By Arun Srivastava
The BJP leadership going bonkers and hurling all kind of insinuation against Rahul Gandhi, even to the extent of implicitly accusing him of working against the interest of India, makes it explicit that the Congress leader has hit the bull’s eye. His mission to use his UK visit as an extension of the much-applauded Bharat Jodo Yatra and expose the BJP design to demolish democracy, has been accomplished. In his speeches and interactions in Britain, he reckoned the gains of the Yatra and identified it as a flag-bearer of deeply-held democratic values and a device to protect India’s cherished democracy.
Gandhi had taken out his Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari to Srinagar, traversing an extraordinary length of over 4,000 kilometres, primarily to combat the RSS and BJP narrative of hate and divisiveness that has been methodically eating into the country’s psyche and its people. In this backdrop, it was imperative that the message of the Yatra, to connect the people to each other and that drive home the message that democracy itself was in crisis, was of paramount importance to an even wider audience. The Indians living in foreign countries must be made aware of the plight of the common people and the democratic institutions turning dysfunctional in their land of origin.
There is no denying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his nine-year stay in office has built a bond with the Indian diaspora, and the not-so-critical stance of Western leaders like Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak has only helped their perception that everything was fine in India. These people have been the most effective instrument to influence the mindspace of the bourgeoning middle classes in India. For checkmating this design, it was absolutely essential that the sprawling and impactful Indian diaspora should be apprised of the correct situation.
The response of the diaspora, especially the new generation, and the questions put by them to Gandhi, made it explicit that they were not aware of the ground realities. His weeklong UK visit of has virtually put a cog in the wheel of efforts by RSS and Modi to regiment them as the vanguard of the rightist ideology taking India back by centuries.
Gandhi’s painstaking exercise of building a “democracy-in-crisis” narrative ahead of the 2024 parliamentary elections and present the Yatra as an effective instrument to undo the damage and re-energise dysfunctional institutional framework has undoubtedly done a great job. The success of Gandhi’s UK visit and his consistent thrust on the character and ideological implication of the Bharat Jodo Yatra would hopefully make more Congress leaders opt for course correction.
Gandhi’s thrust on India facing the crisis of democracy and his pointing to RSS dominance, misuse of agencies by the government, not allowing the democracy to function, opposition voice not being allowed to be heard in Parliament or the media, concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, centralisation of power within the government, among other issues raised by the Congress leader, has pushed the BJP political ecosystem in a bind.
Their misleading insinuation campaign against Gandhi, accusing him of shaming India during his UK visit and asking America and Europe to “interfere” to restore democracy in the country, clearly manifest their nervousness and despondency. BJP’s senior leaders resorting blatant lies has not come as a surprise as they have to be in good books of their masters.
Through its lies the BJP’s political ecosystem was trying to distort the remarks of Gandhi. He has said “democracy in India is a global public good. It impacts way further than our boundaries. If Indian democracy collapses, in my view, democracy on the planet suffers a very serious, possibly fatal, blow. So, it’s important for you too. It’s not just important for us. We will deal with our problem. But you must be aware that this problem is going to play out at the global scale. It’s not going to play out only in India.”
It was shocking to see the Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar joining his BJP colleagues and attacking Gandhi for his comments regarding microphones being turned off in Parliament. Dhankar said: “India is having a moment of glory being president of G20. And there are people from the country working in overdrive to denigrate us. Such misplaced campaign mode to taint and tarnish our Parliament and Constitution is too serious and exceptional to be ignored.”
Dhankar presides at the Rajya Sabha while Gandhi has been the member of the Lok Sabha. Obviously any rebuttal to Gandhi’s allegation ought to have come from the Speaker of Lok Sabha, Om Birla. Gandhi had told British parliamentarians in London that functioning microphones in the Lok Sabha are often silenced against the Opposition. Unfortunately, Rajya Sabha chairman did not adhere to the parliamentary ethics and act as umpire. It was an unwarranted intervention from Dhankar.
Gandhi asked the world to be aware of what’s happening in India. He did not ask them to intervene. Certainly, what he said could not be described as seeking interference. Using abusive languages against their political adversaries is a major component of the BJP, which till recently claimed of being a party with difference. No person having elementary sense of decency would use the words which they used to malign Gandhi.
Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate has corrected noted: “They know their worth is nothing if they don’t defame Rahul. They started with the allegation of insulting India on foreign soil. When we showed them the mirror — what (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi has said (about past Indian governments) on his foreign tours — they fell silent.”
The manner in which the RSS and BJP leaders were trying to create a hill out of the small mole, provides an insight into the potent threat the saffron camp is facing. A Yatra of 4,000 kms has completely shaken and weakened the foundation of the divisive politics which RSS and BJP have laid during the last nine years of Modi Raj. Though the RSS and Modi allies have been projecting BJP’s electoral victory to negate gains of Rahul’s Yatra, defeat in the elections of Himachal Pradesh and Meghalaya and its decline in Tripura and Nagaland clearly conveys the message that Modi has lost his charisma and public image.
It is the fear of losing the final battle of ballots that has made the leaders to take to destructive vengeance against Gandhi, who has been frank in his condemnation of the BJP and the RSS: “RSS is a fundamentalist, fascist organisation which has basically captured pretty much all of India’s institutions. You can call it a secret society. It’s built along the lines of the Muslim Brotherhood. And the idea is to use the democratic contest to come to power and then subvert the democratic contest afterwards.”
The game being played by RSS chief Mohan Bhagat and Modi has in fact severely corroded the mind and hearts of the RSS karyakartas was clearly evident in the remorse the daughter of a senior RSS leader expressed to Gandhi. Malini Mehra asked about “the democratic despair that the country is in” and described herself as “one of possibly millions who no longer recognise the country that they were born and raised in”.
Bhagwat’s quest for power has eroded the confidence of individuals like Malini. She said: “I’m here because I am feeling wretched about the state of my country. Absolutely wretched. My father was an RSS man, proudly. He would not recognise the country (today), bless his soul. For those of us who are outside of India, how can we engage? How could we re-empower our democracy?”
Never before during the nine years of Modi Raj, BJP appeared to be so shaky. This primarily owes to the BJY which had a countrywide effect. It provided an alternative vision to the country. His words need to be analysed carefully; “The Bharat Jodo Yatra has given an alternative vision. One vision is of the BJP-RSS that is filled with hate and arrogance. Our vision is about brotherhood, about opening shops of love in the market of hate, giving respect to each other”.
In fact during his interaction at the Chatham House in London he said: “I think, the walk that we did in the last four and half months is a powerful model. It brings in a lot of the ingredients of a response to (the BJP’s dominance) and it works for most of the Opposition in India. So, reaching out to the people in interesting ways and making sure that you are having a direct connect with people and building a new imagination, I think, is central to fighting the BJP.”
One development which deserves attention is BJP is losing election, even though Rahul has not been actively campaigning against it. The peoples’ message is clear and loud, they want to be participant in an ideological battle. Obviously Rahul is “very optimistic” that the Opposition parties will come together to present an alternative vision of India. “That vision is an inclusive vision. It’s a vision of bringing people together. And we’re in conversation. The Opposition is talking to each other. And I’m confident that we will get something very interesting going forward. I’m very optimistic.”
He however did not shy away from saying conceding “There’s a lot of coordination that goes on with the Opposition parties. Conversations are going on between the Opposition parties. I’m aware of many of them. The basic idea that the RSS and the BJP need to be fought and defeated is deeply entrenched in the minds of the Opposition”. (IPA Service)