As Rahul Gandhi prepares to take over as Congress president later this month, his comments in Gujarat these last few days seemed to have touched a chord, probably for the first time in three years since the BJP came to power. He has been greeted by curious crowds, subjected himself to questions by young students as well as reporters belonging to TV channels like Zee TV which are openly aligned to the ruling party and responded with one-liners that are the stuff of real political satire.
At Karjan, Vadodara, referring to the news portal ‘The Wire’’s story on how BJP party president Amit Shah’s son, Jay Shah’s company had shot up the wealth charts since the BJP came to power, Rahul described him as being a shining example of Start Up India, the prime minister’s flagship programme.
The PM’s favourite slogan on empowering the girl child, “Beti bachao” should now read “Beta bachao,” Rahul said. Spoofing the BJP’s accusation that he is a Prince among the proletariat, a “shehzada,” the Congress leader said it might be more relevant to describe the current state of affairs as “Shah-zaade,” a Shah-that-is-asking-for-more.
Clearly, the Congress leader’s speech-writers are doing a better job. Perhaps the party’s social media team is coming up with better hashtags. @VikasGando, the Twitter handle which has created quite a stir in Gujarat spoofing prime minister Modi’s “vikas” or development slogan and which was clearly been talked up by several Congress party Twitter handles, has Patidar leader Hardik Patel’s photograph splashed across its header. Does this indicate an informal understanding between Hardik and Rahul ?
At least Patel’s recent cryptic tweet, saying “BJP ki ek bhi yatra ko janta ka samarthan nahin mil raha hai,” (the BJP isnt getting any support from the people in any yatra) confirms the fact that he isn’t responding to the BJP’s offers to alleviate the pains of the Patidar community.
भाजपा की एक भी यात्रा को जनता का समर्थन नहीं मिल रहा !!जनता कहती है की अब हमें जूठे वादे नहीं चाहिए ।।ग़रीब,युवा और किसान की सरकार नहीं हैं। pic.twitter.com/wEApCMq4K7
— Hardik Patel (@HardikPatel_) October 11, 2017
As for the pinned tweet on the Trinamool Congress’s Twitter handle @abarTMC , which tells BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma to “go to Google, type Gujarat riots and see the images…” the possibility that Mamata Banerjee is also on board a larger, still- informal anti-BJP umbrella, notwithstanding the Trinamool Congress absence of cachet in Gujarat, is a no-brainer.
So it was hardly coincidental that BJP party bigwigs landed up in Amethi the exact day Rahul Gandhi was drawing the crowds in Gujarat. Even more significant is UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s declaration on the same day that a Rs 100-crore statue of Lord Ram will be built on the banks of the Saryu river, in Ayodhya, to celebrate his birthplace and bring in the tourists.
After all, said BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, if a statue of Lord Ram isn’t built in Ayodhya, then where else will it be built?
Patra is right. As the clock moves inexorably towards the 2019 general elections – only two years are left — and the economy shows little inclination to improve itself, the party needs a big enough idea to magnetise the voter. What better idea than to push the idea of a Ram statue as well as a Ram mandir on the contested ‘janmabhoomi’ ?
The Supreme Court has already ordered that the case be heard regularly. It seems the RSS is pushing for a temple and the ruling party is perfectly in sync with that request. The RSS wants the Babri Masjid Action Committee and other naysayers to accede voluntarily. The velvet glove will soon be extended to request them to give up their opposition to the “Hindu Samaj.”
“That’s all we want, a temple to our beloved Lord Ram, and we hope you will give it to us”, an RSS insider said, adding, “the Muslim community will surely accede to our request.”
Question is, will the removal of the velvet glove be entirely unnecessary?
With two years left to go for the 2019 elections, something seems to be shifting in the public mood. Whether or not Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party is capable of tapping into this mood shift will be critical for the future of the grand old party.
Rahul’s admission that the 2014 debacle finally put some sense into his head has been rapturously greeted by his party (“Itni buri tarah haraya ki peet-peetkar akal aayi”). Certainly, the acknowledgement of past mistakes is the first step to rebuilding and moving forward. But if the putative Congress president fails to capitalize on this mood shift in the coming state elections in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, by building alliances and coalitions with like-minded outfits and parties, working full-time in the states going in for elections so that voters think he is at least half-serious about politics being a full-time commitment – and not leave the winning to his social media team – the Congress party may still stand a chance against the powerful BJP machine.
‘The Wire’ story on Amit Shah’s son has definitely done some moral damage and given yet another talking point to disaffected BJP insiders. The Rs 100-crore libel suit against the tiny news portal, apart from similarities to a David-Goliath fight, is certainly intended as a show of strength on the part of the ruling party. Enough party spokespersons and Cabinet ministers have said that “we” have done no wrong.
Reading the tea-leaves at this time won’t tell us much, except the anticipation of retrospect. It was at this point, we will say two years from now, that Rahul Gandhi decided to do such-and-such and Narendra Modi responded in so-and-so manner – or vice-versa. Perhaps the prime minister will add another scalp to his record-breaking repertoire. Perhaps the joint opposition, of which the Congress is one element, will wake up from its deep, Kumbhakarna-like sleep.
In this season of festivals, as we recall the gods who came to the help of ordinary mortals and disdain those who were too weak to do so – like prime minister Modi did recently, by invoking ‘Shalya’ in the Mahabharata with reference to BJP leader Yashwant Sinha’s criticism – there’s an interesting character called Kalayavan who was incinerated by the burning gaze of Muchukunda in the Mahabharata. Like everything else in the epics, the story is too complicated to tell here, but rest assured Krishna is involved, which means that neither the beginning nor the end can be simple or straightforward.
Flash forward to the 21st century. It seems the cave where Muchukunda delivered his fatal blow is either located near Mount Girnar in Gujarat or the Ananthagiri hills in nearby Telangana. Perhaps there’s a geographical moral here? As they say in the cliché, watch this space to find out.