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  India   Politics  12 Dec 2018  Modi taught what not to do: Rahul Gandhi

Modi taught what not to do: Rahul Gandhi

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Dec 12, 2018, 2:05 am IST
Updated : Dec 12, 2018, 2:05 am IST

It was the barb of the victorious after a hard-fought battle.

Rahul Gandhi (Photo: PTI)
 Rahul Gandhi (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: Exactly a year after he officially took over the reigns of the Congress Party from his mother, Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for teaching him a lesson — “about what not to do”.

It was the barb of the victorious after a hard-fought battle.

Under the leadership of the 48-year-old Gandhi scion, who has often been derisively called “Pappu” and “Clown Prince” by BJP leaders, the Congress on Tuesday wrested Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh from the rightwing party and has staked claim to form the government in Madhya Pradesh where the two were running neck-and-neck throughout the day.

“I was telling my mother that the absolute best thing for me was the 2014 election. I learnt a lot from that election. I learnt that the most important thing is humility… Frankly, Narendra Modi taught me the lesson — what not to do,” Mr Gandhi, who has spent most of the last four years accepting blame for his party’s defeats in various state elections, said at a press conference on Tuesday evening after the results of these five Assembly elections were out.

It has been “a nice journey from 2014”, he added.

“There was a little bit of a beating but it is a good thing, not a bad thing...,” he quipped. The Congress was reduced to its lowest tally in Parliament ever in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

But on Tuesday, the Congress’ performance in these Assembly elections — billed as the semi-final, the last popularity test before national elections — has bolstered                      n Turn to Page 4

Mr Gandhi’s image and he has now catapulted to become the principal challenger to Prime Minister Modi in 2019.

Mr Modi got a massive mandate but refused to listen to “heartbeat of the country”, Mr Gandhi said.

“Clearly, there is a feeling that PM Modi was unable to deliver what he committed,” the Congress president told reporters. “When PM Modi was elected, he was elected on platforms like employment, corruption. Now, voters are disillusioned. They believe the PM is involved in corruption. And these losses are the result of that,” Mr Gandhi said.

“The Assembly polls’ outcome is a clear message to the Modi government that people are not happy with it and that the time has come for a change,” Mr Gandhi said while asserting that his party will also win in 2019.

Together, these three states in Hindi heartland account for 65 Lok Sabha seats of which the BJP won 62 in 2014.

Commenting on the acrimonious election campaign, which saw him targeting the Prime Minister repeatedly as “Chowkidar chor hai”, Mr Gandhi said, “Well I don’t use bad language or personal remarks.”

Crediting his party’s workers — whom he called “babbar sher (lions)” — for the wins, Mr Gandhi said that the BJP talks of a “Congress Mukt Bharat”, but the Congress does not want a BJP Mukt Bharat.

“We have our ideological differences with the BJP but that does not mean we want a BJP Mukt Bharat. Hum kisi ko mukt nahi karna chahtein,” he said.

Mr Gandhi dismissed speculation of a tussle over the chief minister’s job in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. “There won’t be any big issue of chief minister,” he said.

Mr Gandhi’s journey, who in current round of Assembly elections addressed over 82 rallies in five states, has not been easy. Under constant personal attack and ridicule from the BJP, Mr Gandhi not only withstood the onslaught but also paid back the BJP in its own coin.

He took the attack to the BJP camp, with his witty repartee on social media, temple visits and promises that embraced Hindu sentiments during the Gujarat Assembly election in December 2017. Though his party lost, it was the Congress’ best performance since 1992 in the state. Personal allegations were also made against him and his family by the top leadership of the BJP, but Mr Gandhi did not go down the personal insult route, sticking to substantive issues like jobs, farmer crisis, condition of small business.

He even expelled senior leader Mani Shankar Aiyar from the party for his use of intemperate language against the Prime Minister. And in the recent election campaign too, Mr Gandhi rapped senior leader C.P. Joshi in Rajasthan for his casteist remarks.

Mr Gandhi’s big challenge came when the Congress fell short of a majority in Karnataka earlier this year and swiftly aligned with the JD(S), giving them the post of the Chief Minister, ensuring that it retained the state.

In Tuesday’s results, though the Congress lost Mizoram and failed to perform in Telangana, its wins in India’s heartland overshadowed the setbacks and are likely to help the Congress re-energise its party workers.

The results also reiterate that Mr Gandhi, who took over the reins of his party on December 11 last year, has come into his own and is ready to steer the Grand Alliance. The BJP too can no longer get away with just name calling. It will have to address issues being raised by him.

While admitting that the Congress would have liked to do better in Telangana, Mr Gandhi, speaking of the states won, said, “It’s now time for change. We are going to provide these three states with a vision for overall development”.

Asserting that the process of loan waiver for farmers will start as soon as Congress governments are formed, Mr Gandhi said that waiver is a measure, not a solution to farmers’ distress.

In the battle that is now to begin for Lok Sabha 2019, Mr Gandhi’s leadership will be put to test like never before. More so because the Congress, which rightly faces criticism of being a one-family party, has chosen to yet again go with a member of the Gandhi family.

If Mr Gandhi doesn’t deliver, cracks in the party will get deeper.

Tags: rahul gandhi, narendra modi