Desperate Modi’s anti-Rajiv jibe, it can’t go any lower; Rahul Gandhi’s dignified response wins crowd’s heart

Against the background of Modi’s unfeeling recourse to slander against the dead, Rahul Gandhi’s response was markedly dignified

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Amulya Ganguli/IPA

Narendra Modi might have got away with his scurrilous accusation against Rajiv Gandhi if the former prime minister had died a natural death.

But Rajiv’s assassination by a terrorist has largely absolved him of much of his missteps which were eagerly enumerated by one of Modi’s factotums evidently when the BJP realized that the prime minister, who was called a “modern-day Nero” by the Supreme Court in the context of the Gujarat riots, was flirting with the limits of decency.

Against the background of Modi’s unfeeling recourse to slander against the dead, Rahul Gandhi’s response was markedly dignified. “The battle is over”, he said, apparently reiterating the point that he had made earlier that Modi will not be prime minister again, and that the latter’s “karma” awaits him.

By ending his message with a hug, Rahul also demonstrated a largeness of heart which hasn’t been Modi’s strong point. Instead, the malicious characterization of Rajiv as “bhrashtachari No. 1” (a corrupt person No. 1), underlined Modi’s bilious nature.

Nor is this the first time when he has pilloried a former prime minister of the Congress. At a time when the Congress was apparently running the BJP close in the Gujarat assembly elections, Modi had accused Manmohan Singh of conspiring with Pakistan against the BJP.

Modi subsequently deputed another of his factotums, Arun Jaitley, to apologize to Manmohan Singh, and also to the former vice-president Hamid Ansari, who was accused of being a co-conspirator, which Jaitley dutifully did.

But Modi did not have the largeness of heart to say sorry himself, just as he has never apologised for the deaths of 1,200 innocent people during the Gujarat riots, which he had casually described as “stray incidents” in a letter to the President, APJ Abdul Kalam.

Modi’s comment, when asked about the riots, that he felt sorrow of the kind when a puppy is run over by a car, can also be regarded as characteristic.

In trying to defend Modi’s insensitive observation about Rajiv, the BJP fielded Union minister Prakash Javadekar, who presented a list of all of the late prime minister’s wrong-doings, starting from his remark in the context of the anti-Sikh riots after Indira Gandhi’s death.

But history will note that the anti-Sikh riots were a one-time aberration related to a revenge attack by Indira’s Sikh bodyguard following the killing of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the Golden Temple, and that Manmohan Singh, a Sikh himself, has apologised for what happened in 1984.

Rahul Gandhi’s tweet to Modi, saying that “projecting your inner beliefs about yourself on to my father won’t protect you” points to the Rafale affair hanging over Modi’s head.

The government’s claim that the PMO’s monitoring of the deal does not amount to interference or parallel negotiations is a sign of the fact that the government is not too confident about what the Supreme Court’s probe into the deal will unearth.

As it is, the ruling party’s position does not appear to be all that secure in the context of the electoral surveys suggesting that the BJP may not get a majority of its own in the Lok Sabha and that there may well be a “hung” parliament, necessitating the kind of horse-trading which Modi suggested that the BJP is undertaking in West Bengal.

It is not impossible that the possibility of a setback – the effect of “karma”, as Rahul Gandhi has said – has induced Modi to launch a spiteful attack against the Congress, in which he hasn’t even spared a person who died an untimely death at the hands of a suicide bomber.

Considering that Rajiv’s mother, too, was killed by a terrorist (and his brother died in an air crash), the Congress’s first family has been the victim of an unkind fate, which is why Sonia Gandhi tearfully told Rahul that power is poison when he became the party’s vice-president.

Fate has now pitted the family against a group whose animus against the Nehru-Gandhis goes back to Nehru’s time.

The saffron dispensation is currently also probing Rahul’s citizenship. Given such prolonged antagonism towards a family, Modi’s targeting of Rajiv is hardly surprising.

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