Rahul Gandhi's report card over the last one year shows his focus and concerns

The only opposition leader to question the Government consistently, even when Parliament did not function and there was a lockdown, Rahul Gandhi has been the only leader to ask for timely action

Rahul Gandhi's report card over the last one year shows his focus and concerns

Sanjukta Basu

A year ago, he called out Prime Minister Narendra Modi for claiming at an all-party meeting “neither is anyone inside our territory nor is any of our post captured”. The PM has surrendered Indian territory to Chinese aggression, said Rahul Gandhi who pointedly asked, “If the land was Chinese: 1. Why were our soldiers killed? 2. Where were they killed?”

He was not the only one to do so. But he was the first and one of the few opposition leaders to question the Prime Minister redrawing the Sino-Indian border on TV. If nobody entered Indian territory, what was the fuss about? Defence and strategy experts also publicly wondered if the PM was incorrectly briefed or whether the government believed it could say anything and get away with it in the post-truth world?

Except for Rahul Gandhi, no opposition leader questioned the government on territorial integrity and yet they want to become PM in 2024, tweeted a defence and strategic expert this week hours before the Congress MP asserted, “India needs quick & complete vaccination- not BJP’s usual brand of lies & rhyming slogans to cover-up vaccine shortage caused by Modi Govt’s inaction. GoI’s constant attempts to save PM’s fake image are facilitating the virus & costing people’s lives.”

The relentless questioning of the Government, even more marked during the last one year, sets him apart from others. Almost every time he questions the government, he is viciously trolled by Union ministers and BJP’s IT Cell. But often they end up eating crow.

The pandemic in particular exposed the limited understanding of BJP leaders and how far ahead is the former Congress president. When the Modi government seemed least interested in the threat posed by Coronavirus, Rahul Gandhi tweeted on February 12, 2020, “The Corona virus is an extremely serious threat to our people and economy. My sense is the government is not taking this threat seriously. Timely action is critical.” The same day the Government formally announced the visit by US President Donald Trump and the PM attended a media event but said nothing about the looming crisis.

More than a fortnight later on March 3, 2020, Union Health Minister advised people not to panic.

Reacting sharply, Rahul Gandhi said on March 5, “The Health Minister saying the Indian Govt has the Coronavirus crisis under control is like the Captain of the Titanic telling passengers not to panic as his ship was unsinkable. It’s time the Govt made public an action plan backed by solid resources to tackle this crisis.”

The Health Minister responded by saying “It’s really sad that Gandhi family chooses to demoralise our countrymen by likening a serious global crisis as Corona outbreak to one of the deadliest peacetime marine disasters. Rahul Gandhi obviously ‘knows’ better than WHO which is saying there is no need to panic.”

WHO had declared Covid-19 as a Public Health Emergency on January 30, 2020 and as a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. On March 13, Rahul Gandhi again said, “I will keep repeating this. The Coronavirus is a huge problem. Ignoring the problem is not a solution. The Indian economy will be destroyed if strong action is not taken. The government is in a stupor.” Although the Government followed with a Janata curfew and a sudden lockdown, BJP ministers continued to ridicule Rahul Gandhi.

On January 28, 2021, weeks before the second wave hit, the PM declared to the world that India had vanquished the virus. Again, Rahul Gandhi cautioned, “GoI is being grossly negligent and overconfident about Covid-19. It’s not over yet.”

But even after he turned out to be correct, the attacks and mocking did not stop. In April this year it was Ravi Shankar Prasad’s turn to attack Rahul Gandhi for writing a letter to the PMO with a range of suggestions including the need to “fast-track approval for other vaccine candidates”. Prasad claimed there was no vaccine shortage, questioned Gandhi’s motives and accused him of “lobbying for pharma companies… for foreign vaccines.”

Four days after Gandhi wrote the letter, the Government went ahead and did exactly what was suggested by the INC leader. “By when will all Indians be vaccinated?” he had asked on November 23, 2020. The reply finally was given by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on April 6, 2021, when he said, “The aim is not to administer the vaccine to those who want it, but to those who need it.” Rahul Gandhi responded the next day by tweeting, “It is ridiculous to debate needs and wants. Every Indian deserves the chance to a safe life.”

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