Monday, 30th October 2017

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'Very impressive' says Rahul Gandhi on silent Modi's press conference

Rahul Gandhi actually fielded questions and replied at a news conference

By Sanjay K. Jha in New Delhi
  • Published 18.05.19, 5:30 AM
  • Updated 18.05.19, 5:30 AM
  • 3 mins read
Rahul Gandhi at the media conference at the Congress headquarters on Friday afternoon. Image source: (@INCIndia)

Not more than four miles from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared in his maiden news conference, something unfashionable took place around the same time.

Rahul Gandhi actually fielded questions and replied at a news conference. Another bewildering detail: it was not the Congress president’s first press conference, either.

The following are some of the questions taken up by Rahul at the media conference at the Congress headquarters on Friday afternoon:

  • You always challenged Modi to hold a press conference. Today he is addressing a press conference. What will you say now?
  • The PM has said he won’t be able to forgive Pragya, what do you have to say about that?
  • Have you started consulting other Opposition parties for government formation?
  • Is the Congress ready to forgo the PM’s post?
  • How do you see the role of the EC in this election?
  • Modi said during a TV interview that “Rahul can abuse my parents if he has anything against them. They were not in politics.” What would you say about them? (On a day of firsts for Modi, he referred to the Congress president by his name, referring to him as “Shriman Rahul Gandhi” and “Shriman Rahulji”.)
  • How many seats are you winning? Amit Shah said the BJP would cross 300.
  • Mayawati-Akhilesh did not ally with you before the elections. Are you confident they will join hands with you after the elections?

Rahul, whose press conference, scheduled for 4.15pm, was announced around 3pm, had delayed his appearance by 15 minutes to check if Modi had anything substantive to say. He arrived around 4.30pm and gave his verdict on the news conference where the Prime Minister did not take questions: “Very impressive.”

“Very impressive, very impressive, very good. So the Prime Minister’s first press conference is held days before the election results come. I am told it has been said the Prime Minister is accompanying Mr Amit Shah in a press briefing. Unprecedented….”

The Congress president later tweeted: “Congratulations Modi Ji. Excellent Press Conference! Showing up is half the battle. Next time Mr Shah may even allow you to answer a couple of questions. Well done!”

At the press conference, Rahul asked: “Pradhan Mantriji, why did you not accept my challenge to debate on corruption in Rafale? Please tell the media why you got scared.”

Rahul mock-complained to the media that he hadn’t been asked questions on mangoes and kurtas like Modi was. Then he recalled Modi’s reply to a question he had been asked at a TV interview on the Balakot air strikes: “Narendra Modi says, ‘I told the air force officers the weather is bad, there are clouds, the plane will not show up on the radar’.”

Thumping his desk, the Congress president said: “Excellent! Prime Minister of India. Fantastic!”

At ease at his media meeting, marking the end of the election campaign, Rahul thanked party workers and gave the Congress an “A” for its performance in the Opposition over the past five years.

Recalling that the Congress lacked the numbers in the Lok Sabha in 2014, Rahul said: “I say with pride that the Congress has played the role of the Opposition ‘A’ grade. We cornered the Prime Minister. What Modi was in 2014, we dismantled the idea that was Modi. He had said he would fight corruption. I dared him to a debate on Rafale; he got scared…. The ‘Chowkidar chor hai’ slogan is echoing in the entire country. So this is something the Congress has systematically achieved. We raised the farmers’ issue, came up with Nyay…. We have done our work. Now it is up to the people.”

He further said: “Our strategy two years back was that we are going to close every door Modi could escape through. I am proud to say that 90 per cent of the doors we closed. Modi closed 10 per cent doors himself, by being abusive to leaders like Chandrababu Naidu. Our job was to protect the institutions, to protect the country. We are proud to say that we did it as millions of people stood with us to stop Modi.”

Rahul refused to be drawn into predicting the number of seats the Congress would win, responding to several questions on the subject with: “It is up to the people. I will not pre-judge the people’s verdict. It is not for me to decide what the people of India are going to say on the 23rd; it is for them.”

Not even when a reporter said the BJP chief had said the party would win 300 seats. “Very good, very good, very good. I am very pleased that Mr Amit Shah is saying 300 paar. Good for him,” Rahul responded.

“Modi had a huge opportunity. I would have liked to see a Prime Minister who was moving the country forward, taking up the challenge of joblessness. But he lost sight of the real picture. He forgot that the Indian people had not put him in the PM’s chair to give speeches. They had put him there to solve problems. He chose to abuse our vision and then use our vision, which we ourselves accepted had stopped working in 2012. So now he suddenly finds himself with nothing to show, no work done.”

Modi would now come up with an event to distract voters, “one of the seaplane type of things”, Rahul said, recalling his seaplane ride on the last day of campaigning in the Gujarat Assembly elections. “But India’s not going to get distracted.”

Soon after, PTI quoted sources in the Election Commission as saying permission had been given to Modi to visit Kedarnath and Badrinath on Saturday while reminding him that the model code remains in force.