By Nitya Chakraborty
Congress President Rahul Gandhi is making a strategic mistake in his campaigning and press conferences in the recent days by focusing only on Rafale scam and Anil Ambani. Rahul is absolutely right in targeting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue of Rafale deal but his continuing harping on Anil Ambani and mentioning the recent report of the the French partner company Dassault’s investment in a loss making Anil company, will weaken the strength of his case. The Congress President is all powerful and if it is so that he feels that identifying PM with Anil Ambani in corruption deals, will appeal to the electorate more on the eve of the state assembly elections and the Lok Sabha elections six months later, he is wrong.
People are not surprised at close relationship of the ruling party leaders with industrialists. This has been a normal part of the Indian polity for the last seventy one years after independence excepting the fact that the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was personally not close to the industry people; he let other senior leaders to do the job of getting funds from the party from the industrialists. During Indira Gandhi’s time, Anil Ambani’s father Dhirubhai Ambani was one of the biggest fund givers to the Congress Party. During Rajiv Gandhi’s days, this funding continued through the senior Congress functionaries including the treasurer.
The real issue related to the present Rafale deal is the manner in which the Prime Minister Narendra Modi unilaterally cancelled the public sector HAL’s draft agreement with the Dassault and imposed Anil Ambani’s greenhorn company on the French. Id there is any big revenue loss to the country as a result of this, the sole responsibility is with the PM who allegedly violated the existing procedures. If PM gives a job to Anil Ambani on a platter ignoring the work of his own premier public sector HAL, it is PM who has to take the onus for the entire deal, not Anil Ambani. Any industrialist, with experience or no experience, will lap up such a lucrative offer. The question is our super powerful PM thinks that he has the last word in deciding on any deal, irrespective of the ethics and rules.
The Rafale issue is now before the Supreme Court and the next hearing is on November 14.The Government has been asked to submit in sealed cover within November 10 the details regarding the pricing and the offset partners. That way November 14 hearing is crucial. Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party lawyers have to work hard to prove their case in the Court. That will make the task easier. If the Supreme Court gives clean chit to the deal and the PM then what remains of the campaign. It will be damaging to the momentum of the opposition’s election campaign when only six months are left for the Lok Sabha elections.
There is important issue which the Congress has never raised. BJP is flush with funds and the major funds come from abroad through their Overseas Friends of BJP and VHP outfits in USA and other countries. Many industrialists who are benefitted by Modi government send funds to the BJP by making use of the overseas organizations of BJP. The Congress party should investigate how much funds came to BJP coffers in India from abroad in the recent months and how. The Congress has been in power for most of the years after independence but still the Party’s information and investigative machinery is weak. These days, the Party is only quoting stories from news portals in favour of its campaign against PM. The Party should try to do some original investigations of its own. All these foreign educated boys of Rahul Gandhi are doing what?
The Congress Party must not put all eggs in one basket. Along with continuing with the attack on PM Modi on Rafale deal, the Party should equally start intensive campaign on economic woes, the precarious jobs situation and the farmer’s distress. The country is boiling with discontent – Rafale is not enough; the Congress President has to inspire the youths and the farmers with a new future. The BJP leadership is expected to give all focus on Ram Mandir in the election battle. They will try to whip up passions on Hindutva with the objective of polarizing the electorate on the basis of religion. The task for the opposition is tough but this communal agenda of the BJP will have to be met by offering a radical pro-people alternative.
That way Rahul Gandhi’s major task is to draft the Party’s election manifesto in such a manner that it reflects the aspirations of the youth, farmers and workers of the country at the moment and it can become the basis for the drafting of the Common Minimum Programme of the opposition. Congress must redefine communalism in terms of economic consequences while expanding on the socio cultural costs of disharmony. Rahul’s manifesto must convey how socio political rifts translate into economic barriers and why the economics of tolerance, just like what the former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan underlined, builds new cultural and social bridges, ties together communities and soothes the jangled nerves of the youths. The Congress manifesto has to offer the secular economic alternative as the embodiment of the true Indian entrepreneurial spirit in contrast to the economic price of bigotry that the country is paying for Modi’s policies. The Congress has to demarcate itself to a great extent from some of the neo liberal policies perused by the UPA government during its tenure from 2004 to 2014.
Rahul has spoken repeatedly against the crony capitalists. He even has been naming those industrialists. This should not just be limited as a popular gimmick. Rahul has to prove that he means what he says. The election manifesto must reflect a fresh economic programme which strengthens the public sector, gives big scope to the MSMEs to create millions of jobs and helps in producing real young entrepreneurs who will be working for generating jobs not just for extracting quick money. The industrial policy has to be drastically changed to meet the aspirations of the jobless youth including those from the rural areas. As the US leader Bernie Sanders said in his recent piece in The Guardian “Our job is to fight for a future in which new technology and innovation work to benefit all people, not just a few. It is not acceptable that the top 1 per cent of the world’s population owns half the planets wealth while the bottom 70 per cent of the working age population accounts for just 2.7 per cent of global wealth.”
For Rahul Gandhi, the challenge is far greater. With such low level of per capita income, the jobless growth widens the inequalities and that happened in both UPA and NDA regimes. Rahul must know that to effectively fight rightwing authoritarian represented by Narendra Modi, the Congress simply cannot go back to the policies and doses of Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram. The people want a new deal, not Just change of government. If Rahul wants to build a new India as against Modi’s so called new India promised by RSS in 2022, Rahul has to completely transform his agenda. He has to act as the game changer for India as against the name-changer being played by Narendra Modi. He must have the spine and vision to take up this historic challenge at this crucial time of Indian politics. (IPA Service)