Rahul Gandhi says Modi won’t return as PM—whether next government is led by Congress or BJP

Rahul Gandhi said that Congress will see significant gains in the next Lok Sabha polls while BJP will fall well below 250 seats, which means that Narendra Modi will not be the next Prime Minister

Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Renu Mittal

Speaking informally to a group of journalists in Parliament, a confident Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said that the next government in 2019 would be a Modi-less government. Rahul said his assessment is that it would either be a Congress-led government at the centre or an NDA government headed by someone other than Modi. Rahul said that even the Congress’ worst critics say the party’s tally is set to make a minimum increase of 60 to 70 seats in the Lok Sabha election, though he assessed that Congress would fare much better than that. The Congress president pointed to Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra as states in which the party is set to gain seats.

Rahul added that, given Narendra Modi’s poor relations with the BJP’s allies in the NDA, in the scenario where BJP falls well below 250 seats, there would be greater dependence on allies to form the next government—and it looks highly unlikely that Narendra Modi will be accceptable to the allies as the next prime minister.

Rahul said that a year ago if anyone had said that the Congress would do so well in Gujarat, no one would have believed it. Most people did not even expect that Congress would give BJP such a good fight in Gujarat. For Rahul, this has enhanced the morale of Congress workers “who are now in fighting mode and feel they can fight the BJP and take them on, which was not the case earlier”. He said the way that the BJP is sliding is a clear indication of what is to come. The Congress President was, however confident that it would be a Congress-led government next.

On the coming elections in Karnataka, Rahul Gandhi said that the BJP is going all out to play the Hindutva card but he was confident that they will not succeed.

For Rahul Gandhi to make such an assessment at a time when the BJP has been hit by a near defeat in Gujarat and a crushing loss in the Rajasthan bypolls appears to be a shrewd strategy to play mind games with the BJP rank and file, while the BJP leadership is talking of holding simultaneous polls and of pre-poning the general elections to ensure the Modi charisma impacts the assembly elections as well—where the BJP is expected to perform poorly.

Rahul Gandhi is obliterating Modi from the race for the next prime minister, even as Modi believes that the BJP victory in the centre and the state and a return to power would be wholly and solely because of him.

There is no doubt that BJP’s allies are angry, upset and up in arms. Rahul is fishing for new friends and new alliances. Having dumped the middle class, which Modi believes still looks up to him, Modi is now focusing on becoming the new messiah of the poor, as the recent budget indicates. But among BJP MPs, there is uncertainty over their future. Most would not be adverse to a Modi-less political existence, so what Rahul says could be sweet music to their ears.

Corrigendum: It was erroneously attributed to the Congress President that he had suggested that Home Minister Rajnath Singh could lead a possible next NDA government. The error is regretted

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Published: 07 Feb 2018, 8:16 AM