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Politics

If Rahul Gandhi Were Really Irrelevant, the BJP Wouldn't Need to Attack Him So

Immediately after the Congress leader's speech in parliament, BJP leaders and supporters have come at him all guns blazing – but with sentiment, not fact.

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New Delhi: No sooner did Congress leader Rahul Gandhi finish giving a speech in Parliament on February 2, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) went at the opposition leader all guns blazing.

Gandhi’s speech in response to the presidential address on the Narendra Modi government’s Budget 2022 was disrupted by BJP MPs in the middle. Deputy leader of opposition Gaurav Gogoi and Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury complained about this to speaker Om Birla since it was their allotted time, and only then could the opposition leader finish his response to the presidential address, a custom of parliamentary democracy.

That attack on Gandhi’s speech on the floor of the Lok Sabha by BJP leaders soon shifted to television studios and Twitter, and has continued into February 3 morning. The multi-pronged attack on Gandhi and his speech has been carried out not just through BJP’s central media unit and IT cell trolls but also by drumming up comments from Modi’s ministers, a chief minister or two and state unit leaders – enough content to keep the trending hashtag #pappu running for a second day.

What comes through, in this continued attempt to depict Gandhi as politically redundant, is the BJP’s fear that he is in fact quite the opposite. The scale and vigour of the attack on Gandhi following his February 2 speech only proved that he is still politically relevant, and all attempts must therefore be made by the BJP to ensure that the tide doesn’t turn in his or his party’s favour.

It is only in making a ‘pappu’ of the top leader of the main opposition of the nation that Modi and his edition of the BJP can thrive. He, therefore, must not be allowed to ask hard questions on the performance of the Central government, particularly when there is nothing substantial to show in the progress report.

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On February 2, Gandhi could generate interest in the traditional media, and more particularly on social media, because he did exactly what BJP strategists don’t want him to – turn the heat on the Modi government and the party ruling the country since 2014 whenever he wishes by asking hard questions that are also lingering in the public’s mind, and be widely noticed for doing so.

Gandhi, who was mocked on Twitter by the BJP IT cell in 2017 for not able to “construct two sentences without fumbling”, seems to be making the same IT cell lose its sleep. What better way to rustle up a quick recipe to counter him than just try and project him as an ‘anti-national’?  Following the script, tweets appeared in unison, accusing him of not considering India ‘as a nation’ but as ‘a union of states’, even though Gandhi had only quoted from what is granted to us as a country in the Constitution.

Of course now is a time when the BJP may be facing a difficult election season. In the state that it has its biggest stake this poll season – Uttar Pradesh – Congress is a small player. Gandhi tirade against Modi government and the BJP’s report card may not be of direct relevance to the UP polls, but what he talked about, in a crisp fashion, could. For instance, Modi’s tall poll promise of creating two crore jobs every year and failing miserably in delivering. Lack of employment is an issue in the public mind, more so now due the negative impact of the pandemic and the Modi government’s failure to tailor anything substantial to address this key concern in Budget 2022.

Also read: If Statues Could Speak: What Netaji and Sardar Patel Would Tell Narendra Modi

Additionally, Gandhi touched a raw nerve when talking about the Modi government’s serious attempts to weaken the institutions that have kept the world’s largest democracy going – the judiciary, the Election Commission, etc. Worse, he even questioned the Central government’s alleged use of Pegasus spyware on private citizens including opposition leaders. These attacks take the BJP government closer to what it has always attacked Gandhi’s party for – the Emergency.

BJP strategists know well that responding to Gandhi’s speech with reason by Modi and his ministers is not an option. Therefore, the best defence is to claim to be offended. And what better way than to seek an ‘apology’ for his speech.