Wayanad MP and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi | Photo: ANI
File image of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi | Photo: ANI
Text Size:

New Delhi: The response of Congress leaders to the Narendra Modi government’s efforts in tackling the coronavirus is bringing to the fore its intra-party politics.

There seems to be a clear difference between the tone and tenor of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other senior leaders, especially the old guard, in taking on the government.

Gandhi has been criticising the Modi government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and has also not spoken much on the nationwide lockdown and the ‘janata curfew’ before it, which have been largely welcomed by senior leaders such as P. Chidambaram, Ashok Gehlot and Ahmed Patel, among a host of others.


Also read: Happy if Rahul returns as Congress chief else Priyanka should take over: Mani Shankar Aiyar


Rahul Gandhi’s tweets

A senior Congress leader said Rahul Gandhi sees an opportunity to target the Modi government on its inefficiency in handling the coronavirus pandemic, as he was the first to warn about its spread, in February itself.

Gandhi did term the Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on 26 March as the “first step in the right direction”.

However, he had mocked the ‘janata curfew’, during which PM Modi had urged people to show their gratitude towards those providing essential services by clapping and banging pots and pans, tweeting: “…small and medium businesses and daily wage earners are the worst hit. Clapping won’t help them”.

Gandhi also targeted the Modi government on 23 March, asking why India did not stockpile protective equipment for health workers, as the World Health Organization had advised on Covid-19.

“WHO ki salah ventilator, surgical mask ka prayapt stock rakhne ke viprit Bharat sarkar ne 19 March tak inn sabhi cheezo ke niryat ke anumati kyun di? Ye khilwad kin taakato ki sheh par hua? Kya yeh aparadhik saazish nahi hai? (Instead of following the WHO’s advice and keeping adequate stock of ventilators and surgical masks, why did the government of India keep permitting their export until 19 March? Who are the powers behind this? Is this not criminal conspiracy?” he tweeted on March 23.

Old guard backing Modi govt’s moves

Former Union finance minister P. Chidambaram, who has always been highly critical of the Modi government, has not only supported the lockdown, but observed the ‘janata curfew’ too.

“As desired by the PM, I am observing Janata Curfew strictly,” he tweeted on 22 March.

Chidambaram also welcomed the lockdown, saying: “The lockdown is late, but better late than never. Those who mocked the idea of a lockdown will do the country a great favour by remaining silent for 21 days,” he posted on 24 March. He also urged all citizens to support the lockdown despite the hardships.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had also welcomed the lockdown, as did his deputy Sachin Pilot and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor.

Tharoor, on 24 March, tweeted his thanks, along with veiled criticism of the PM’s speech.

“Pleased that Narendra Modi heeded the calls of many of us for more than a week to #Lockdownnow. But his speech did not specify how people were to get essential commodities – food, medicine, milk, newspapers!? Still it is important that people #StayAtHomeSaveLives. Thanks PM,” he wrote.


Also read: Chidambaram, Tharoor lead Congress support for PM’s COVID-19 speech, but with a caveat


Differences of opinion not new

Such differences of opinion between Rahul Gandhi and veteran Congress leaders aren’t new. But their persistence, as is evident over the coronavirus crisis, comes at a time when Sonia Gandhi is said to be preparing the ground for her son’s re-installation as Congress president.

Although Rahul Gandhi has publicly maintained that he is not interested in taking over the party’s reins, he has continued to call the shots through his mother. All appointments in the party and even Rajya Sabha nominees are vetted by Rahul. The last list of Rajya Sabha nominees included two very close lieutenants of Rahul — Rajiv Satav and K.C. Venugopal.

Congress sources said that Rahul was willing to return as party chief, but only if Sonia agreed to give him a free hand in “drastically overhauling” the organisation, which means shunting out the old guard. Sonia is not ready to take that risk yet, said sources.

“Rebuilding the party requires hard decisions and numerous people will have to be made accountable for the failure of 2019. It would be unjust to hold others accountable but ignore my own responsibility as president of the party,” Rahul Gandhi had written in his resignation letter after the 2019 Lok Sabha poll drubbing.

This, a senior functionary said, was a dig at the old guard.

Unhappy with the way things were moving in the Congress after the Lok Sabha debacle, the Wayanad MP showed little enthusiasm in campaigning in the Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra elections. The party put up a strong show in these elections, indicating his ineffectiveness. Rahul has, over a period of time, distanced himself from the party’s routine affairs, concentrated largely on targeting the central government on social media platforms.

The fresh tussle between Rahul and the senior leadership is taking place at a time when a section of the party, especially younger leaders, have been asking him to take on the position of party president once again.

‘War-like situation’

The common feeling among many Congress leaders is that in this “war-like situation”, the government needs to be supported by the opposition.

“Many senior leaders are of the opinion that right now is not the time to target the government on each and every matter. Important issues should be raised, which are for the poor and needy, but it is not a normal scenario and the opposition has to support the government. Rahul seems to be only critical,” said a senior leader.

Another Congress leader said this difference in approach also highlights the overall differences between the old guard and Rahul Gandhi.

“Even during the CWC meeting after the poll drubbing, Rahul was quite angry, upset and his response was very aggressive as he felt the senior leaders had let the party down. The fact that he is not getting a lot of support in targeting the Modi government now also shows the clear divide,” said the second leader.


Also read: Karnataka Congress MLA defies janata curfew to host son’s engagement


 

ThePrint is now on Telegram. For the best reports & opinion on politics, governance and more, subscribe to ThePrint on Telegram.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

20 Comments Share Your Views

20 COMMENTS

  1. Instead of critising Mr.Rahul Gandhi think if, ” P.M.Modi would listen Rahul Gandhi’s speech of warning on 12 th February “. ” O God , we would have saved the lives of Indian people & economical disaster”.

  2. The so called pappu has only one agenda – criticise PM Modi for anything and everything what he speaks, sees or does. If anyone feels that he had predicted regarding spread of Corona, please remember that someone with brains must have advised him. It is certainly not his idea. He seldom knows what he is tweeting or blabbering and thereby pausing himself to be a joker for the media to comment and sensible people to laugh at. Poor guy, a wrong person in a much wrong place! One can only pity him and not get annoyed.

  3. Rahul Gandhi knows his mind and does make an impact on his criticism which is mocked and dusted under the carpet.
    The corona has come up in a vicious manner and even our Modiji is extremely concerned.
    Pulling down governments , creating disorder in Delhi maybe some people’s forte. This is a threat to innocent lives on which all political speeches,promises and jumlas fail. People are power and if you do not have people how will you regain your popularity and prominence.
    Work on protection of the people ,their health and convenience.

  4. You can’t see or you can’t 😭😂😭 read you useless bunch of idiots you have put the world at risk no person in his right mind would do harm unhealthy minds and corrupt

  5. The best service RG now could do to the country is sit at home observe total lockdown and stop tweeting about the happenings in India.

  6. Actually this is WAR. 3rd WW in fact!
    Hence, my insistence is if this is a global conspiracy theory, then we are doomed in any case. With reference to predictions by Ray Kurzweil, US Brain implant scientist, humankind will drastically shrink, AI will come in en mass, Human brain implants will take lace galore beyond 2o3o.
    Our leaders in India are blissfully unaware of these issues. Gandhi has a few valid points to say here though I am not an avid admirer of his…..even he sometimes does no know what he is talking on. He has the youth but the relevant and timely leadership is missing. Entirely due to lack of knowledge and reference for histrionics, for lack of good advisers.
    Parliament is full of museum pieces . so who can understand the significance of brain implants, Ray Kurzweil, Yuval Noah Harari, Sadhguru and his Inner Engineering OR even the validity of Bruce Lipton Biology of Beliefs where he unleashes the power and role of human consciousness in 21st century.
    Actually all our leaders are on personal revenue improvement programs for 7o years….their cells are inactive to what Nature wants them to do~ plus we are real dumb Sapiens in 21st century! We have not been evolved to live in 21st century. And so China releases the COVID~19, may be in absolute silent collaboration, consent and understanding with the other world leaders . Sapiens get reduced in nos from 7.3 billion, say to 5 billion with two other viruses thrown in next 5 years……and the world sustains itself.
    Modi, Putin, Ji are few of the Winners with their nincompoopery! Military civility is needed around us. But who cares……Inner Engineering……

  7. In what capacity is PAPPU criticizing the central government. He does not have any post ion in CWC or is its president. Let the office bearers comment, not anybody with perpetual malice towards PM MODI.

  8. Rahul’s single minded attacks on Modi, which completely lack logic and substance, but are loaded only with noise, inane one liners and childish acronyms can never take the place of ‘informed opposition criticism’.. This has been made manifest time and again in election after election. From ‘Suit boot ki sarkar’, to ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ to the mythical corruption charge in the Rafale deal, Rahul has only toyed with the truth, and even worse, created falsehood out of thin air. It is hardly surprising that the sane, and the elderly, experienced leaders among the crowds of Congress sycophants who only tell Rahul what HE wants to hear, cannot support such ‘shooting oneself in the foot’ tactics ( if that is what it is) that have already brought Congress to its knees. It is Rahul, NOT the seniors that should adapt. He is groping in the dark and ‘his’ leadership (?) can only lead to further disaster for the party.

    • Rahul Gandhi has very little undrstaning of politics. As he can not compete or come anywhere near PM Modi, he is only hating Modi. He is critising for every thing. He can not differentiate good moves.
      I remember Mahatma Gandhi has named such people as Gutter Inspectors

  9. Normally a time of crisis – Covid 19 koi war se kam nahin hai – is marked by the government being supported by the Opposition. So it was gracious of the Congress President to write to the PM, saying that the Congress party would stand by the government for this crisis, support the good work that it would be doing. I am not sure that India has benefited from this new all conquering form of politics, of taking it to the extent of calling for a Congress mukt Bharat. As India lurches from one crisis to another, there should be the deepest reflection and introspection.

  10. Really believe RG has mental ability to comprehend the current coronavirus situation? One of his team to s tweeting basis advise given by another..we are seeing RG since 2004 what he has done or rather what he has NOT done.. wonder when is his next foreign trip

  11. You got to give credit where credit is due. RG was the first politician in India to recognize the Wuhan virus threat ( when this govt was busy with trying to win Delhi elections), he spoke about cash transfers (which the govt seems to agree to now) and preparedness for the medical community (which we are seriously lacking in and is probably the prime reason for this lockdown)
    The only drawback is he has not spelled out any alternate strategy but he can’t be faulted for that because he is not in the govt and would not be getting all inputs that the govt gets. Inspite of all this he has been able to correctly point out 3 key strategies much ahead of anyone – atleast needs to be acknowledged so.
    The old guard and new Turks of Congress need a divorce – either they split and form separate parties – or one makes way for the other. The people of India are not able to get a genuine opposition due to this inability of the congress party to settle this issue once and for all.
    If this is war, then the PM must form a war cabinet and include key opposition members in it. No point in carrying dead wood like Ms Nirmala Sitaraman – better to have Chidambaram as FM. Churchill did it in WW2 – much easier to unite the country by taking along everybody.

  12. It is a clear attempt to manufacture differences within the party while on this issue there’s none. While it is true that a intra party political tussle is in within congress but this is a attempt to manufacture differences where there’s none on this issue.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here