When Congress president Rahul Gandhi started his Rajghat march, hitting the streets against skyrocketing fuel prices in Delhi on Monday, many might have thought it was going to be just another token march.
But, as soon as visuals of Rahul Gandhi walking on the road, profusely sweating in the rising heat, emerged on the TV screens, the narrative started to change. Within the next 20 minutes, mainstream media had announced that the Congress seemed serious to challenge the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Walking along with Rahul Gandhi in the Rajghat march, TV reporters (usually pro-Modi) were loudly making statements in their reports such as:
“Congress seems to have made up its mind…by hitting the street, Rahul Gandhi has proven that he will fight tooth and nail against the BJP in next Lok Sabha election…Rahul’s protest march is going to be the most effective method to corner Modi government till date.”
Proving them right, when Rahul Gandhi delivered his speech, he chose politically correct yet the most hitting words. He launched a very effective attack on Modi government from a makeshift manch built in front of an Indian Oil petrol filling station, near Ramlila Maidan.
Located under the shadow of the tallest building of Delhi – Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Civic Centre, the petrol filling station appeared a rather unusual choice for show of unity in protest against fuel price hike. But politically, it appeared a well thought out strategy.
Connected by the need of the hour and rising resentment against the Modi government, as many as 20 political parties have joined the protest led by the Congress. Including Congress, 21 political parties have participated in Monday’s Bharat Bandh.
Except the SP and the BSP, all major political constituents of the erstwhile UPA have joined the protest. They all unanimously urged Rahul to lead the charge. Contrary to media reporting representatives of Aam Admi Party and Trinamool Congress were surprise addition to this Opposition unity.
An aggressive Rahul Gandhi spoke with grit and slammed the Modi government for its all-around failures. Launching an attack against PM Modi, Rahul at least five times referred to Opposition unity in his speech.
Blaming Modi for destroying India, Rahul said, “When Modiji came to power in 2014, he made different promises to different sections of the society. He made promises to farmers, youths, women…Where ever he went, he made a promise…But, in the last four years, he has failed to deliver on a single promise. Except for one. People of this country have understood the reality, what he did with the country.”
Referring to Modi’s much publicised slogan of “What Congress could not do in the last 70 years, I will do,” Rahul sarcastically said, “Modiji is right, what Congress could not do in 70 years, he did…Rupee is at its weakest in the last 70 years…Price of petrol has crossed the limit of ₹80 and diesel cost is a little less than ₹80…But the Prime Minister is silent…He has been silent on every crucial issue.”
Raising the controversial Rafale deal, Rahul once again attacked the Modi government. Blaming Modi of plundering ₹46,000 crore from the public exchequer to help one of his cronies, though Rahul did not name Anil Ambani but his message was clear and loud. Hinting that his poll campaign will have special focus on the Rafale deal, Rahul said, “When we raised the issue in Parliament, he did not reply. These 46 thousand crores belong to you…it was public money given to a crony.”
Indeed, demonetisation, GST and rising fuel prices were mentioned by Rahul in his first public speech after his Kailash-Manas Sarovar pilgrimage, but the focus was on Opposition unity. Concluding his speech with a look-forward approach, Rahul emphasised, “We are united against the BJP. We think what the people of this country have in their hearts. We are going to defeat the BJP in the 2019 election.”
It was a trailer-launch of the Grand Alliance ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, quipped a journalist. “We will have to wait for the full film but with the beginning so effective, one can almost profess that the end will signal the end of the Modi government in 2019,” said a senior journalist who has been covering Congress for decades now.