DESPITE TRUCE, RAHUL GANDHI RAKES UP PM MODI’S PAKISTAN COMMENT AGAIN IN TWEET TO ‘MR JAITLIE’

The article originally appeared on India Today on 27 December.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said he thanked Union Minister Arun Jaitley for reminding the nation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “never means what he says or says what he means.”

Rahul attached a video to his Twitter message. It containing clips of Modi’s controversial remark on former PM Manmohan Singh and former VP Hamid Ansari, and of a statement Jaitley made in the Rajya Sabha today.

The Congress alleged that on the assembly election campaign trail, Modi insinuated that his predecessor and the former vice-president conspired to derail the BJP in Gujarat, at a dinner party attended by former Pakistan diplomats. The Grand Old Party wanted an apology from the PM, and Manmohan said in a statement that he rejected “the innuendos and falsehoods.”

Office of RG ✔ @OfficeOfRG
Dear Mr Jaitlie – thank you for reminding India that our PM never means what he says or says what he means. #BJPLies
8:52 PM – Dec 27, 2017

“I sincerely hope that he will apologise to the nation for his ill thought transgression to restore the dignity of the office he occupies,” Manmohan said.

Today, Jaitley said Modi didn’t question or mean to question their commitment to the nation.

“We hold these leaders in high esteem,” Jaitley said.

In fact, the government and the Opposition reached a truce over the issue, thanks to some good old back room diplomacy.

©SantoshChaubey

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RAHUL GANDHI THANKS “MR. JAITLIE” FOR CLARIFYING NARENDRA MODI’S PAKISTAN REMARK AGAINST MANMOHAN SINGH

Congress president Rahul Gandhi took a jibe at finance minister Arun Jaitley for his clarification on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks against former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Vice-president Hamid Ansari.

During an election rally in Gujarat, Modi had alleged Manmohan Singh and other Congress leaders of colluding with Pakistan to defeat the BJP in Gujarat. Jatiley said in his clarification that was nowhere close to being apologetic, “PM in his speeches didn’t question, nor meant to question the commitment to this nation of either former PM Manmohan Singh or Former VP Hamid Ansari, any such perception is erroneous, we hold these leaders in high esteem, as well as their commitment to India.”

Tweeting a video of Modi’s election remarks and Arun Jaitley’s RS clarification side by side, Rahul addressed the Finance Minister sarcastically as “Dear Mr. Jaitlie” and in an equally sarcastic tone, thanked him “for reminding India that Narendra Modi never means what he says or says what he means.”

Office of RG @OfficeOfRG
Dear Mr Jaitlie – thank you for reminding India that our PM never means what he says or says what he means.
#BJPLies
https://twitter.com/OfficeOfRG/status/946038581306441728

The remarks made by Modi created storm in Indian politics. Manmohan Singh reacted sharply on it and demanded an apology on what he perceived as Modi’s ill thought transgression, “I reject the innuendos and falsehoods as I did not discuss Gujarat elections with anyone else at the dinner hosted by Mani Shankar Aiyar as alleged by Modi. I sincerely hope that he will apologize to the Nation for his ill thought transgression to restore the dignity of the office he occupies.”

Congress launched a well mounted campaign to denounce it and made Modi’s apology a pre-condition to run the Parliament and with today’s compromise there seemed to be an end to the stalemate finally as Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Leader of Opposition in RS and a Congress MP, thanked Jaitley for his clarification “on what had been issue of contention” and also distanced his party from any comments made against Modi during the Gujarat election campaign.

©SantoshChaubey

THE AMETHI LOSS IS SYMPTOMATIC OF CONGRESS’ ROUT IN UTTAR PRADESH

The results of local body polls in Uttar Pradesh today once again confirm that Congress has become totally irrelevant in India’s politically most important state that sends 80 MPs in the Lok Sabha.

While the party has expectedly come fourth in the overall tally dominated by the BJP, what is symbolic of Congress’ plight in India’s most populous state is its rout in Amethi, the perceived bastion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, currently represented by Rahul Gandhi, which is proving a slippery ground for the grand old party of India if we see the past results.

The BJP has registered spectacular win in Uttar Pradesh and Amethi while Congress has literally been wiped out. Amethi has two Nagar Palika and Nagar Panchayat seats each. It lost both Nagar Palika elections in the constituency, Jais and Gauriganj while it had not fielded candidates for Nagar Panchayat polls in Amethi and Musafirkhana. In Jais, in fact, the candidate fielded by the party came fourth. On the other hand, the BJP won the Jais Nagar Palika and Amethi Nagar Panchayat elections.

Moreover, to compound the misery of Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made an impressive debut in the polls winning two chairman and 33 councillor posts. The party came fifth, just behind Congress.

The drubbing of Congress in Amethi civic polls is symptomatic of its rout in Uttar Pradesh, the state that has given nine prime ministers to India. The party that has ruled Uttar Pradesh for almost three decades is in imminent danger of being totally wiped out from the state including the Amethi and Raebareli Lok Sabha seats, its traditional strongholds since the days of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Rahul Gandhi’s mother and Congress’ president Sonia Gandhi is the current Raebareli MP. While Sonia Gandhi may not contest the next Lok Sabha polls in 2019 due to her health concerns, Amethi becomes important for Congress to retain as the seat will represent Congress’ next president with Rahul’s elevation scheduled later this month.

But if we go by the results of the assembly constituencies that fall in the Amethi Lok Sabha seat, we can say the Congress citadel has never overwhelmingly supported Congress, especially after Rahul Gandhi took over the constituency from his mother in 2004 Lok Sabha polls that he won comfortably.

Amethi parliamentary constituency (PC) has five assembly constituencies (ACs) – Tiloi, Salon (CS), Jagdishpur (SC), Gauriganj and Amethi.

In fact, in his first two LS polls from the Amethi constituency, Rahul won comfortably and massively, increasing his vote share from 49.33 per cent in 2004 to 57.25 per cent in 2009 but we also need to keep this in mind that whenever it came to parliamentary polls in Amethi, Rahul almost always got walkover from the main opposition parties, SP and BSP. And BJP was nowhere in the scene as a potent political force with a consistent downward spiral in Uttar Pradesh.

But that changed in 2017 assembly election. Stunning even the most seasoned political pundits, BJP won the assembly elections with a huge margin with 325 seats in the 403-member UP legislative assembly, so much so that no Muslim candidate could win even the minority concentration districts of western UP and their overall representation in UP assembly came down to a historically low of 25 MLAs, from a high of 68 Muslim MLAs in the UP assembly just five years ago, in 2012 assembly election. The 2017 outcome followed the massive BJP wave of 2014 LS election when the party had 71 out of the 80 LS seats in India’s most populous state.

And it reflected even in Amethi, in 2014 and now in 2017.

The battle for 2014 proved a tough one for Rahul Gandhi with senior BJP leader Smriti Irani as his main opponent. She gave a spirited fight and it reflected in Rahul’s winning margin coming drastically down to 12.36 per cent. Following is the break-up on how Congress has performed in Amethi assembly polls since Rahul Gandhi took over the Constituency.

2017 ASSEMBLY ELECTION IN AMETHI

In assembly election earlier this year, BJP won four out of five assembly constituencies falling in the Amethi PC, the party that had failed to win even a single AC in Amethi in 2007 and 2012 assembly polls. Congress failed to open even its account with the other left seat going to SP. Moreover Congress didn’t remain even the main opposition in two ACs, ending up third in Tiloi AC and fourth in Amethi.

TILOI (178)
Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh – BJP – 96119 votes
Mohd Saood – BSP – 52072 votes
Vinod Kumar Mishra – Congress – 3rd – 35837 (18.55%) votes

SALON (SC) (181)
Dal Bahadur – BJP – 78028 votes
Suresh Chaudhary – Congress – 61973 votes

JAGDISHPUR (SC) (184)
Suresh Kumar – BJP – 84219 votes
Radhey Shyam – Congress – 67619 votes

GAURIGANJ (185)
Rakesh Pratap Singh – SP – 77915 votes
Mohd Naim – Congress – 51496 votes

AMETHI (186)
Garima Singh – BJP – 64226 votes
Gaytri Prasad – SP – 59161 votes
Ameeta Sinh – Congress – 4th – 20291 (10.85%) votes
BSP – 3rd – 16.13% votes

But even earlier, in 2007 and 2012 assembly election, Amethi PC was not clearly a Congress bastion, if seen from the perspective of AC voters.

2012 ASSEMBLY ELECTION IN AMETHI

In 2012 election, SP, the party that had won that year’s assembly polls with 224 seats overall, ended up winning three out of five ACs falling in Amethi PC including the Amethi AC while Congress could win only two. The only solace that the party could have drawn was, it remained the principal opposition in other three ACs.

TILOI (178)
Dr Mohammad Muslim – Congress – 61249 votes
Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh – SP – 58539 votes

SALON (SC) (181)
Ashakishore – SP – 69020 votes
Shiv Balak Pasi – Congress – 48443 votes

JAGDISHPUR (SC) (184)
Radhey Shyam – Congress – 56309 votes
Vijay Kumar – SP – 50912 votes

GAURIGANJ (185)
Rakesh Pratap Singh – SP – 44287 votes
Mohd Naim – Congress – 43784 votes

AMETHI (186)
Gayatri Prasad – SP – 58434 votes
Ameeta Sinh – Congress – 49674 votes

2007 ASSEMBLY ELECTION IN AMETHI

2007 was tad better for Congress when it could win three out of five seats in the parliamentary constituency. The 2008 delimitation had not affected the basic AC composition of the Amethi PC and it still consisted of the abovementioned five assembly segments – Tiloi, Salon, Jagdishpur, Gauriganj and Amethi – of which Congress won three including Amethi and remained the principal opposition in other two – out of which one went to SP and the other to BSP.

TILOI (92)
Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh – SP – 44513 votes
Dr. Mohammad Muslim – Congress – 44056 votes

SALON (SC) (97)
Shiv Balak Pasi – Congress – 45078 votes
Asha Kishor – SP – 31969 votes

JAGDISHPUR (SC) (107)
Ram Sewak – Congress – 34563 votes
Shri Ram – BSP – 21356 votes

GAURIGANJ (106)
Chandra Prakash – BSP – 34386 votes
Mohd Naim – Congress – 28393 votes

AMETHI (105)
Ameeta Sinh – Congress – 48108 votes
Ashish – BSP – 35684 votes

©SantoshChaubey

WHERE ASSEMBLY CONSTITUENCIES IN AMETHI GO? CERTAINLY NOT TO CONGRESS!

If we go by the results of the assembly constituencies that fall in the Amethi Lok Sabha seat, we can say the Congress citadel has never overwhelmingly supported Congress, especially after Rahul Gandhi took over the constituency from his mother in 2004 Lok Sabha polls that he won comfortably.

Amethi parliamentary constituency (PC) has five assembly constituencies (ACs) – Tiloi, Salon (CS), Jagdishpur (SC), Gauriganj and Amethi.

In fact, in his first two LS polls from the Amethi constituency, Rahul won comfortably and massively, increasing his vote share from 49.33 per cent in 2004 to 57.25 per cent in 2009 but we also need to keep this in mind that whenever it came to parliamentary polls in Amethi, Rahul almost always got walkover from the main opposition parties, SP and BSP. And BJP was nowhere in the scene as a potent political force with a consistent downward spiral in Uttar Pradesh.

But that changed in 2017 assembly election. Stunning even the most seasoned political pundits, BJP won the assembly elections with a huge margin with 325 seats in the 403-member UP legislative assembly, so much so that no Muslim candidate could win even the minority concentration districts of western UP and their overall representation in UP assembly came down to a historically low of 25 MLAs, from a high of 68 Muslim MLAs in the UP assembly just five years ago, in 2012 assembly election. The 2017 outcome followed the massive BJP wave of 2014 LS election when the party had 71 out of the 80 LS seats in India’s most populous state.

And it reflected even in Amethi, in 2014 and now in 2017.

The battle for 2014 proved a tough one for Rahul Gandhi with senior BJP leader Smriti Irani as his main opponent. She gave a spirited fight and it reflected in Rahul’s winning margin coming drastically down to 12.36 per cent. And we can assume the next one in 2019 is going to be even tougher as Smriti has maintained a regular connect with Amethi, visiting the constituency like she has always been in the electoral mood.

And in assembly election earlier this year, BJP won four out of five assembly constituencies falling in the Amethi PC, the party that had failed to win even a single AC in Amethi in 2007 and 2012 assembly polls. Congress failed to open even its account with the other left seat going to SP. Moreover Congress didn’t remain even the main opposition in two ACs, ending up third in Tiloi AC and fourth in Amethi.

2017 ASSEMBLY ELECTION
TILOI (178)
Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh – BJP – 96119 votes
Mohd Saood – BSP – 52072 votes
Vinod Kumar Mishra – Congress – 3rd – 35837 (18.55%) votes

SALON (SC) (181)
Dal Bahadur – BJP – 78028 votes
Suresh Chaudhary – Congress – 61973 votes

JAGDISHPUR (SC) (184)
Suresh Kumar – BJP – 84219 votes
Radhey Shyam – Congress – 67619 votes

GAURIGANJ (185)
Rakesh Pratap Singh – SP – 77915 votes
Mohd Naim – Congress – 51496 votes

AMETHI (186)
Garima Singh – BJP – 64226 votes
Gaytri Prasad – SP – 59161 votes
Ameeta Sinh – Congress – 4th – 20291 (10.85%) votes
BSP – 3rd – 16.13% votes

But even earlier, in 2007 and 2012 assembly election, Amethi PC was not clearly a Congress bastion, if seen from the perspective of AC voters.

In 2012 election, SP, the party that had won that year’s assembly polls with 224 seats overall, ended up winning three out of five ACs falling in Amethi PC including the Amethi AC while Congress could win only two. The only solace that the party could have drawn was, it remained the principal opposition in other three ACs.

2012 ASSEMBLY ELECTION
TILOI (178)
Dr Mohammad Muslim – Congress – 61249 votes
Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh – SP – 58539 votes

SALON (SC) (181)
Ashakishore – SP – 69020 votes
Shiv Balak Pasi – Congress – 48443 votes

JAGDISHPUR (SC) (184)
Radhey Shyam – Congress – 56309 votes
Vijay Kumar – SP – 50912 votes

GAURIGANJ (185)
Rakesh Pratap Singh – SP – 44287 votes
Mohd Naim – Congress – 43784 votes

AMETHI (186)
Gayatri Prasad – SP – 58434 votes
Ameeta Sinh – Congress – 49674 votes

2007 was tad better for Congress when it could win three out of five seats in the parliamentary constituency. The 2008 delimitation had not affected the basic AC composition of the Amethi PC and it still consisted of the abovementioned five assembly segments – Tiloi, Salon, Jagdishpur, Gauriganj and Amethi – of which Congress won three including Amethi and remained the principal opposition in other two – out of which one went to SP and the other to BSP.

2007 ASSEMBLY ELECTION
TILOI (92)
Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh – SP – 44513 votes
Dr. Mohammad Muslim – Congress – 44056 votes

SALON (SC) (97)
Shiv Balak Pasi – Congress – 45078 votes
Asha Kishor – SP – 31969 votes

JAGDISHPUR (SC) (107)
Ram Sewak – Congress – 34563 votes
Shri Ram – BSP – 21356 votes

GAURIGANJ (106)
Chandra Prakash – BSP – 34386 votes
Mohd Naim – Congress – 28393 votes

AMETHI (105)
Ameeta Sinh – Congress – 48108 votes
Ashish – BSP – 35684 votes

©SantoshChaubey

HOW RAHUL GANDHI HAS PERFOMED ELECTORALLY IN AMETHI

Rahul Gandhi started contesting Lok Sabha polls from Amethi from 2004, the year when BJP’s India Shining campaign unexpectedly failed; ending Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rule and a coalition government led by Congress’ Manmohan Singh came to power.

Since 1967, when Amethi was carved out as a Lok Sabha constituency, it has been a Congress bastion, only briefly going to Janata Party in post-Emergency wave for three years and for a year to BJP in 1998.

And since 1980, it has been with the Nehru-Gandhi family. Sanjay Gandhi was a member of parliament from here in 1980 but his untimely death saw his brother and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi representing Amethi four times in the Lok Sabha till 1991 when he was killed in a terror attack. After Rajiv, Congress’ Satish Sharma was Amethi’s MP till 1998.

Meanwhile, Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv’s wife, had joined politics and was chosen Congress president in 1998 and Amethi again came back to the Nehru-Gandhi family in 1999 when Sonia Gandhi contested from here, scoring a massive victory.

In the next Lok Sabha polls in 2004, Sonia left Amethi seat for her son Rahul Gandhi and shifted her base to Raebareli, another Nehru-Gandhi citadel and Congress fortress. Since then, Rahul has been winning the Amethi seat.

But while in his previous two terms, in 2004 and in 2009, where he almost got walkovers from other parties with successive gains in his already impressive winning margins, from 49.33 per cent of total valid votes polled in 2004 to 57.25 per cent of total valid votes polled, the battle for 2014 proved a tough one with senior BJP leader Smriti Irani as his main opponent.

She gave a spirited fight and it reflected in Rahul’s winning margin coming drastically down to 12.36 per cent. And we can assume the next one in 2019 is going to be even tougher as Smriti has maintained a regular connect with Amethi, visiting the constituency like she has always been in the electoral mood.

2014 AMETHI LOK SABHA ELECTION

Rahul Gandhi – Congress – 408651 votes
Smriti Irani – BJP – 300748 votes
Margin – 107903 – 12.36% of total valid votes

2009 AMETHI LOK SABHA ELECTION

Rahul Gandhi – Congress – 464195 votes
Asheesh Shukla – BSP – 93997 votes
Margin – 370198 – 57.25% of total valid votes

2004 AMETHI LOK SABHA ELECTION

Rahul Gandhi – Congress – 390179 votes
Chandra Prakash Mishra – BSP – 99326 votes
Margin – 290853 – 49.33% of total valid votes

1999 AMETHI LOK SABHA ELECTION
Sonia Gandhi – Congress – 418960 votes
Dr. Sanjai Singh – BJP – 118948 votes
Margin – 300012 – 48.07% of total valid votes

©SantoshChaubey

WHY NITISH KUMAR’S DECISION CAN BE A BLESSING IN DISGUISE FOR RAHUL GANDHI

Rahul Gandhi and Congress may term Nitish Kumar’s act of dumping the grand alliance government of RJD, JDU and Congress in Bihar to join the NDA and form a government with the BJP as betrayal, rank opportunism and treachery, but it may also be an opportunity for Rahul Gandhi to reinvent himself.

The political opposition in India has dearth of credible faces to take on the BJP, the NDA and Narendra Modi at the moment. Nitish Kumar was the strongest of all those contenders who could have provided a viable face against Narendra Modi in 2019 if the political opposition could pull an alliance.

Odisha’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik is another credible face with a clean image who can have acceptability but he is an outsider for national politics and is content with retaining his father Biju Patnaik’s citadel. And he has done well to hold on to the state. But he is certainly not a known Modi-baiter and certainly not a pan-India face to take on Modi in electoral politics.

The other anti-Modi face with a non-controversial image in the opposition camp is West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee. But she is also in no position to offer a credible alternative to take on Modi on a pan-India level in electoral politics, at least in the context of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Also, as the BJP is trying to emerge as the principle opposition in West Bengal, sidelining the Left Front and the Congress, she cannot risk neglecting West Bengal for her national ambitions, at least for now.

We have seen what happened with the Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal. They tried to fan out too early after winning the people’s mandate in Delhi. Result! AAP created a sort of record with its candidates forfeiting their deposits in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The humiliation outside Delhi continued in the recently concluded Punjab assembly polls. Like West Bengal is for Mamata Banarjee, Delhi is for Arvind Kejriwal. They cannot risk leaving the states before proving their mettle. And certainly it is not the time.

Remember, even Modi had spent almost 13 years as Gujarat chief minister, consolidating his position, before fanning out of Gujarat. The time was opportune for him in 2014 when the country was looking for an alternative political face and he could make the public believe, based on his credentials of serving Gujarat four times that he was indeed the one who could be the answer to the huge anti-incumbency of ten years of the Congress rule under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Manmohan Singh.

The health of any nation’s democracy needs at least two credible political faces who can compete nationally. The more the merrier. The political opposition space in India is looking for someone who can take on Narendra Modi for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls and Nitish Kumar was the most probable contender.

But as Nitish Kumar has been effectively co-opted by the BJP again, that option is gone, and along with it the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Now only a miracle can save the day for them as hardly a year is left before going full throttle on the campaign spree for the next parliamentary election and we know miracles don’t happen in politics. Every step is a calculated move in this game of possibilities where there are no permanent friends or foes and Nitish Kumar has again showed us this.

Now the political opposition needs to look beyond 2019 to take on Narendra Modi and the BJP. And most importantly a face who can stand against Narendra Modi in elections beyond 2019. The BJP, in fact, has become the only national political party with its governments in every corner of the country. With Bihar again in its kitty, the BJP and its allies have now governments in 18 Indian states while Congress is at a historic low and is seeing further decline. And the central reason behind this is the perceived absence of leadership in the party.

CAN RAHUL GANDHI REINVENT HIMSELF?

Though Sonia Gandhi is still the Congress’ president, its Rahul Gandhi, the vice-president, who is the de facto head of the party. But willingly or unwillingly, an image of being a reluctant and non-serious politician has overtaken his political identity. Add to it the spate of electoral losses in states and the huge setback in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and we come across a perception that Rahul Gandhi is neither inclined nor able to shoulder the responsibility.

That he needs to break. He needs to reinvent himself because he has the means to emerge as the pan-India alternative of Narendra Modi.

To represent India in national politics, one either needs a long and influential political career, be it at state level like Narendra Modi has had or at national level like PV Narasimha Rao had or it has to be a dynastic lineage of a political party with a pan-India presence.

The Nehru-Gandhi family has had this advantage, be it Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi earlier and Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi now. It is true that Indira Gandhi did build her political career for many years, including participating in the Indian freedom struggle, but she was a union minister for just two years before she became prime minister in 1966. Rajiv Gandhi was also a sort of reluctant politician before he was made prime minister after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. But once in the office, he did try to evolve. Sonia Gandhi was accepted because she belonged to the family and same holds true for Rahul as well.

Though the Congress has shrunk to just five states and one union territory with only two electorally significant states, i.e., Karnataka and Punjab, in fold and could win just 44 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 General Elections, it is still the only other national political party than the BJP with a pan-India presence with 19 per cent vote share in the 2014 elections. The party is still the principle opposition in many states including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Goa. That is still a great leverage over other anti-BJP political parties.

And as the big three, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik, are effectively ruled out as the anti-BJP face of the political opposition, who could have mobilized the whole anti-BJP opposition to form a credible alternative this is an opportunity for Rahul to chip in and claim the place that he enjoys with his Nehru-Gandhi lineage. What also helps his prospects is the fact that other non-Congress regional satraps like Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, K Chandrasekhar Rao and MK Stalin are limited to their states only with no electoral appeal outside.

Rahul began his active political career around 2008 and since the very beginning he has been the most important voice in the Congress, even if Manmohan Singh was the prime minister and he has worked hard and has campaigned hard in every part of the country in every election. True the Congress is looking like a crumbling bloc these days but Rahul’s failures so far tell us he may be lacking in focus in leading the party out of the mess. The opposition in India is in disarray. Its politics looks flabbergasted. It needs someone who can give it some direction. Can Rahul Gandhi realize the opportunity at hand?

©SantoshChaubey

BEHIND RAHUL GANDHI’S COMING OF AGE STORY LIES THE HUMBLE POTATO

The article originally appeared on DailyO.

Today, while speaking on price rise in Parliament, Rahul Gandhi again revisited his favourite metaphor – potato – and thankfully his background team had supplied him with a logical and well-researched dataset this time.

While taking on the Narendra Modi government left, right and centre, and saying that the prices of the essential commodities have increased multi-fold during the first two years of Modi sarkar, he reined in his temptation to get longwinded with his most-loved weapon of comparative criticism – the good old potato.

He said the price of potato was Rs 23 in May 2014 and that has gone up to Rs 28 in July 2016. Well, that is the prevailing market price and has been hovering somewhere in the range of Rs 20 to 30 a kilo in Delhi’s retail markets.

We can understand that Rahul Gandhi could not set aside his temptation to insert potato in his high-voltage Lok Sabha speech today, but we should appreciate that he didn’t go on exaggerating about its price. The truth is Rahul had plenty of other data to bolster his claims, including the sky-high prices of lentils, a real worry for all.

The “Arhar Modi” jibe has really caught on, to his credit.

Rahul loves to use metaphors in his speeches. Like “Kalawati”, “Girish” and others, potato, too, is an important (and recurring) metaphor in Rahul’s speeches.

He reinserts these words like leitmotifs to express his concerns on the misery of the farming community in some pockets of India (especially in the non-Congress ruled states).

It seems, with time, he has worked on it and has learnt his lessons – and is gradually ratcheting up his elocution skills – from one event to the next.

Even the last time, when Rahul Gandhi had used the “potato” emphatically in his speech, it was quite clear that his speechwriters had worked diligently on the background behind his chosen words. The data to back up his claims reflected Rahul’s genuine concern for the poor, of which the “potato prices” were an important and sincere marker.

It was a Monday, October 7, 2013. The audience had come to hear the Congress vice-president during the stone-laying event of Uttar Pradesh’s first mega food park in his parliamentary constituency, Amethi, that was being set by the Aditya Birla group (a project that was later junked).

It being an agricultural event, the ambience was apt to come back once again to the potato metaphor, in order to contextualise how the farmers suffered in the non-Congress ruled states.

And he made good use of it. He got the clear tab on the prevailing potato prices in the area this time (unlike in Amreli in December 2012) from the crowd and juxtaposed the low potato prices with the high potato chips prices, while laying out the factors responsible for farmers’ misery.

Okay, if the potato was retailing at around Rs 20 a kilo in urban centres then, the Rs 10 a kilo price tag in rural areas was acceptable. So, Rahul’s potato wisdom sounded somewhat logical. No Monday blues.

When we see the genesis and progress of Rahul Gandhi’s “potato metaphors”, we can clearly how he has beefed up his knowledge base about his favourite idea and the difference from then to now is for everyone to see.

During campaigning in Amreli for Gujarat assembly elections on December 11, 2012, Rahul Gandhi had got confused over potato pricing while connecting it with the potato chips economics. He asked the audience about the potato price there and went on quoting it at Rs 3 a kilo. Making a pitch for FDI in retail, he said while potato was being sold at Rs 3 a kilo, while a small potato chips packet was sold sold at Rs 10.

The fact was – in Amreli, when Rahul Gandhi was delivering his speech, the minimum price for a kilo of potatoes was Rs 10 at the wholesale market, and much higher in the retail market.

Rahul Gandhi’s Congress was in the Union government in Delhi then and was trying to introduce the retail FDI, which the BJP, then in opposition in the Centre, was vehemently opposing. Rahul Gandhi and his speechwriters, in their zest to prove the FDI logic, didn’t bother to crosscheck their numbers.

Potato, for Rahul Gandhi, got cheaper than even Rs 3 a kilo in December 2011. At the Farrukhabad and Kannauj rallies on December 17, 2011, Rahul Gandhi told farmers that while the potato was being sold for Rs 2 or less a kilo, a potato chips packet fetched Rs 10.

He reiterated his stand the next month – sticking to his claim. At a Tarn Taran rally in January 2012, the potato price quoted by Rahul again came out to be Rs 2 or less than Rs 2 a kilo. While pitching for FDI in retail, Rahul said that farmers should support it as potato chips made from “half a potato” were sols at much higher price points that the potato itself. Rahul asserted that a free market sector can only be the answer to such huge price differentials where the farmer would get more and fairer options to sell his produce.

From December 2011 to December 2012, for Rahul Gandhi, the potato price had gone up by Rs 1 only, and that too, from the paltry figure of Rs 2 to Rs 3 a kilo.

Illogical, unacceptable were these outlandish claims.

And what added more to the aura of scepticism around Rahul Gandhi’s statements was the issue he was focusing on – a policy measure, FDI in retail, on which the country and its politics was visibly divided.

Gone are the days when any vegetable would be available at such low prices. Potato at Rs 2 or 3 a kilo used to be the thing of the last century, at around late 80s and early 90s.

So, from that trend, the potato price of Rs 10 a kilo from 2012 to 2013 showed a logical improvement in Rahul’s deployment of data. It was more or less acceptable given the localisation factor of the place where the speech was being delivered.

And with the Parliament speech Thursday, it seems the course correction process is complete.

Rahul Gandhi’s address in Parliament today has given us hopes that from now onwards we will see a better rationalisation of his potato metaphor whenever he chooses to use it in order to target the political opposition, particularly the Narendra Modi government.

©SantoshChaubey

WAHT RAHUL GANDHI COULD NOT DO?

Rahul Gandhi has been missing the point – and the phenomenon is now so famous that it has become a routine stuff in Indian politics of the day.

He could not capitalize on the ‘brand Kalawati’, a grand opening that he had got in Indian politics (with a possible tag of ‘politician with a difference’), and let her be a dragging point for his political career when it started maturing.

He could not come forward and take the country’s leadership in unorthodox ways that the country needed. He had the golden opportunity of taking credit of giving India’s its Lokpal after the massively popular anti-corruption movement of 2011 and thus had the space to present himself as the ‘new type leader of Indian masses’ but he failed to do so, even if he later on, famously tore down his own government’s document to ‘protect’ tainted lawmakers.

No effective movement on ‘Lokpal’ or no effective curb on political corruption later on told us that Rahul failed to translate display of his public aggression and maturity into action. In fact, if we go by the need to set the precedent, even his family needs to come clean on corruption allegations on Robert Vadra, his brother-in-law.

He very eloquently spoke about his hatred of corruption at a FICCI event in December 2013 – “Biggest issue is corruption, it is an unacceptable burden on our people. We must fight corruption.” – while just before that, his party’s government in Maharashtra had ‘summarily rejected the Adarsh Housing Society scam report (report which implicated many political leaders and bureaucrats). While speaking at the FICCI AGM, he was silent on this report.

Questions over Rahul’s intent were being raised as early as 2010 with Congress’ debacle in Bihar assembly polls. And with every such political development where Rahul could have scored a point well above the others, something that he never did, questions on his intent became more and more routine.

Why did Rahul Gandhi took almost a week (Nido Taniam’s incident happened on January 29 last year) to call the Home Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, to ensure justice for Nido? Nido Taniam, a 20-year old student from Arunachal Pradesh, was beaten fatally by some shopkeepers in the Lajpat Nagar market of Delhi after he reacted to the racist comments by them, and who, later on, succumbed to his injuries.

There was a visible ‘bias’ in Rahul Gandhi’s visits to places like Bhatta Parsaul, Michpur, Maval and now to Bisada and Sunped, the Haryana villages.

Where his party was in power, Rahul Gandhi took some 8 days in visiting the crime scenes, i.e., in Mirchpur in Haryana in April 2010 where Dalits were murdered and tortured and in Maval in Pune in August 2011 where protesting farmers were killed in police firing.

While he was very active in visiting places where he was in political opposition like Bhatta Parsaul in Greater Noida (Uttar Pradesh), the symbolic point of 2011 Uttar Pradesh land acquisition protests. During May 7-9, 2011, the village had violent protests leading to death of some policemen and villagers and Rahul, despite prohibitory orders, was in the village on May 11 to protest along with villagers. Same, we can say, about Bisada in Greater Noida and Sunped in Faridabad (Haryana, that has now a BJP government).

Farm suicides in Maharashtra have been a regular curse but Rahul was never so alarmed about visiting the state when his party’s government was there, but he mapped the country in most other areas considered crisis hotbeds of farmers’ suicides and agrarian crisis.

And if we scratch more, we will easily come across many more such instances.

The nation knows Rahul Gandhi is not corrupt. Instead, most political commentators prefer to call him a ‘reluctant’ (or forced) politician.

In retrospective, it seems he could never set his eyes on his targets or we can say he could never set his aims for his trajectory ahead or he was never careful about his political future ahead.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

RAHUL IS MAKING LIFE DIFFICULT FOR BJP

After Punjab and Maharashtra, he began his farmers connect exercise in Telangana. In Adilabad, during his 15 Kms Padyatra covering five villages where farmers have committed suicide, he took on Narendra Modi, his land acquisition bill and K. Chandrasekhar Rao, the Telangana chief minister, today.

After his around two month long sabbatical or leave of absence, Rahul is in aggressive mode and irrespective of who closed the Amethi Food Park (his own United Progressive Alliance government is responsible for it), the changed provisions of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s land acquisition bill, that undoes some important clauses of the land bill passed by the UPA government in September 2013, have opened a front for him to attack the government and do the politics of looking pro-poor.

He even met the civil society members on the diluted provisions of the real estate bill. The NDA government has changed or diluted provisions of the bill brought by the UPA government and he alleges the changed provisions to be anti-people.

Clearly, he sees a point here to score politically, and like anyone else in the politics, he is doing the same thing.

Yes, he is silent on Robert Vadra even if the government of Haryana has formed a one-man commission of retired Justice S. N. Dhingra, of Delhi High Court who sentenced Afzal Guru to death, to probe Vadra land deals in Haryana. Congress, naturally, has reacted on it. Vadra has welcomed the move hoping it will clear things.

Rahul who called K. Chandrasekhar Rao ‘mini Modi’ today has forced others, especially in the BJP, to take note of him. He cannot be dismissed anymore, like the politics of his past. Before his return, he had rarely spoken in the Parliament, two times in all, including his famed ‘Kalavati’ speech in 2008. Whatever is the intent of the day, he is making life difficult for the BJP.

He is making leaders in the BJP to attack him, either on the land bill, or on other issue of ‘politics of poor’. And that is what he needs, his politics needs at the moment.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

RAHUL GANDHI ON TWITTER

India is slated to become the world’s youngest nation by 2020. The UN (UNFPA State of the World’s Population report) says 356 million (28%) of its population is in 15-24 age-group, largest in the world.

Census of India says around 48% India’s population is below 21.

65% of India’s population is below 35.

While writing this, India’s population is over 1.25 billion, world’s second most populous nation after China, and projected to take over China by 2050.

A report by the US (Special 301 Report for 2015) says India’s internet base is projected to be of 370 million users by this year end, the second largest in the world. The report says 213 users will be using mobile internet by this June.

India’s teledensity is around 100 crores (1000 million). Lowering of smartphone prices has quickened the spread of mobile internet in India, already large enough, especially among the youth and working-age population.

The world’s second largest telecom network is India now.

And it is projected to be the world’s fastest growing economy, overtaking the growth rate of China.

That would be in Rahul Gandhi’s mind when his office joined Twitter yesterday. But a Twitter handle @RahulGandhi or a similar one would be far better than @OfficeOfRG.

It may be a personal decision by a politician who is trying to be more aggressive in national politics after returning from his leave of absence.

And as he has had not any social media presence so far, he would have thought to test the waters first with @OfficeOfRG. Rahul has been a favourite social media trend so far, especially for jokes.

Even if not in his name, it is expected from Rahul Gandhi that he will take this initiative seriously. After all, voters, too, come from this working-age population.

The lack of action so far, on day-1 and day-2 can have their own benefits of doubt and we should be ready to give that.

Day-1 was about ‘waiting for Twitter authentication’ and day-2 may be about the first day of activity, with three tweets so far, with the latest one nine hours ago. Hope, the initiative will see more and robust action from day-3 onwards.

If he has to take on the government, if he has to target Narendra Modi, there are more than enough issues in Indian politics to write about, to take care of.

It is all about going beyond the symbolic representations this time, of a hand, of hands and of Robert Vadra.

Rahul Gandhi Twitter

Rahul Gandhi Twitter 2

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/