Is Rahul Gandhi Making BJP Nervous?

Atul Cowshish

The violent reaction in the BJP camp to some of the utterances of Rahul Gandhi, the long written off vice president of the Congress, during his recent US visit should come as a surprise. Has he started to make the ruling dispensation and its social media gladiators and Bhakts nervous?

It will seem to suggest so considering how the BJP had to deploy an army of ministers, senior leaders and combative spokespersons to ‘hit back’ at him after every speech that he made on the American soil where the BJP mascot and prime minister, Narendra Modi, had reportedly become a ‘rock star’ after his two much publicized visits in the past two previous years.

Of course, any realistic analysis will rule out an early turnaround in the fortunes of Rahul Gandhi or his party, no matter how impressed his US audience—particularly the people of Indian origin—was by his style of direct and frank dialogue.

But perhaps that is what made the BJP uncomfortable. He was able to carry on a two-way dialogue with an audience that Modi had reportedly wooed convincingly. In the US (and the UK), Modi was backed by the rich Gujarati diaspora which had an impact on their brethren at home. Now, it appears, some of them are moving away from Modi and, horror or horror, turning to Rahul Gandhi.

It could well be that a fellow US-based Gujarati NRI, ‘Sam’ (Satyanarayan Gangaram) Pitroda, was able to win over sections of the Gujarati diaspora in the US and line them up behind Rahul Gandhi. Late Rajiv Gandhi, had ‘discovered’ the telecom entrepreneur whose help had catapulted India into the front rank of the IT world.

After his first two visits to the US, Modi was projected as a larger than life political figure who could count the likes of US President among his admirers, not to speak of the rich and effervescent ‘Desis’ in the US who undoubtedly played a big role in creating a halo round Modi. His spin doctors failed to point out that the ‘native’ Americans were largely indifferent to the charms that Modi had cast over Indians when he was ‘rocking’ in the US.

Another mistake made by Modi’s fans was that the so-called positive vibes between Indian and US administration officials does not mean that the Indian diaspora will take its cue from what the US President or some other senior dignitary says about the Indian prime minister. President Barack Obama held Man Mohan Singh in high esteem but that did not prevent Indians, either at home or in the US, from rejecting him.

In the exclusive BJP world, Narendra Modi is seen as a Goliath-like political figure with a ’56-inch’ chest though his height is considerably less than that of the Biblical figure’s 9 feet 6 inches (Hebrew text) who cannot be felled.

Sure, there was David but it will be stretching things a bit too far to relate the David and Goliath story to the Modi versus Rahul Gandhi fight. All that can be said at the moment is that for the BJP it can be an uncomfortable thought that Rahul Gandhi is becoming a viable challenger.

The BJP would reject the thought. But the manner in which it jumps to attack Rahul Gandhi indicates a degree of nervousness. Could it be that the rush to ‘hit back’ may be attributed to a famous Modi speak. Quoting a ‘Christian’ scientist without naming him, he said ‘to every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction’.

But the question is why should the BJP take notice of whatever Rahul Gandhi says and ‘hits back’ when in BJP’s opinion he is no threat at all? One guess is that while the BJP is able to ensure that Rahul Gandhi gets only unfavourable notice within India with the party’s social media warriors constantly attacking and ridiculing him, the foreign media and audiences have ‘let down’ the BJP.

Word has reached Indian shores that the American audiences and members of the ‘think tank’ fraternity who listened to him did not find Rahul Gandhi talking like an idiot. He raised issues and questions that are in the minds of most Indians though they find only reluctant mention in public space within the country.

It is not that the American audiences were totally unaware of what he was saying. Much as the ruling dispensation would like the countrymen and women to believe that India under Modi continues to be presented in positive light abroad the fact is that over the last two years there has been a lot of critical reporting on India, especially the many gross instances of ‘intolerance’.

The US disappointment over Modi’s failure to ‘open up’ the Indian economy is widespread. India can no longer boast about being the ‘fastest’ economy. The ease of doing business is more in the government propaganda machine than on the ground. The failure to accelerate the job market may not be of direct concern to the outside world but it adds to the belief that the economy is not on the right track.

Instead of paying attention to the drawbacks in policies, the government treats criticism in foreign media the way it treats Rahul Gandhi’s criticism. It ‘hits back’ with vehemence, not realizing that it further lowers the country’s image.

A case in point is a famous ‘rebuttal’ by the government when an American paper took a closer look at some of the problems related to religious intolerance and human rights in India. The publicity department of the government, in its ‘reaction’, sought to teach lessons in human rights to the outside world while totally failing to make out a convincing case in its defence.

By now it is becoming clear that Modi pays only lip service to various acts and statements by his party members, including those occupying high positions that actually weaken the country and tar its image. Modi may not accept it, but questions about India’s secular character are being seriously asked outside the country.

The obsession with ‘beef’ is making India a laughing stock in the world. When Rahul Gandhi mentions ‘harmony’ disappearing in India he is not actually saying anything that his audience abroad does not know.                                     Syndicate Features

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