From 'chowkidar' to 'bhagidar', precision attack shatters TINA

One victim of Rahul Gandhi's speech on Friday, by common consensus in the Opposition circles, was TINA - the 'there is no alternative' factor that is invariably cited as the reason Narendra Modi must continue as Prime Minister.

By Sanjay K. Jha
  • Published 21.07.18
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Congress President Rahul Gandhi, listen to a debate on 'no-confidence motion' in the Lok Sabha during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)

New Delhi: One victim of Rahul Gandhi's speech on Friday, by common consensus in the Opposition circles, was TINA - the 'there is no alternative' factor that is invariably cited as the reason Narendra Modi must continue as Prime Minister.

The dominant view in the Opposition and among political observers was that Rahul had emerged as a formidable challenger to Modi for the 2019 general election, shattering the TINA myth. The frenzied protests from the treasury benches appeared to suggest that BJP MPs also thought so and were unsettled by a leader they had long dismissed as "Pappu".

While Rahul targeted the Prime Minister on Rafale, lynching and betrayal of promises made to the people, he also shrewdly isolated Modi and Amit Shah from the RSS-BJP and other politicians in his speech on the no-confidence motion. "The Prime Minister and the BJP president are both very different types of politicians, different from all of us," he said.

The Congress president explained: "The difference between us and them is that we are OK to lose power. We can see ourselves in power and out of power. For reasons that everybody knows here, the Prime Minister and the BJP president can simply not afford to lose power. Because the moment they lose power, other processes will start against them.

"So the Prime Minister and his party president act out of fear. This fear generates anger and it is this anger which all of us in India are feeling. Anger transmitted down India, attempting to crush everybody. This is the truth."

The self-appointed custodian was actually a partner in loot, he said, in a blunt attack rarely seen in Parliament. " Modiji ne kaha chowkidar banna chahta hoon. Woh chowkidar nahin, bhagidar hain," Rahul said, "Modiji had said he wanted to be made the watchman guarding the country's assets, but he is no watchman, he is a partner (in the loot)."

The Congress president continued: "He claimed 'I am a chowkidar' but didn't utter a word when Amit Shah's son Jay Shah turned Rs 50,000 into Rs 80 crore. The price of a Rafale aircraft negotiated by the UPA was Rs 520 crore. Modiji goes to France and does the magic to transform the price to Rs 1,600 crore."

He asked Modi to explain to the country how he executed the Rafale deal and why a Rs 45,000-crore contract was taken away from the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and the youth of Karnataka and handed to his "corporate friend" who has "never, ever built an airplane and has a debt of Rs 35,000 crore".

Rahul accused the government of lying. "The defence minister said the prices of aircraft cannot be revealed because there is a secrecy clause between France and India. I met the French President and he said there is no such secrecy pact. Nirmala Sitharaman has lied to the country. The defence minister and the Prime Minister have not been truthful. They should tell the nation who is being helped," he said.

Amid noisy protests from the BJP members, Rahul said: "Everybody understands the relationship the Prime Minister has with certain business people. They spend a huge amount of money for the marketing of the Prime Minister. One of them got the Rafale contract in place of HAL (public sector). The gentleman benefited to the tune of Rs 45,000 crore. The Prime Minister must answer whether the CCS (cabinet committee on security) cleared this Rafale deal."

Although Rahul has been raising this issue outside, putting it on parliamentary record and reaching the widest possible audience would dent the Prime Minister's image if no credible explanation is offered.

The defence minister argued that there was a secrecy pact signed in 2008, when the UPA was in power. The Congress has dismissed this excuse, saying the price of an aircraft was not classified information.

As BJP members shouted and parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar dismissed the charges as "baseless and unsubstantiated", Rahul repeated: "The fact is they have not been truthful. The entire country has seen the Prime Minister cannot look me in the eye. You can create noise but the country has understood - chowkidar nahin, bhagidar hain."

He then moved to demolish Modi's nationalist plank, recalling how when Indian soldiers were involved in a standoff with the Chinese at Doklam, the Prime Minister travelled to China for a "no-agenda" meeting with President Xi Jinping in which he did not raise Doklam. "It was not a no-agenda meeting, it was a Chinese agenda. The Prime Minister betrayed the Indian Army," he said, amid roars of protests from the treasury benches.

When Rahul alleged that petroleum prices were high in India at a time global prices were low because the Prime Minister was helping his corporate friends, the BJP protests led to adjournment of the House for 10 minutes.

As the House resumed and Speaker Sumitra Mahajan tried to rein in Rahul by arguing that allegations without proof should be avoided, he retorted to the agitated BJP members: " Daro mat, don't be afraid of truth."

The Congress leader moved to women's safety, saying an impression had gained ground internationally for the first time that India was not able to protect its women.

"Women are being gang-raped, Dalits, tribals, minorities are beaten up, killed. The Prime Minister doesn't utter a word. Are these people not Indians? This is not an attack on individuals but on the Constitution," he said.