Editor : Satish Ohri    Edition : Jan - Feb 2019

Rahul shows he is not Pappu, Modi not invincible

Rahul Gandhi is not a Pappu. The election results in the cow belt of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have proved beyond doubt that Rahul Gandhi can lead the Congress to victory. Having passed the Semi-Finals, the trust deficit, which the people had towards him, is all history. By winning 3-0 in the Hindi-heartland, he, indeed has proved that no one can be taken lightly in politics. The Congress President has a long way to go and cannot afford to rest or take a break till Lok Sabha elections, scheduled for April-May 2019. Any casual approach or laxity on his part can turn the tables upside down. The duo – Prime Minister Narendra Modi & BJP President Amit Shah – are old masters in politics and will take all the steps to ensure that the defeat is not repeated in the Lok Sabha polls. In fact, the BJP is not ready to give any credit to Rahul Gandhi as it feels that it was mainly due to the anti-incumbency in the three Northern States that has led to their defeat in the Hindi-heartland. In Telangana, the Congress was routed by TRS Chief K Chandrasekhar Rao and in Mizoram, the last bastion of the North-East State, has also been lost by the Congress. The results in the Semi-Finals can no way be termed as a referendum on the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre, as the fight was not Rahul versus Modi. People were tired of the 15 years of BJP rule in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and wanted a change. Similarly, they were unhappy with the policies of Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan. People have, therefore, given VRS to Vasundhara, Raman Singh and Shivraj Singh Chauhan, remarked a BJP leader. As for the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, he has shown how all the leaders, Old Guard & the Young Turks, can be taken along. In the Hindi-heartland, it was not easy to take along the rivals like Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan, Kamal Nath, Digvijay and Jyotiraditya in Madhya Pradesh. Similarly, in the tribal State of Chhattisgarh, he made it sure that leaders belonging to different castes like Tamradhwaj Sahu, Bhupesh Baghel, T S Singh Singh Deo, were given due representation. The Congress was able to strike a caste balance in Chhattisgarh, with Charan Das Mahant (Kabirpanthi), Bhupesh Baghel (Kurmi), Tamradhwaj Sahu (Sahu) and T S Singh Deo (upper-caste Thakur), accommodated at the helm of the party campaign. While everyone was pressurizing Rahul Gandhi to take along Ajit Jogi, he refused to buckle under any pressure and decided to go all alone. Similarly, in Madhya Pradesh, despite the demand of having an alliance with BSP Supremo Mayawati, he refused to budge by agreeing to give unreasonable number of seats to her. Even prior to the announcement of elections, Rahul Gandhi took the right decision of making Kamal Nath the MPCC President and appointing Jyotiraditya as the Campaign Chief. By making Sachin Pilot the RPCC President, way back in 2014, he paved the way for victory at the hustings. The change of guard in all the three States was also a herculean task, as it was the Young Turks versus the seniors but at the end, it was due to the leadership skills that he managed to have a smooth sailing. All the three new Congress Chief Ministers Kamal Nath, Ashok Gehlot and Bhupesh Baghel are sure to provide new lease of life to the State politics and ensure sizeable number of seats in the Lok Sabha elections. While the BJP has reached a saturation point in the Hindi-heartland, the Congress is hoping to raise its tally in the Northern States. In Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, the Congress had won only 3 seats in 2014, while the BJP had bagged 62 seats. Going by the results in the Assembly elections, the Congress has won 32 Lok Sabha seats in these States, which means the BJP is all set to lose these seats in 2019. Owing to the victory in these three States, which is not a small win in any case as the Congress has managed to defeat three titans of the BJP – Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Raman Singh and Vasundhara Raje – the morale of the Congress workers is upbeat. With barely four to five months left for the finals, the Congress workers will try their best to defeat the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls as well.

Having improved their tally in Gujarat State Assembly polls and after the victory in Karnataka, Rahul Gandhi’s confidence level had risen. One could see a mature Rahul Gandhi in the recent Assembly elections, who could speak extempore, for hours together, and even take questions from the media persons. In fact, he admitted to the scribes that he had no one else to thank but the BJP leadership for making him so strong. Having inundated the social media by hurling accusations and calling him “Pappu” so often, he was left with no option but to show them their place. After the semi-finals, he has shown that no one is invincible, not even, Prime Minister Modi. The BJP leadership is, however, not so worried. They know that it is not the end of the road. The tide can still be turned in their favour, if they work seriously. In fact, the leaders could gauge the mood of the people in these States, well in advance. Barely a day before the Assembly elections, when this correspondent asked Home Minister Rajnath Singh about the outcome of the polls, he remarked, “We are getting majority.” When asked whether BJP was indeed winning all the three Hindi-heartland States, he chose to clarify that he was only talking about 2019 polls. The BJP is very confident about the leadership qualities of Narendra Modi. They would try their best to turn the Lok Sabha poll campaign into a Presidential poll. However, the polls this time will be different. While Rahul Gandhi will be the central figure of the Opposition, all the State satraps will try their best to defeat the communal forces, whether it is Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav or Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, NCP leader Sharad Pawar in Maharashtra, Deve Gowda in Karnataka, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah in Jammu & Kashmir, or Lalu Yadav in Bihar. The Congress, along with the Left parties and the entire Opposition, will try their best to ensure that the BJP is isolated. “We don’t want BJP-Mukt Bharat”, stated Rahul Gandhi, “but want to remove hatred from the country, which was being practiced by the Communal forces.” The factors which went against the BJP were the lynchings and communal agenda, including the voices raised on the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. People want to hear about employment, bringing down inflation, better remuneration for the farmers and development agenda of the government. Demonetisation and GST were the other factors which led to the defeat of the BJP in these States. Despite the high chorus against the Modi Government on the Rafale Deal by the Opposition, Prime Minister Modi is way ahead in the popular ratings in the country, as against Rahul Gandhi. The clean-chit given by the Supreme Court on Rafale Deal will help the Modi Government to counter their allegations. BJP President Amit Shah was quick to demand apology from Rahul Gandhi as soon as the Apex Court verdict was announced that dismissed the charge of showing favours to Anil Ambani by sidelining HAL. The very fact that the BJP was routed in the three Hindi-heartland States proves that the people are not bothered about the construction of the Ram Temple. Neither they are keen to know the “gotra” of the Congress President, or his ancestors. They are only keen to know his future vision and how he will take the country forward and change their lives for good. People are fed-up with the politics of mud-slinging and are also clever enough to understand who is showing them false promises. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team have barely 3 to 4 months to prove that they can deliver. If they do not, it will be more Achhe Din for the Opposition, particularly Rahul Gandhi.

-Anita Saluja

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