Sonia Gandhi on Thursday reminded reporters that a leader’s aura of invincibility don’t always translate into victory on the ground, citing the example of 2004 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee bowed out as Prime Minister after the BJP’s surprise defeat in the elections.
“Don’t forget 2004 when Vajpayeeji was invincible but we had won,” the former Congress chief said in Rae Bareli.
The United Progressive Alliance chairperson was in Rae Bareli to file her nomination papers from the Uttar Pradesh constituency she has represented in Parliament for four terms without a break since 1999.
Sonia was responding to a question on how the Congress hoped to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi, considered by many to be a strong leader with a muscular narrative.
Vajpayee, the Prime Minister in 2004, was considered unbeatable after the 1999 Kargil war — a situation comparable with 2019 in the backdrop of the February 26 Balakot air strikes in Pakistani territory.
But the Congress-led UPA had won that election, the grand old party accounting for 145 seats of the 335 the alliance got in the 543-strong Lok Sabha.
The Congress’s individual tally was 31 more than what it had got in 1999. The BJP had won 138 seats — 44 fewer than its 1999 numbers.
Asked about Sonia’s comments, observers said her argument stands only if it is assumed that the Congress would emerge as the largest party in the general election and anti-BJP forces unite under the UPA.
Asked what the local issues were for her in this election, Sonia said: “The development works which we couldn’t do here because of Modiji are the issues.” She didn’t elaborate.
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who was with his mother in Rae Bareli on Thursday, claimed the election results would shatter Modi’s aura of invincibility.
“There have been many people in India’s history who had the arrogance to believe that they were invincible and bigger than the people of the country,” Rahul, posed the same question the reporters had earlier asked Sonia, said.
“Narendra Modi has not done anything in the last five years and his invincibility would be (exposed) before us after the election results.”
Sonia had earlier attended a “havan” with Rahul and daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the Congress’s general secretary for east Uttar Pradesh, before holding a 3km road show in an open-top SUV to the collectorate building to file her nomination.
Some party members waved black flags, with the words Rafale scam written on them, on the way to the collectorate.
Others waved blue flags with the word NYAY, short for the Nyuntam Aye Yojana or the Rs 72,000 yearly minimum income scheme the party has announced in its election manifesto for the poor.
Sonia, 72, emerged from the collectorate building holding Rahul’s hand as she walked down the steps.
“Every candidate and politician should learn from the commitment of my mother for the people of Rae Bareli,” Priyanka later said in a tweet in Hindi. “The purpose of politics is people’s service and dedication. Whoever gets this opportunity should be thankful to the people.”