Lone voice in tide of trolls

Rahul at a rally in Gujarat’s Banaskantha. (PTI)

New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi has said he persuaded the Congress to withdraw a jibe despite its wide popularity in social media to protect the dignity of the office of the Prime Minister.

The revelation on pulling the " Vikas gando thayo chhe (development has gone mad)" campaign marks an uncommon moment in Indian politics that is going through its most acrimonious phase ever, with vituperative trolling the order of the day.

Some did suggest the campaign, which challenges the claims of development in Gujarat under years of BJP rule, had been dropped after it had run its course and the Congress had milked it dry.

But few politicians have made such a disclosure, especially in the run-up to as crucial an election as the upcoming one in Gujarat, and at a time it is open season on public figures in social media. Rahul, who has been derided as "Pappu" by some trolls, has signalled his reluctance to stoop to similar levels at a time his biting tweets have found traction.

"I sent an email to Ashok Gehlot (the Congress general secretary in charge of Gujarat), asking him to protect the dignity of the Prime Minister's office. We will find out (Narendra) Modi's mistakes, disturb the BJP but the office of the Prime Minister reflects the majesty of the people's mandate," Rahul said during an interaction with his social media team in Gujarat.

"We all know how disrespectfully Modi spoke of our Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) when he was chief minister of Gujarat. We can't go beyond a point if the prestige of the Prime Minister's office is involved," Rahul added.

Minutes earlier, Gehlot had said: "It is true that development has gone mad in Gujarat but Rahulji asked me to ensure the PM's prestige is not put on the line. When Modiji said 'I am vikas, I am Gujarat', we stopped that campaign. People may continue their barbs but we are not doing it any more."

Asked how he kept his composure against vicious propaganda, Rahul said: "Have you heard of Lord Shiva? Come to me one day, I will explain his philosophy in detail. I know my truth. Let the BJP do whatever it can, spend whatever amount to malign me, but I will not change."

Rahul suggested that the BJP was spreading anger and hatred because it practised the "politics of lies" without realising that India's culture and religions represented the quest for truth.

"Once Priyanka (his sister) told me she had noticed some BJP leaders on a flight for one-and-a-half hours. They didn't smile even once; wearing a stiff countenance all along," Rahul said.

"They don't smile because they are not happy with life. We are happy with life; we know India has a beautiful future. We know India's strength is the ability to accept truth; we are all in search of truth. Religions also mean the quest for truth. Narendra Modi does politics of lies."

He explained: "Look around this meeting, everybody is smiling. Nobody smiles at BJP meetings. You smile because you can manage anger. You are in a constant process of self-correction. You introspect, you don't blame others for everything. The BJP never looks within. What was demonetisation, GST? Straight, clear mistakes of Narendra Modi. But he won't accept. He still says demonetisation was a great decision."

Asking the Congress social media volunteers not to spread hatred and anger, he said, "Speak about truth. You have full freedom. The BJP has a paid social media team but we have truth and people's expressions with us. Modi wants to suppress truth. The whole of Gujarat knows there is widespread corruption here, everybody told me about extortion by police. But Modi wants to suppress it.... He has the backing of so many governments, money, police, army, air force and media."

The reference to the media evoked derisive laughter but Rahul intervened to say: "Not these journalists... they see truth, they want to promote truth. But the fine-tuning is done from behind. Modi and Amit Shah control them, fine-tune the truth in connivance with the owners."


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