AICC general secretary Ashok Gehlot sent out an interesting tweet on Thursday. It showed a copy of a twitter message sent exactly seven years ago by none other than Narendra Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat.
Dated May 19, 2011, Modi’s tweet read: “Governor of Karnataka is bent on destroying India’s federal structure. I urge PM to request President to recall him!”
Next to that tweet, Gehlot added the very contemporary and sarcastic Congress response: “We agree!”
That was not the only social media post by Gehlot on Thursday. His other tweet was not light-hearted but deathly serious. It was an official circular to Congress functionaries all over the country to observe Friday as “Save Democracy Day” by organising state-wide dharnas at all state capitals and district headquarters.
In his official capacity as the man in charge of the party organisation and training, Gehlot was issuing the call to protest against the swearing-in of BS Yeddyurappa, despite being short of a majority, and “blatantly partisan and authoritarian act” of Karnataka Governor Vajubhjai Vala. All PCCs have been told to organise dharnas at state capitals and district HQs.
Lending a nice touch to this formal communication, Gehlot added the line: “Kindly use evocative slogans and innovative techniques to highlight this travesty”.
The number of followers of the twitter handle @ashokgehlot51 has grown rapidly in recent months. At close to four lakhs, it reflects his rising profile and role since the Gujarat elections last December. During the just concluded Karnataka election campaign, almost every photograph and video of Rahul Gandhi showed Gehlot silently standing nearby—an indication of his proximity to the young Congress president.
Known for long as a staunch Sonia loyalist, the former Rajasthan chief minister has evidently become one the new party chief’s advisors among the old guard. Despite his low profile and soft-spoken demeanour, Ashok Gehlot is probably among the most experienced party seniors still active on the field. He has had two five-year terms as Rajasthan chief minister (from 1998 to 2003 and again from 2008 to 2013). He has been elected to the Lok Sabha five times, the first time being during Indira Gandhi’s dramatic 1980 comeback. He has also been a junior central minister with a wide range of portfolios—Tourism, Civil Aviation, Sports and Textiles.
This kind of track record is nothing to scoff at, especially since he has also held key party posts including three stints as PCC chief. Now at 67, Gehlot finds himself in a position to bring all his experience to bear in the unfolding struggle to help the Congress under Rahul Gandhi counter the RSS-BJP.
Having tasted power, the Sangh Parivar is driven by the urge to capture absolute power. As Karnataka has shown, there are no rules anymore. Under Amit Shah and Narendra Modi, the BJP has morphed into something more than just a right-wing Hindutva force. It has revealed its fangs and its authoritarian mindset
If the aftermath of the Karnataka elections is any indication, the fight will be gruelling and tumultuous. In the coming months, as other even more fierce electoral fights loom large, especially in his home state of Rajasthan, Gehlot’s abilities, commitment and endurance will be tested to the hilt.
Rajasthan having always been a Congress versus BJP State, Gehlot has fought against the saffron party throughout his political career. Like him, there are many party leaders in States like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh with the experience of countering communalism. The time has come for leaders of substance to show their true mettle.
This applies to leaders belonging to other secular political parties as well. The Karnataka saga has signalled that battle has just begun in earnest.
It has also signaled that this time the fight will be far more fearsome. Having tasted power, the Sangh Parivar is driven by the urge to capture absolute power. As Karnataka has shown, there are no rules anymore.
Under Amit Shah and Narendra Modi, the BJP has morphed into something more than just a right-wing Hindutva force. It has revealed its fangs and its authoritarian mindset.
The aim of the amoral ShaNa duo is to do whatever it takes to crush the Congress party and to ruthlessly target all who stand by the leadership. The question is—do party leaders have the resilience to resist and the resolve to fight to the finish whatever the odds? If the ‘Save Democracy’ mission is to succeed, the answer has to be a yes.
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