Why Rahul Gandhi continues to burn up the BJP
The Bharat Jodo Yatra has truly busted all myths generated by the BJP's IT cell over the years and, clearly, Rahul Gandhi today is the most articulate, suave and presentable of leaders of the nation.
Oh, my! As Rahul Gandhi goes from an unkempt ascetic look, to a well-trimmed gentleman-of-the-world visage, I am not really surprised that bigots and trolls have now become so whiney about his tour of the UK. Cambridge, his alma mater, the British parliament, the Indian diaspora and the highly prestigious and very selective Chatham House are those who have invited the Congress leader and will show case him to the world, though not for the first time. His foreign interactions are becoming almost routine. It is an itinerary that their red-eyed, big-chested overlord will never find himself on, not only because these institutions do not engage with fascists but also because Mr Red-eye will squirm in their midst, find it difficult to articulate himself or even answer a single question spontaneously and without any (tele)prompting.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra has truly busted all the myths generated by the BJP IT cell over the years and, clearly, Rahul Gandhi today is the most articulate, suave and presentable of leaders of the nation, combining both the ruling party and opposition in this regard. I cannot see even Piyush Goyal (who will mix up his Einsteins with his Newtons) or Jayant Sinha (who might end up confusing criminals with achievers) holding their own among refined western audiences the way Rahul Gandhi and some Congress leaders and just two current opposition leaders might – Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik and Tamil Nadu finance minister P. Thiagrajan. And those two are today as abhorred by the BJP as is Rahul Gandhi.
So why do so many opposition leaders seem to have continuing difficulty in acknowledging that Rahul is their best bet to take on Modi and put the BJP in its place? Admittedly, each of them has their own ambition and believes that with just one pocket of influence in the country that can get them not more than two dozen seat at best in the Lok Sabha, each can end up as prime minister. And thereby lies India’s tragedy.
I believe Rahul is our best hope for an opposition unity for more than one reason. First he is not ambitious for himself like the rest of them – he asks not what the country can do for him but what he can do for the country, always. Just look at the Karnataka example from 2018. How many leaders in this country or anywhere in the world have had the courage and determination to give up their mandate to another political party/leader to keep the fascists out of power? That the BJP managed to buy up some of the less committed Congress MLAs anyway and eventually took away the government there is quite another matter.
Then again Rahul Gandhi is also capable of understanding changes of heart and not caught in rigid moulds of the past. Informed sources tell me when the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance was being formed in Maharashtra, certain Congress leaders, particularly those from the south, could not let go of their prejuidices against the Shiv Sena. They were fixated on the insult Bal Thackeray had then heaped on south Indians with the slogan 'Bajao Poongi, Bhagao Lungi'. Rahul Gandhi then accepted the contention of Prithviraj Chavan, someone who did not get along with him, that if they hung on to the slogan, the Congress would not even have two yards of a lungi to cover its shame at the end of five years as the BJP by then would completely destroy the farmers’ co-operatives which continue to be the backbone of both the Congress and NCP in the state. The alliance was eventually formed, Uddhav Thackeray apologised in the Maharashtra Assembly for his party having mixed religion with politics in the past and today, three years later, the Congress has won a byelection from Kasbapeth in Pune, a traditional BJP seat held by that party for over 30 years in a row. The BJP threw everything at that election – money, religion, emotional appeal, threats, and Amit Shah. But the Congress was triumphant in view of the opposition unity – the NCP campaigned here as though for their own. But they lost in nearby Chinchwad simply because the BJP succeeded in dividing the Shiv Sena - they propped up a rebel candidate earlier with the Uddhav Thackeray faction and diverted enough votes to make a victory by the skin of their teeth.
Which is why opposition unity becomes so imperative before the 2024 elections and, I believe, only three people can forge this unity – Sharad Pawar, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
Pawar is one of the very few leaders who has finally realised the futility of hanging on to private ambition in the face of certain annihilation. For the BJP is determined to completely obliterate the entire opposition and this campaign is limited not just to their ambition for a Congress mukt Bharat. Look at what they are attempting to do to the Shiv Sena, what they have already done to parties like the Assam Gana Parishad and Shiromani Akali Dal.
As Professor Prakash Pawar of the Shivaji University at Kolhapur told me recently, except for Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir and partially Punjab, the opposition has not yet realised the dangers of the BJP game plan to crush all the opposition. So they are still full of hope and ambition. But if they don’t take what is being done to these three states in the country seriously, they could face a similar battle against state-sponsored annihilation. Under the circumstances, says Prof Pawar, only the Congress can take the lead in opposition unity simply because it is still pan-Indian and not limited to just one single pocket like other political parties. But it will have to take several steps back to accommodate fragile egos and demands of the regional opposition leaders.
If that is true, then Sharad Pawar could be the network builder, Sonia Gandhi the confidence builder that holds them in honour and Rahul Gandhi the person who can be expected not to allow lack of accommodation to get in the way of opposition unity as he did in Karnataka and Maharashtra.
As such the ascension of Mallikarjun Kharge to the Congress presidency was a great step back that the BJP was not expecting and it is no great wonder the ruling party is now floundering in the face of Kharge’s controlled and polite aggression. That is also putting them out of sorts with Rahul Gandhi for he has given up none of his own aggressive insistence on truth and accountability and continues to embarrass the Modi regime but they cannot now accuse him of dynastic rule or favouritism.
No wonder, in recent days, I have had RSS ideologues telling me that it is time Rahul Gandhi took Mahatma Gandhi seriously and dissolve the Congress – a great admission that their Congress Mukt Bharat campaign has failed miserably. And they want the man they have maligned the most in this world to help them in their ultimate goal of ruling unopposed.
That is the importance of Rahul Gandhi to both India and the BJP – they cannot destroy him or the Congress on their own, so they beg him to help them destroy India. But India is greater than the BJP and Rahul Gandhi is a true son of Mother India. Not a red-eyed, self-centred matricidal mad man to do them any such favour. So expect the abuses to continue. On his new look and his unabashed telling of the truth on both Indian and foreign shores.