Responding to Narendra Modi’s attack on former PM Rajiv Gandhi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said he would never insult Modi’s parents and instead defeat him with love. In the past, Gandhi has hugged Modi in Parliament, said that the Congress has resolved to ‘remove hatred from Modi’s heart’, and remarked that he “loves Narendra Modi” and has no anger towards him.
ThePrint asks: Can Rahul Gandhi’s love-and-hug strategy work politically or is he being naïve?
Rahul Gandhi has emerged as that one voice which refuses to let abuse become the norm
National spokesperson, Congress
Amid all the name calling and dragging of forefathers of rivals in a hate-filled election campaign, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has emerged as that one voice which refuses to let abuse become the norm. If there’s one leader who stands between dignified discourse and politics of mindless violence, it is Rahul Gandhi.
Those who stop at nothing finally realise that they reach nowhere. Narendra Modi’s politics rests on two strategies: abusing and playing victim. As a claimant to Delhi, in 2014, fighting a mythical empire, both these cards worked. Modi and his colleagues have indulged in the worst form of abuse but the moment someone else shows them the mirror, they start playing the victim card. ‘Congress ki vidhwa’ does not make it to breaking news or to prime-time debates but hackneyed remarks of Mani Shankar Aiyar, who is not even an office bearer of the party, will be amplified by the media.
Even though Modi does not realise it, the person occupying the highest office has a huge responsibility on his or her shoulders. In a country as diverse as ours, we need a prime minister who has the idiom of a sage. Modi’s nuanced hate speeches invoking polarisation between shamshaan and kabristaan, accusing his predecessor Manmohan Singh of colluding with Pakistan, and using violent words for his rivals has only inspired an army of online and offline hate-obsessed trolls.
In an atmosphere such as this, raising issues in a sane manner is an attempt by Rahul Gandhi to bring political discourse back on track. Posterity will remember this timely contribution.
Rahul’s sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra called Modi a coward and weak. Does that not vitiate the environment?
National spokesperson, BJP
Rahul Gandhi has found a new refrain in “nafrat-mohabbat (hate-love)”, and he can’t get himself to stop. If one analyses Rahul Gandhi’s last 30 interactions with the media, he has used the same semantics of “loving the enemy” every single time. It has become the leitmotif in his interviews. Clearly, some of his campaign managers have told him to adopt this strategy.
But the public can clearly see through this. It started when he hugged Prime Minister Modi in Parliament, and since then he has been trying to practise a Munnabhai-type Gandhigiri that involves giving jaadu ki jhappis and harping on and on about love.
Not only is this extremely puerile, it also shows him in a very poor light. On the one hand, he talks about loving his opponents, and on the other, he calls Prime Minister Modi a chor (thief). There is a clear inconsistency in his politics of love and politics of chowkidar chor hai.
His own sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, has called Modi ‘kayar (coward)’ and ‘kamzor (weak)’. Does that not serve to vitiate the environment? Moreover, everything that Sam Pitroda said about the 1984 riots doesn’t exactly help further a politics of love.
All this has reduced Rahul Gandhi to a sorry figure, and he will fall flat on his face as a result of it.
Bit naïve of Rahul Gandhi to expect voters to believe he harbours no ill-will towards Modi
Rahul Gandhi’s policy of love and hug is aimed at good optics and an attempt to show him as a sensitive, caring politician. His spin doctors think this “Gandhigiri” strategy would pay dividends in the long run.
However, on political turf, it is unlikely to cut much ice simply because there is little or no meeting ground between the BJP led by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, and the Congress. There is near absence of any trust or a sense of camaraderie despite belonging to the political class. Some of these leaders are known to avoid crossing each other’s path or exchanging social pleasantries.
It must be borne in mind that Rahul is an unconventional politician who fancies himself as a Shiv bhakt and a practitioner of rigorous Buddhist Vipassana. It makes him a bit naïve to expect voters to actually believe that he harbours no ill-will towards his political opponent(s) even as he has coined “Chowkidar Chor Hai” slogan and misses no opportunity to air it on all occasions.
The no-holds barred attack on Modi even as Rahul Gandhi chants “love and hug” is part of a game-plan to somehow dissuade “neutral voters” or first-time voters from voting Modi government again. A 100-plus Lok Sabha seats for the Congress will establish Rahul Gandhi as a leader regardless of who forms the government at the Centre.
Either Rahul Gandhi lets his party do the toxic talk or his leaders don’t take his love-talk seriously enough
Author and political commentator
I have been tracking political violence for a few years now and it began when I learnt of the decades-old brutal violence that had gone uncensored in Kannur in Kerala. Having met victims and survivors of this violence, mostly from poor backgrounds, and spent time in this violent district, I fully support all such politics that denounce political violence – be it verbal or physical. In that sense, Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s stance has my unstinted support.
However, we must also examine the sincerity of his statement, especially since leaders are expected to lead by example. More than two dozen RSS workers have been killed across the country, including in Congress-ruled Karnataka and Punjab, since 2014. Rahul Gandhi is yet to issue even one condemnation although he has claimed he will “protect” RSS workers should they face violence. They already do and have for years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his 90-year-old mother, and his late father have been abused in the most disgraceful terms. Recently senior Congress leaders Mani Shankar Aiyar and Mallikarjun Kharge attacked the PM, this after Gandhi’s refrain.
It then leads us to two suppositions: is Rahul Gandhi letting his party men do the heavy lifting when it comes to toxic discourse? Or is the Congress president not taken seriously enough by his party as the gaali politics continues unabated?
If Rahul Gandhi thinks hug is an antidote to lynching and hate, then he is far removed from reality
Love, peace and tolerance are noble virtues and all the more so in the world of politics which is known to be filthy, vicious, unscrupulous and simply unforgiving. In that, one can see where Rahul Gandhi’s attempt to temper down the language of hate with that of love may perhaps be coming from. His admonishment of Sam Pitroda for his insensitive remarks in relation to the 1984 riots is also commendable.
Sadly, though, despite being in Indian politics for decades now, Rahul Gandhi has simply failed to figure out what makes the cut with the people of India. Gone are the days of Mahatma Gandhi, when a language of non-violence appealed to people. Today there are no qualms over who electing a man who refers to an MP’s wife as a ‘Rs 50 core ki girlfriend’ or uses terms like ‘Congress ki vidhwa’.
More than this being a strategically facile move by Rahul Gandhi, the question is, can it even be appreciated for being ‘morally upright’?
A crisis of a remarkable nature and scale has taken over the Indian democracy. Lynching has become commonplace and a terror accused has been given a ticket to fight Lok Sabha elections. In all of this, does Gandhi really believe that he can “hug it out” with his opponents and that will be an antidote to all the hate? If that is the case, then Gandhi is as removed from the sheer toxicity that has pervaded our drawing rooms, as one can possibly be.
By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint.
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