Rama Krishna Sangem
Rahul Gandhi has a crisis as well as an opportunity before him. His disqualification from Lok Sabha on March 24, following a Surat court sentencing him for 2 year jail term is a crisis. But, he can also turn it into an opportunity if he has will and strategy to take on the ruling BJP at the Centre. For that, he should go for a complete makeover both politically and above-politically.
52 year old Rahul Gandhi who just finished his Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kerala to Kashmir has emerged taller leader in Congress party which is desperately looking for one or two electoral wins in states and 100 plus MPs in 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Coming Karnataka assembly elections are a golden chance to him, if he can convert this disqualification into a political weapon and hit back BJP.
Analysts are comparing him with late Indira Gandhi, who too was disqualified and jailed, though separately, four decades ago. First she was in power and later she was in opposition. Her jail term for about a week has sparked off protests by Congress cadre all over the country. Yes, Rahul is no Indira and present BJP is not Janata Party of 1978. We can’t expect present day Congress workers to be so militant like those of then.
Availability of social media and other forms of protest have diminished the scope and need of street fights. Now, one can silently, sitting in their homes can register their protests. Congress has clear scope to win Karnataka assembly elections and fare better in Madhya Pradesh and retain Chhattisgarh. This is enough for Rahul Gandhi to project himself as a rallying point for opposition face of PM, in 2024.
Rare show of unity in Opposition camp
Rahul’s disqualification has evoked widespread condemnation from non-BJP parties. Usually away from Congress camp, BRS leader and CM KCR is vocal in backing Rahul Gandhi and attacking BJP on this issue. So is the petition of several parties in Supreme Court seeking stopping political harassment by ED and CBI. The SC has taken up this case, and we need to see how this will play out.
As of now, Congress is subdued in view of lack of any measurable wins in elections. Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra may be popular, but that hasn’t fetched Congress any votes. Some social groups like minorities and certain marginalized sections may have been with him, but that too is not enough to come to power in any state, leave alone at the Centre. Will this disqualification generate a sympathy wave for Rahul and benefit Congress?
BJP plays OBC card
If Rahul is rich with minorities and marginalized sections support, BJP has fished out OBC card. The actual case of defamation may have based on the hurt sentiments of Modis – an OBC caste, mostly in Gujarat and Rajasthan. But, BJP extended it to the entire OBCs in the country. Precisely, this is the strategy of BJP right from 2014. The party projected Narendra Modi, an OBC as its mascot of Hindutwa.
How will Congress counter this? Of course, Rahul and his party will use “BJP’s dictatorial rule” and “lack of democracy” in the country to fight this issue. Misuse of ED and other central investigative agencies too will come in handy for them. These issues, however, are broad based and general in nature. This is not sufficient. Rahul Gandh should lead his party from the front in launching an agitation for the next one year – till 2024 May elections to LS.
Rahul should change his style and language
When I spoke to some senior Congress leaders both in Hyderabad and Bangalore, they are of the opinion that Rahul Gandhi should change his tone of his campaigning – particularly his language. His personalized attack on PM Modi – “Chowkidar Chore Hai”, accusing him of Rafael fighter jets scam, hasn’t done any benefit to Congress. This specific case of “Modi” and “Chore” attack was a part of it, they felt. “Suit boot sarkar” or Aadani issues too fall under the category.
Instead, he can focus on state specific issues and major problems like jobs and poverty in different parts of the country. Covid has done enough damage to livelihoods of people, pushing them into below the poverty line. Migrant workers are other major victims of economic problems – inflation and recession, since 2019. Rahul Gandhi can raise these issues, instead of just targeting PM Modi personally.
Rahul is likely to get some relief either from Surat’s sessions court or a High Court or even from the SC, when he goes to them, eventually. His 2 year term may be reduced or suspended or even struck down at a higher level. But, he need not wait for that to happen. He and Congress party should make use of the golden opportunity in between. After all, a strong opposition leader is in essential for India.