Rahul aims at Modi's image

Congress chief says PM couldn't act against his finance minister for letting Mallya escape because he had himself violated norms in the Rafale deal

By Sanjay K. Jha in New Delhi
  • Published 18.09.18
  • a few seconds read
Rahul Gandhi  and Jyotiraditya Scindia at the road show in Bhopal on Monday. (PTI)

New Delhi: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Monday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi couldn't act against his finance minister for letting Vijay Mallya escape because he had himself violated norms to help his industrialist friend Anil Ambani in the Rafale deal.

The suggestion was the Prime Minister was incapable of fighting corruption because of his own failings.

The charge - aimed at making a dent in Modi's personal image that has remained largely unscathed despite alleged scams and controversies - came at a gathering Rahul addressed after an impressive 16km road show in Bhopal. It was clear Rahul would make corruption his main weapon in the Assembly elections coming up in some key states later this year.

"Vijay Mallya held a meeting with finance minister Arun Jaitley just before his escape. He said I am going to London. Jaitley himself accepted this. So, the thief runs away after telling the finance minister. The finance minister doesn't tell the CBI - catch him, he is going to London. Mallya runs away with Rs 9,000 crore," Rahul said.

"The finance minister let him go and the Prime Minister doesn't act against him. PM is silent. Jaitleyji, you let him go because you wanted to help Mallya and your boss, who snatched the (Rafale offset) contract from HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) to give it to his friend Ambani, supported it."

Rahul recalled how the Prime Minister couldn't reply to his questions in Parliament on the Rafale deal as he ripped into the government.

"Ambani is in a Rs 45,000-crore debt and has no experience of making airplanes. Lekin chowkidar aur Ambani mein dosti hai (But the custodian of law is a friend of Ambani). So the contract is snatched from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and given to the friend. Hence, Jaitley also allows Mallya to go."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being welcomed by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath on his arrival in Varanasi on Monday. (PTI)

Rahul then focused on chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. "Madhya Pradesh is number one in corruption, in unemployment, in farmer suicide, in atrocities on women. But, like Sachin Tendulkar was a run-making machine, the chief minister is a machine churning out promises; he has made 21,000 promises. Everybody knows who is the beneficiary of the Vyapam scam, of the e-tendering scam. I can promise you, the Congress will not allow the thieves of Madhya Pradesh to run away like Mallya."

Rahul called the November 2016 demonetisation the world's biggest scam that saw black money turned into white. BJP leaders, he told the gathering, were wasting people's time by focusing on irrelevant issues instead of two of the biggest challenges: jobs and agrarian distress.

While he referred to the RSS-BJP politics of spreading "hatred" and "anger", Rahul avoided dwelling on communalism and violence as much as he normally does. It appeared to be a strategy to corner the BJP on issues of corruption and governance instead of staging the fight in their boxing arena of majoritarianism. Rather, the Congress seemed to be going out of its way to blunt the edge the RSS-BJP enjoys among hardcore Hindu voters.

Rahul offered puja at several places, including to Lord Ganesha and Vishwakarma and even did kanya-pujan,while posters described him as a Shiva-bhakt, recalling his recent pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar.

Later, at a party workers' meeting, a local leader announced from the dais: "Because Rahulji has just returned from Kailash Mansarovar, (party veteran) Kamal Nathji will present him a shawl and a coconut as is done in the Hindu religion after a pilgrimage."

Many Congress workers carried Ganesha idols on their head during the road show.

Asked about the overt religious posturing, one senior leader said in Delhi: "Our intention is to blunt the false propaganda that the Congress is anti-Hindu and pro-Muslim."

Another leader said the message the party wanted to convey was that being "Hindu was not communal and being secular was not anti-religion".