have been written prematurely. Elections are still very far and heroes can become villains and vice versa.

    In any case, the following quote is not a product of my suspicious mind alone; many people must be thinking along these lines. Mamta Banerji has already started voicing this doubt publicly — that, the root cause of the present conflict, the Pulwama attack, was allowed to happen by a DELIBERATE intelligence failure by the people who wanted to help Modi regime. Please read the following part of a “comment” I had offered to a very good article by Rama Lakshmi right here on THE PRINT in the last two days:

    “…But I must explain more fully why I was “shocked” to see Modi ji washing their feet. I see a very OMINOUS message in this: is he so desperate to win elections??? If Mr Modi is so desperate to win the coming elections, then I must, in all honesty, quote a part of my comment that I had offered to another of THE PRINT’s articles few days back. While working my meagre brains over different scenarios for the Pulwama attack on 14 February, I had worked out the following as the third possibility:

    “3) Or, in the complete list of possibilities, remote and not-so-remote, there is one more shrewd arrangement of pawns on the chessboard that cannot be rejected out of hand — the Pulwana blast was unwittingly encouraged by LOCAL SYMPATHIZERS of the present government when they saw it losing ground due to incessant criticisms by the opposition, including about the Rafale, by DELIBERATELY IGNORING THE FACT THAT THE CONVOY MOVEMENT WAS OCCURRING SO CLOSE TO AFZAL GURU’S DEATH ANNIVERSARY, believing that some terror attach will create a surgical strike type possibility which will give the government a nation-uniting narrative, foolishly not realizing that the attack MIGHT TURN OUT TO BE SO HUGE??!!!”

    “(I was hinting at a deliberate “looking the other way”, or a deliberate “intelligence failure”)

    “I say the above without malice towards any political party, or as a favor to any other political party, and I pray to my God, as always, to protect me, and to give me strength and wisdom to be impartial.”

    As things turn out, the script has played out exactly according to their “alleged” plan. I say “alleged”, because the truth will come out only if and when a thorough investigation is conducted on the causes of that intelligence “failure”.

  4. Actually the strike has not come a day earlier than needed. It was high time for the govt to take such steps viewing the security situation at the border and the killing of so many security forces and the army personnel at the hand of Pak sponsored terrorists. Instead of feeling sanguine over the strike the govt should further concentrate on securing the countries interest. There is no fun in turning the necessity into virtue. Making it a election issue is very mean. However, we should congratulate the brave and precise action of airforce in striking the terror base even inside Pakistan apart from those in POK.

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