New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Howdy, Modi! event at Houston has exposed cracks in the Congress camp yet again.
One of the first to hit out at PM Modi was former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who took a dig at the “most expensive event in the world” while pointing towards the ongoing slowdown in India.
Senior party leaders Anand Sharma and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot came down heavily on the prime minister for “campaigning” for US president Donald Trump, saying that he was “not a star campaigner but the PM of India”.
However, there were others in the party who were quite taken in by the scale of Howdy, Modi!, where the PM was welcomed by a delegation of the US Congress and had US President Donald Trump by his side.
The party’s former Mumbai chief Milind Deora was all praise for Modi’s “momentous” speech at the Houston event. Congress national spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi chimed in by acknowledging “India’s soft power” at the event but was careful to add that the PM could have been a little less “political domestically”.
Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor said the PM “deserves respect” on foreign visits because he travels as a representative of India, and foreign policy should be immune to party politics. However, he later tweeted that “former PMs also enjoyed popularity abroad”.
Last month, both Singhvi and Tharoor had publicly said the prime minister should not be criticised indiscriminately after veteran Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said “demonising” Modi all the time wasn’t going to help the opposition.
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Gandhi’s tweet against Howdy, Modi! was posted on 20 September, two days before it was held. Describing the event as the “world’s most expensive ever”, he said “no event can hide the reality of the economic mess ‘HowdyModi’ has driven India into”.
Amazing what PM is ready to do for a stock market bump during his #HowdyIndianEconomy jamboree.
At + 1.4 Lakh Crore Rs. the Houston event is the world’s most expensive event, ever!
But, no event can hide the reality of the economic mess “HowdyModi” has driven India into.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) September 20, 2019
Sharma, meanwhile, slammed the PM for what he described as his election pitch for US President Trump, who is making a bid for re-election in next year’s US polls.
Reminding you that you are in the USA as our Prime Minister and not a star campaigner in US elections.
— Anand Sharma (@AnandSharmaINC) September 22, 2019
Gehlot took a similar stand, accusing the PM of breaching India’s non-alignment policy, which the country has observed for 70 years.
Modi ji compromised our national interest by doing so.
His campaign for a particular party in the US has been criticized all around.
Personal friendships and equations can’t be mixed with diplomacy at the cost of national interest.
— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) September 24, 2019
Deora, however, described Modi’s address to the 50,000-strong crowd of Indian-Americans as a “momentous first for India’s soft power diplomacy”.
.@PMOIndia’s Houston address was a momentous first for India’s soft power diplomacy.
My father Murlibhai was one of the early architects of deeper Indo-US ties.@realDonaldTrump’s hospitality & recognition of Indian Americans’ contributions makes us proud
— Milind Deora मिलिंद देवरा (@milinddeora) September 22, 2019
His tweet even elicited a response from the prime minister, who acknowledged the role Deora’s father, the late Union minister Murli Deora, played in enhancing India-US ties.
Thank you @milinddeora.
You are absolutely correct when you highlight my friend, late Murli Deora Ji’s commitment to strong ties with USA. He would have been really glad to see the strengthening of ties between our nations.
The warmth and hospitality of @POTUS was outstanding. https://t.co/eyP1D3xRJo
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 23, 2019
Singhvi hailed the display of India’s “soft power” at the event, though he tempered his praise by expressing his “wish” that the PM had been less “political domestically” and not partisan vis-a-vis US politics.
#HowdyModi is India’s soft power on display &as an Indian one is proud of it. It is also leveraged by India+USA &against Pak/China 2b used in natl self interest. Only wish #PM HD been little less political domestically & qua non #Trump/non #Republican politicians in #USA
— Abhishek Singhvi (@DrAMSinghvi) September 23, 2019
Shortly after Gandhi’s tweet Friday, Tharoor had said the PM “deserves respect” and that foreign policy was dictated by party politics. He also tweeted the same message.
As an Opposition MP i have the right to criticise @narendramodi’s policies, statements, actions & inaction, & expose his failures. But when he goes abroad, he is @PMOIndia & he carries my flag. I want him to be received & treated w/ the respect due to my country’s PrimeMinister. https://t.co/cHPB4acmBd
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) September 20, 2019
“The prime minister deserves respect in foreign countries as he is a representative of our nation. But when he is in India, we have the right to ask him questions,” said Tharoor.
“I would like to send an implicit message outside. We may have differences within our country but when it comes to India’s interest, it is not BJP’s foreign policy nor is it Congress’ foreign policy. It is the Indian foreign policy,” he added.
However, after the event, he posted a photo of former PM Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi from a visit to the erstwhile USSR in 1955, where he received a rousing reception. Through his tweet, he sought to draw attention to the “enthusiastic spontaneous turnout of the American public (a mistake corrected in a subsequent tweet), without any special PR campaign, NRI crowd management or hyped-up media publicity”.
I am told this picture (forwarded to me) probably is from a visit to the USSR and not the US. Even if so, it still doesn’t alter the message: the fact is that former PMs also enjoyed popularity abroad. When @narendramodi is honoured, @PMOIndia is honoured; respect is for India. https://t.co/9KQMcR0zTD
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) September 23, 2019
The praise by all three leaders came on the same day Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh went to Tihar jail to visit former finance minister P. Chidambaram, who has been in prison over his alleged involvement in the INX Media case. The Congress has labelled his arrest a result of the BJP’s “vendetta politics”.
The Congress has been a divided house since its defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, with some of the deepest cracks caused by different views within the party on the scrapping of Article 370.
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