FROM ANNOUNCING a Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage to listing the NDA government’s unfulfilled promises and accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of making “promises…(with) no truth” and staying silent on critical issues such as the Kathua rape and the crisis in the judiciary, Congress president Rahul Gandhi Sunday revealed the broad contours of the main opposition party’s line of attack against the BJP for the 2019 general elections.
Addressing his party’s Jan Aakrosh Rally at the Ramlila ground in a 32-minute speech, Gandhi launched an all-out attack on Modi, taking his name 38 times while referring to him as Prime Minister and chowkidar 13 times — the second reference being to Modi frequently describing himself as a watchman guarding the people.
“Wherever he goes, he makes promises. He will talk about corruption, employment and farmers but there will be no truth… The people of India bow their heads only before the truth and nowhere else. That is the reality… The country says the Prime Minister spoke to us for half an hour, chalo baitkar bhashan mein se sachayi nikalte hain (Let’s look for truth in his speech),” claimed Gandhi.
Referring to “minorities” in the context of “atrocities against various sections”, he said, “Atrocities are being committed against Dalits, minorities, tribals in every state. Rohith Vemula (the Hyderabad student who committed suicide) was studying, but he was suppressed and killed. Dalits were flogged in Una. In every state, Dalits and minorities are being killed. And the Prime Minister does not utter a word.”
Against this backdrop, Gandhi also spoke about senior party leader Salman Khurshid who told students at Aligarh Muslim University last week that there was “Muslim blood on the hands of the Congress” in reference to communal riots during the party’s rule.
Gandhi claimed that there are different opinions in the Congress unlike the BJP where there is only one ideology and thinking.
“Sometimes, there are different opinions in our party. I will give you an example. Salman Khurshid is sitting here. Some days ago he gave a different opinion. I am ready to accept that there will be different opinions in our party. I will encourage different opinions. I will protect Salman Khurshid but when the party is fighting against the RSS, we have to fight unitedly… In the BJP, there is no respect for (L K) Advani, Arun Jaitley or the chief ministers… Only Modi and (BJP president) Amit Shah will be respected… that is the difference between us and them,” he said.
But the two missing words conspicuous by their absence in the speech were the ones that once figured prominently in the Congress lexicon: “Dharmnirpekshta (secularism)” and “sampradayakta (communalism)”.
In fact, in a significant reference to his own beliefs, Gandhi made an unusual request to party workers. “Two-three days ago, we were going to Karnataka. We were in the flight. And the plane suddenly went down… by 8000 ft. I thought the plane would crash. Then it came to my mind that I should go to Kailash Mansarovar. So I need 10-15 days leave from you after the Karnataka elections (on May 12) so that I can go to Kailash Mansarovar,” he said.
There were a couple of references to the BJP and the RSS “spreading hatred” but no frontal attack on either, unlike his mother and previous Congress chief Sonia Gandhi who, speaking earlier at the rally, directly accused the BJP of “dividing society with an eye on elections” and resolved to fight those trying to “destroy the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb”.
Taking on Modi over corruption, Gandhi referred to the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in Karnataka and said, “With (B S) Yeddyurappa, their chief minister who had gone to jail on one side and four ministers who had also been to jail on the other, Modi says I am fighting against corruption.”
Referring to allegations against Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, BJP chief Shah’s son, the Rafale fighter jet deal and the banking scam involving billionaire Nirav Modi, Gandhi said the “Prime Minister did not utter a word” on any of these issues.
“You were forced to stand in queues. You were told that there is a fight against black money… And some months before, it came to light that the money of the people went straight from the banks to Nirav Modi’s pocket. And Nirav Modi fled to London. You tell me, did the country’s chowkidar who fights against corruption, did he say a line, a word about Nirav Modi?” he said.
Gandhi also sought to take on Modi on the issue of nationalism in the context of the PM’s weekend visit to China. “The Prime Minister and the Chinese President enjoyed tea and held a ‘no agenda’ discussion. The Chinese Army is in Doklam. They are building helipads, extending their airport…their Army is there and the Indian Prime Minister is holding discussions without any agenda. Our PM did not utter a word about Doklam in China,” he said.
Referring to the unprecedented press conference held by the four most senior judges of the Supreme Court to raise questions about the functioning of the Chief Justice of India, Gandhi said, “For the first time in India in 70 years, the judges of the Supreme Court come before the people with folded hands and say they are seeking justice from the people of India. And Modiji is silent,” he said.
On the outrage over the rape cases Unnao and Kathua, Gandhi said, “Narendra Modi used to say beti bachao, beti padhao. For the first time in the history of India in 70 years, the Prime Minister was told on his face abroad that you are not able to protect India’s women… In Uttar Pradesh, your MLA attacked a woman. In J&K, a small girl was killed. And India’s Prime Minister does not utter a word.”
Accusing the Government of destroying institutions, he said, “Whether it is courts, election commission… IITs, IIMs, educational institutions…the people of the RSS are raiding them, one after the other… And Narendra Modi is silent.”