After dig at Modi's probity, Rahul guns for strongman image

The two main features of Modi’s shrewdly built political persona were personal integrity and robust leadership

By Sanjay K. Jha in New Delhi
  • Published 8.02.19, 4:17 AM
  • Updated 8.02.19, 9:39 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
Rahul Gandhi at the convention. (Prem Singh)

Rahul Gandhi on Thursday flagged off the second stage of his project to dismantle the carefully crafted “strong-man” image of Narendra Modi, calling him a “coward” and declaring that the Prime Minister would run away from even a 10-minute debate with the Congress president.

“Kaayar hai, darpok hai (He is a coward, fearful),” Rahul said, complementing the relentless “chowkidar chor hai (custodian is thief)” chant with which he had made the Rafale deal an issue and targeted Modi’s integrity shield.

The two main features of Modi’s shrewdly built political persona were personal integrity and robust leadership. The Congress feels Rahul has significantly succeeded in creating doubts in the minds of people about Modi’s anti-corruption credentials and now the party chief is moving on to the next phase to question the claims of unmatched leadership skills.

“If you stand up to him and refuse to be cowed down, he will run away. I have been fighting with him for five years and have understood him. Dum nahin hai (lacks strength),” Rahul said while addressing the national minorities conference organised by his party.

“When Chinese troops were in Doklam, Modi flies to Beijing for a no-agenda meeting. He appeared before them with folded hands. Haath joda China ke saamne. This is his character China tested. They found out that the 56-inch chest is not even four inches.”

If you stand up to him and refuse to be cowed down, he will run away. I have been fighting with him for five years and have understood him. Dum nahin hai (lacks strength).

Rahul Gandhi

The Congress leader dwelt on the freedom struggle to also target leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. “Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Azad… were in jail for years. Kept in solitary confinement. But what did Savarkar do? He asked the British what to write in the mercy petition. Kya likhna hai Bhaiyya? Mujhe bolo, abhi likhta hun. Have to touch feet? Will do right now. The RSS, Savarkar, Modi… all are cowards. That’s their DNA.”

Rahul then repeated his challenge to Modi, asking him to debate with him from the same platform. “For 10 minutes, come and debate with me. He won’t, he can’t… bhag jaayega (will run away). I will ask him about Anil Ambani, whom he favoured in a defence deal in the US, how he helped (Gautam) Adani?”

“Chowkidar…,” the crowd chanted

Rahul rubbed the message in. “Have you carefully seen Modi’s face on TV? You can see fear, nervousness on his face. Truth can’t be hidden. He is frightened. He has betrayed farmers, youths, the entire nation. He has understood that the Indian Prime Minister can’t divide and rule. He is expected only to unite. They think they are above institutions, above the nation. In three months, the country will show them their place.”

The Congress chief said everybody had presumed five years ago that Modi would rule for 15 years. “Today, the Congress has smashed his reputation, it is in tatters,” Rahul said, projecting his party as the primary contender for minority votes.

“This country doesn’t belong to one religion, one language, one culture… this country belongs to all,” he said, assuring his audience that the minorities had nothing to fear.

Have you carefully seen Modi’s face on TV? You can see fear, nervousness on his face.... He has betrayed farmers, youths, the entire nation.... In three months, the country will show them their place.

Rahul Gandhi

Rahul also warned the Indian bureaucracy, asserting that their commitment was to the nation, not to the RSS.

He said that Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath had told him what the RSS had done in the state during the 15 years of BJP rule that the Congress ended in December 2018.

“The RSS infiltrated every institution. A separate ministry was carved out, through which Rs 800 crore was given to RSS people. Their intention was to control the people of the state. They did the same in Chhattisgarh. We haven’t merely won elections in these states, we will purge the system of RSS people,” Rahul said.

He recalled the contributions of people of all communities. “Maulana Azad was the (country’s) first education minister. When we talk of institutes like IITs, we can’t ignore him. We can’t ignore Vikram Sarabhai, a Jain, when we think of space technology,” Rahul said.

“We can’t talk of White Revolution without remembering Verghese Kurien,” he added. “Can’t talk of 1971 without Field Marshal Manekshaw. Can we talk of economic liberalisation without mentioning Manmohan Singh?”

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