The question is whether the political brownie points scored in the parliament by Rahul Gandhi with a wink and a hug establish himself as a mature and serious leader?
Napoleon Bonapart had once said, “You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war.” Watching the No-confidence motion debate in Lok Sabha yesterday, I couldn’t help but think how perfectly it fits India’s two leading politicians: PM Modi and Rahul Gandhi. Post-2014, every election be it Assembly election or by-poll, PM Modi made Rahul-bashing his winning Mantra. From Shehzada in 2014 to Naamdar in 2018 the strategy didn’t really change. Modi used Rahul Gandhi and Congress as a punching bag. Little did he know that the same Rahul Gandhi will knock him out of his wits on Friday.
Though Modi pulled off a smooth victory in yesterday’s No-Confidence motion, the man of the match went to Congress President Rahul Gandhi. The speaker had allotted 38 minutes for the Congress to speak. In those 38 minutes, Rahul Gandhi who is not a very affluent speaker pulled off a power-packed speech. His every statement destroying the fortress of Modi govt. brick by brick. He wasn’t even bothered by the pesky BJP leaders who kept hooting and interrupting him. Obviously riled up at the reference of Amit Shah’s son; at one point in the midst of Rahul’s speech parliamentary affairs minister Anant Kumar tried to interrupt him. Only to be shut down by the emphatic Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul rose to speak again. He thanked the BJP and RSS amidst the uproars for attacking him constantly which made him realize the meaning of being a Congressman, Hindustani and Hindu. At the end of his speech, he said, “You can hate me all you want, you can call me Pappu and lots of names, but I have no hatred for you in me”.
But he did not stop at this. To prove his statement, Rahul Gandhi walked up to the Prime Minister’s chair. He politely asked him to stand up. Before PM Modi could realize anything Rahul Gandhi embraced Modi. The perplexed expressions on the face of Supreme Commander Modi who is known for his hug-plomacy were evident that he had tested his own medicine. After the historic victory of 2014 Modi had built an intimidating aura surrounding himself. With the hug, that will be recorded in the contemporary political history as momentous, Rahul Gandhi shredded this aura of invincibility to pieces.
Gaining his senses, the startled Modi called him back, shook hands with him and said a few words. As he returned to his seat, he exchanged few words with colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia and winked at him. The expression turned media into a frenzy with speculations about whether the hug was pre-planned. Planned or not planned, the message that Congress stands for love despite the BJP hating him was sent across the nation effectively as all TV Cameras were focused on Rahul Gandhi.
Could anyone from the BJP have even thought of it? No. Nor did PM Modi. Rahul, who was on the offensive yesterday, left no stone unturned. He began with speaking about “The 21st Century political weapon” i.e. Modi’s “Jumla Strike”. Then he went on to deliver one of the highlight quotes of the day- “Chowkidaar hi Bhaagidaar Hai”. Minus the lack of data, Rahul Gandhi spoke about a range of issues; Rafael deal, Doklam, the hollow promise of 15 Lakh, Atrocities on Dalits, women issues and Suit Boot ki Sarkar’s crony capitalist friendlist. His speech certainly stole the show in the first half of the no-confidence motion as it completely took the wind out of Modi’s sail.
On the other hand, Narendra Modi’s almost two-hour long jeremiad centered around mocking Rahul Gandhi’s Prime Ministerial ambitions. Failing to seek a spirited response to Rahul Gandhi’s hug, the fuming Supreme Commander called Rahul Gandhi’s behavior as childish, almost 10 times in his speech. Modi then took out his best weapon: victimhood, claiming that the Gandhi dynasty cannot see anyone but itself in the power. He then went on to list the achievements of his government amidst the continuous jeering of “We want justice” by TDP MPs. The verbose delivered by Modi-an erstwhile champion of oratory skills seemed unimpressive missing the hits. His disinterested cadre inserted the intervallic laughter and animated bench-thumping.
The question is whether the political brownie points scored in the parliament by Rahul Gandhi with a wink and a hug establish himself as a mature and serious leader? His cadre definitely believes so. The ruling BJP may like to raise doubts on his credibility by calling him childish, but yesterday’s debate proved one thing quite certainly. Though Rahul Gandhi’s political stature is still not tall, he has learned a great deal from the best in the Field-Modi. Despite that, if we were to say that Rahul Gandhi equated Modi in one aspect yesterday, that has to be the spectacular theatrics which so far was the monopoly of PM Modi.