The rapid response of the Congress party’s leaders and lawyers to each new development in the Karnataka drama was stunning. Every single move that the BJP made in its power-grabbing exercise was countered so quickly that the saffron strategists were caught on the wrong foot time and time again.
But it was not speed alone that upset the BJP’s game-plan. It was not just quick-thinking and fast action that left Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, BS Yeddyurappa and Vajubhai Vala bewildered and bemused. It was intelligence and intellect.
In many ways the crisis in Karnataka helped the Congress party rediscover itself. It was a reminder of just how much talent, knowledge and experience exists at various levels in the country’s oldest political organisation.
For legal acumen, the party could turn to Abhishekh Manu Singhvi, Kapil Sibal, among others. For political expertise at the national level, there was Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ashok Gehlot and another dozen other stalwarts. In Karnataka itself, Siddaramaiah, DK Shivakumar and many more came to the fore. For adroit media management, there was the likes of Randeep Singh Surjewala, Sanjay Jha and Manish Tewari, to name just a few.
Above all, there is Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Only after the full story of the Vidhana Soudha victory is researched, fact-checked and chronicled, can the details be confirmed. But it was Sonia’s stature and secular credentials that helped clinch the all-important deal with HD Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) so swiftly and smoothly.
Right at the beginning of the press conference, Rahul Gandhi demolished Modi’s patriotism plank. Did you notice, asked the Congress chief gently, that after Yeddurappa announced his resignation, he along with BJP MLAs and even the Pro-Tem Speaker all trooped out without waiting for the National Anthem?
More than anything else, however, the mastermind behind the Congress party’s most spectacularly successful political operation since 2014 was undoubtedly Rahul Gandhi.
It was he who was not only the star campaigner during the raucous election but also the strategist-in-chief directing his rapid-response team during the gripping drama that followed the announcement of results.
In any high-octane operation, the key to success lies in staff selection, organisation, control and co-ordination, decision-making and direction. The Congress president, barely six months since shouldering what many have described as Mission Impossible, has scored high marks in each of these basic principles of political leadership, at least insofar as handling the Karnataka crisis is concerned.
To Rahul-baiters and haters, it might sound quite preposterous to make such an assertion of Rahul Gandhi’s hands-on stewardship during the management of the crisis. But all they need to do is view the 15-minute video of the Congress president’s press conference immediately after the unfortunate Yeddyurappa struggled to hold back his tears of bitter disappointment while eating humble crow on the floor of the Karnataka Assembly on Saturday afternoon.
Not just watch the video with a vacant or biased mind, but to note what he said, how he said it and analyse the implications of all that he said.
First off—right at the beginning of the press conference—Rahul Gandhi demolished Narendra Modi’s patriotism plank. Did you notice, asked the Congress chief gently, that after Yeddyurappa announced his resignation, he along with BJP MLAs and even the Pro-Tem Speaker all trooped out without waiting for the National Anthem?
Watch the video of BJP MLAs walking out below:
Shocking. Here was a BJP chief minister, his newly-elected party members and the hand-picked pro tem speaker Kombarana Ganapathy Bopaiah with all his famed experience of notorious Speakership—all staunch patriots and nationalists to the core—showing utter disrespect to Jana Gana Mana on live television with the whole nation watching.
Having disrobed the BJP of its fake nationalism mantle, Rahul proceeded to unravel the other myth about Modi—his intolerance for corruption and his stirring pledge that he would neither consume nor allow anyone else to consume any food cooked in the rancid oil of filthy lucre.
What happened, Sri Pradhan Sewak, the young Congress leader seemed to say. Were your party bosses in Bangalore not desperately trying to bribe, buy and purchase horses in the single largest political bazaar? Were they not doing so at your behest and your express instructions? Are there not several hair-raising audio recordings testifying to the fact that MLAs were being lured with lavish promises of “100 times your total assets”?
These may not be exact quotes from Rahul Gandhi’s address to the press but that is what he meant.
As for actual quotes, here is a beauty. He told the assembled journalists: "You've seen openly how the PM directly authorised purchasing of MLAs in Karnataka. So the idea that PM spreads in the country that he is fighting corruption, is a blatant lie. He encourages corruption. Pradhan Mantri brashtachar hain. (He is corruption)".
Watch the highlights of Rahul Gandhi’s press conference below:
Nobody has ever said that before. But that is because nobody has been speaking the truth very much in the last four years. Especially in the national media. Rahul Gandhi had a few words to say about the fake news media too.
Taking of the atmosphere of fear that had been created in the country, he referred to the pressure that the media was working under and pointedly added a word of praise for “some of you who are brave”.
The thrust of Rahul’s truth-telling was aimed at Modi himself. But he did not spare Modi’s Man Friday, the BJP president. Referring to the failure of the immoral power-grab in Karnataka, he said the people of the country had shown “murder-accused Amit Shah” that the Constitution is bigger than money power. Almost in passing, he had come out with another beauty.
It was almost astonishing how much the Congress president—who is always portrayed by the BJP as being hopelessly inarticulate—was able to convey in just 15 minutes.
Because he also underlined a significant point: “My message to the Prime Minister:, he said, “is that the Prime Minister is not bigger than the people of the country. He is not bigger than the Supreme Court and he is not bigger than Parliament”.
Apart from all that, he also sent out a clear signal about his stand on unity of all non-BJP political parties and forces. It was a news-worthy declaration from the leader of a major national party, and it will have been duly noted by various regional parties across India on the road to the Lok Sabha elections.