By Sushil Kutty
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the front-runner though INDIA’s Rahul Gandhi could be ahead. Ask random Congress leaders and their faith in the Gandhi scion is unwavering. They are adamant Modi has slid behind Rahul Gandhi in people’s reckoning and that the Wayanad MP has left everybody else in the field also behind, including fellow INDIA prime ministerial aspirants. And which is how things will stand till the big day in 2024.
A Congress leader, recently elevated to the Congress Working Committee, said Rahul Gandhi will be the Prime Minister when INDIA will restore parliamentary democracy back to the Old Parliament after taking the bulldozer to the New Parliament once Narendra Modi is trounced and sent packing. That is rhetoric. Wild claims and counter claims. Wild talk including those that will shame a mule-skinner. By both BJP and INDIA leaders. On the podium. And in raucous “Hindu-Muslim” TV studios.
Everybody out to outdo the other while attempting to stand out. The Congress rally in Hyderabad was one example of Congress rattling the BJP with grassroots reality. With that the Congress grabbed the undivided attention of the Narendra Modi-obsessed national media. Congress rallies in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan attracted good attendance with no scarcity of footfalls and eyeballs.
A split-screen of the events will tell the story eloquently — that Rahul Gandhi may yet best Narendra Modi by dint of sheer transformation into a mass leader, especially after the 3750-km Kanyakumari to Kashmiri south-north Bharat Jodo Yatra. Thing is, there are only two current political stories — the Modi Story and the Rahul Story. Who between the two is winning depends on who makes the first headline.
For example, Prime Minister Narendra Modi struck gold with the Women’s Reservation Bill. Then came Rahul Gandhi out of the cold and he made ‘OBC’ the headline. He also questioned the time given for delimitation and the population census asking instead for a caste census. Rahul Gandhi was making breaking headlines a habit much to the bellyache of the BJP. Other PM hopefuls in the INDIA are unlikely to catchup with him — at this or at a later stage. That doesn’t sound like good foreboding for the INDI-Alliance. A fallout is very much on the cards.
What should concern the Congress is whether the Congress star gets “equal footing” — Rahul Gandhi can only hope there will be a landslide in favour of the Congress party. It is only under landslide-like conditions that no hanky-panky can succeed. The sheer dominance of the people’s verdict brushes everything else aside. Recent developments and events have stoked suspense but the extravaganza played around the Women’s Reservation Bill will not be a guarantee that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will reap what he has sown.
With double anti-incumbency snapping at his heels, the Prime Minister cannot be sure of anything — not even “Naari Shakti”. The BJP cannot isn’t even certain if the “Pappu” link will work. The split personality syndrome dogging Rahul Gandhi. The intellectual vis a vis idiotic RaGa — one day Rahul Gandhi is lost in translation, the next day he is genius. Of late, Rahul Gandhi has been intervening quite effectively in Parliament, putting Prime Minister Narendra Modi looking suspect on a number of occasions with billionaire Gautam Adani for company.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra, which transformed Rahul Gandhi from maverick to mainstay, and the haranguing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha, linking Modi with fellow Gujarati Gautam Adani as an egregious example of crony capitalism while not missing to point out the underlying corruption — all these have contributed to the grooming of Rahul Gandhi as the No.1 political adversary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
There are just the two of them in the story and on the debate stage. Just these two with political currency in these days of suspense. Just these two trying not to lose the momentum during the interregnum from now to general elections 2024. The last few opinion polls and “mood of the nation” surveys gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi overwhelming margin. But the only polls that come close to reality are the exit polls and those are months away though the day of reckoning is closing in fast.
As of now everybody is expecting the assembly elections in five states, especially the ones in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, to give a cue on who between Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is poll ready for general elections 2024. The Congress is expecting to grab all three states like it did the last time. Meanwhile, the BJP can be expected to announce more “gimmicks”. It is astounding how little the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are trusted when it comes to delivering on promises.
Not even when the Bill has been passed in both house of Parliament and there is only the implementation that is left. Why is there the perception that the BJP has all things neatly tied up for a third term for Narendra Modi and that is all that counts? For the moment though the urge to say something outrageous and startling is topmost in every politician’s mind. That and the belief that 2024 will be a more equal fight between Narendra Modi and his INDIA adversary and not a 2019-like piece of cake. (IPA Service)