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Rahul tells party not to get personal

New Delhi, Feb. 6: Rahul Gandhi today asked party spokespersons to avoid personal attacks on rivals although most leaders called for a higher degree of aggression to counter what they described as the BJP’s “lies”.

Rahul didn’t disagree with the suggestion but insisted it was “wrong to make personal attacks”.

The Congress vice-president, who has never used abusive expressions to target political rivals, however, thanked the spokespersons for doing a good job in the face of false propaganda.

Rahul had called a meeting of party spokespersons and television panellists to discuss ways to strengthen the communication system. His comments came in the context of party leader Bhalchandra Mungekar’s disapproval of Mani Shankar Aiyar’s “chaiwala” jibe at Narendra Modi.

Rahul didn’t name Aiyar but agreed with Mungekar, who said: “Do not denigrate chaiwala. Such comments are unnecessary and they may derail the debate.”

At a recent AICC session, Aiyar had said Modi could sell tea at the venue, alluding to the BJP mascot’s self-proclaimed humble origins. The Gujarat leader once worked as a tea-stall boy and the BJP has been using this “chaiwala metaphor to connect with the underprivileged.

Most Congress leaders agreed the party should avoid personal insinuations but said Modi’s “expressions and lies” needed to be countered.

“General secretary Shakeel Ahmed pitched for an aggressive approach, saying Modi often used lies and half-truths to denigrate leaders and should not be allowed to go unchallenged,” a participant told The Telegraph. “He also said the BJP’s hypocritical stand on corruption despite the disgrace on two party presidents should be forcefully confronted.”

The allusion was to Bangaru Laxman, who was secretly photographed accepting money from undercover reporters posing as representatives of an arms dealer, and Nitin Gadkari, who faced allegations of controversial financial dealings.

Ahmed also responded to Modi’s attempt to hail some Bengali celebrities, tweeting that the people of Bengal would “never forgive” the BJP for insulting Amartya Sen. The BJP had attacked the economist for saying that he didn’t want Modi as Prime Minister. Ahmed also said Modi shed “tears” for Pranab Mukherjee in Calcutta yesterday, forgetting that his party had opposed him in the presidential election.

Rahul pointed to the tendency of senior leaders to speak out of turn, a day after Sonia Gandhi had to issue a statement to correct the impression created by another general secretary on caste reservations. Rahul said senior leaders and spokespersons shouldn’t express different views, at least on the basics.

Senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad underlined the need to focus on the regional media to reach out to people living in villages and small towns.