By unthinking opposition to Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi has ceded large swathes of electoral ground to the BJP before the 2019 general elections
Seventeen years is a long time to learn. One completes school, Bachelor’s and Master’s in that time.
But from 2002 to 2019, the Congress party has learnt little.
It knows very well how as Gujarat CM, Narendra Modi had turned its merciless, savage attack on him to his own advantage. The more the Congress attacked him personally, the more he made it about an attack on Gujarat’s ‘asmita’ or pride. He carefully laid landmines of emotion and identity which the Congress meticulously found and stepped on.
With Modi as PM, his canvas much bigger, the Congress is walking into the same trap, having learnt nothing from 17 years of losing and losing ground to the same man.
Ceding space on nationalism
Instead of speaking like a national party, the Congress speaks like a college rebel discovering far-Left politics. From Mani Shankar Aiyar pleading with Pakistan to “eliminate Modi” to Navot Singh Sidhu who was speaking Pakistan’s language before and after Pulwama to their boss Rahul Gandhi meeting Chinese officials during the Doklam standoff or backing JNU separatists, the Congress has gone to great lengths to prove that in order to oppose Modi, it is willing to even harm the nation.
At a time of India’s rising new nationalism, the Congress and the intelligentsia that draws patronage from it have sought to project it as a bad word. This infuriates ordinary Indians and plays right into Modi’s hands.
Coming across as anti-Hindu
The momentum of the Congress’s selective and perverted secularism was so great that it continued with it even after the 2014 drubbing. From one-sided, drummed-up concern over intolerance to posting fake cow violence data from its official handle, the Congress continues to rile Hindus out of sheer habit, and also as instinctive opposition to Modi’s pro-Hindu image.
It showed double standards on Sabarimala. Kapil Sibal prayed to the court to reserve Ayodhya verdict till after the elections. Rahul called India’s most wanted jihadi Masood Azhar-ji. Rahul’s temple visits and Shiv bhakt claims merely come off as superficial and desperate.
Mocking our forces
Rahul Gandhi’s aide Sam Pitroda is the latest in a long line Congress leaders who have questioned or undermined India’s military actions against terrorism. Rahul had himself mocked surgical strike. And in the thick of the election race, any negativity or even ambivalence towards the Balakot airstrikes is like twisting the exhaust inwards and rolling up the glass.
In the zeal to attack anything linked to the Modi regime, the Congress and other Opposition leaders like Mamata Banerjee have blundered straight into undermining our armed forces and parroting Pakistan’s narrative.
Disdain for chaiwallahs and chowkidars
This was a classic trap. The Congress notoriously fell into it in 2014 and shockingly again in 2019. Not learning anything from how Aiyar’s chaiwallah jibe at Modi cost the party, it again bit the chowkidar bait and started trending #ChowkidarChorHai.
Modi seized the moment by the scruff, played victim, sent a subliminal message to chowkidars posted in almost every building of the country as well as those in other menial jobs, and started the high-visibility #MainBhiChowkidar campaign.
The more Modi plumbed icons from India’s fertile history and appropriated them one by one, the Congress kept getting more and more defensive about the Nehru-Gandhi family and engaged in shrilly protecting their aura. Congress leader from Goa Joe D’Souza went to the extent of saying Sardar Vallahbhai Patel was responsible for Partition. To oppose Modi, the party mocked the Statue of Unity, unmindful of the fact that Sardar was a stellar Congressman.
Rahul Gandhi remains obsessed with perceived wrongdoing in the Rafale deal by the Modi regime, despite CAG and Supreme Court ruling it out. He does not realise that Rafale as an issue does not have a tenth of traction among the masses as alleged jobless growth or agrarian distress.
The PM must be pleased as long as he keeps harping on it, because the people are far from convinced that Modi is corrupt. If at all, Rafale has brought attention on the Congress slew of defence scams like Bofors and Agusta-Westland as well as UPA’s handling of Rafale.
Failing at alliances
The Congress’s hubris stops it from seeing where it stands. Each political party feels it is strong enough in the region to get a few seats and then get into a post-election alliance. It doesn’t want to give the Congress, which got just 44 seats last time, any undue advantage to emerge as the pivot for such an alliance.
Over-reliance on the idea of mahagathbandhan to defeat Modi — which succeeded in Bihar — has led the Congress to a point where it hasn’t worked enough on its own organisational growth and is left at the mercy of smug regional parties.
While BJP president Amit Shah kept tirelessly strengthening the organisation, Rahul Gandhi took the shortcut and has kept waiting for alliances to happen.
Denial of own achievements
Today’s Congress does not take credit for its single largest recent achievement: Liberalisation. It humiliated and threw into history’s bin its own PM, Narasimha Rao, who had ushered in that epochal shift. Simply because he was not from the Dynasty.
In its sharp Left turn under Rahul (it had started under Sonia), the Congress even downplays the US nuclear deal under Manmohan Singh or whatever work it had done on GST.
India has decisively veered Right, especially its aspirational, new middle class which does not like the language of doles. It is unclear which electorate Rahul has in mind as his target audience.
What is clear is that unthinking, automated opposition to Modi is a trap that the Congress has failed to detect or learn from since 2002.
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Last Updated Mar 27, 2019, 7:19 PM IST