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Unequal equals

22 Jul. 2018 12:03 AM IST

It was expected to be the turning point of opposition unity in the run up to the 2019 parliamentary elections and also the moment of reckoning for prime minister Narendra Modi and his the BJP-led NDA government, when the Lok Sabha took up the No Confidence Motion initiated by former BJP ally Telugu Desam Party(TDP), which recently withdrew from NDA. After a brief initiation by a TDP member, Congress president and prime minister–in-waiting, Rahul Gandhi took on Modi and his government with youthful gusto for around half and hour during which he repeated the same charges made in recent times against Modi and his government. Of course, attacking the government does not mean new ammunition but it was expected that the charges should be substantial enough to appear to stick (at least, till after the session) so as to put the government on the mat. Rahul’s attack was however more hype and hyperbole. That led Rahul miss the opportunity to hit Modi where it hurts as he made a speech instead of arguing his case. Rahul ended up being hauled for privilege motion for claiming that there was no confidential clause in the Rafale deal and so charged defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman of lying to the nation. He also inferred that the huge price escalation of the French jet fighter was due to the personal interest of Modi in promoting some favoured business middleman. Of course, the French denied all of Rahul’s claims. The No Confidence Motion ended as a comedy when Rahul, after his rudderless speech, walked up to Modi, asked him to stand which was declined. Anyway, Rahul went ahead and hugged a totally unprepared and surprised Modi. Rahul’s surprise hug became the talk of the nation. Whatever Rahul sought to project by hugging Modi, was lost since it did nothing to serve the interest of the No Confidence Motion. It could have been a different and a wonderful story if the meeting was for a reconciliation between Rahul and Modi. Politics is a serious matter and suffers no fools especially when the stakes are so high. When opposition unity was the need of the hour to check Modi from continuing to walkover, Rahul’s inability to present himself as a viable alternative is bad news. After the foiled and flop show on Friday, Rahul not only demeaned himself with his childish nonchalance but also undid all the momentum that the Congress was just about to regain as a serious challenger to the BJP. The No Confidence was a lost cause but somehow Sonia was convinced the opposition could defeat the government. She miscalculated it in 1999 and now in 2018. The No Confidence Motion, rather than scare the BJP, has only done the reverse. It has galvanised both veteran fighters -Modi and Shah- who have now tasted another victory offered on a platter by Rahul Gandhi. The opposition has reasons to worry about the flop show. The Congress must take a serious introspection to let Rahul be himself as party president while having another more capable political leader like Jyotiraditya Scindia to lead the party in 2019 if the party wants to be a contender. The Congress cannot remain as the fiefdom of the Nehru-Gandhis since the family has no capable leader and is fast losing relevance.

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