While the Doka La standoff between Indian and Chinese forces was underway, Prime Minister Narendra Modi restrained from speaking on the subject. He didn't say a word following the military disengagement (72 days into the standoff), ahead of his visit to China in the first week of September to attend the BRICS summit.
Even when he was hailed by many for standing his ground in the extremely risky situation, eventually forcing China to diffuse the situation, he maintained a studied silence and let the issue be debated in the public domain by the academics, experts and political parties instead.
But now, almost five months after the standoff started, Modi first mentioned Doka La in Bengaluru on Sunday and charged the Congress of spreading lies about the issue. But, it seems that he reserved his firepower on the issue for his visit to Kangra in Himachal Pradesh on Thursday.
Speaking in the hill state – also known as "veer bhumi" for the number of persons from the state serving the armed forces – Modi thought it appropriate to bring up Doka La in detail and lash out at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
What would have hurt the Congress most is the way Modi hit out at its scion, questioning his wisdom, his trust in official Indian structures and his concern for national interest, especially since he is a three-term MP and designated heir to the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty.
Modi said the Congress, which wants to rule the country, did not have faith in the country. The 72-day standoff was a test of bravery and patience of Indian soldiers, who were pitted in an eyeball to eyeball confrontation with Chinese troops under adverse climatic conditions. Anything could have happened then but we had confidence in our soldiers' skills and patience, Modi said.
But a person (Rahul) who has been in Parliament for 12-15 years, who was born and brought up in a royal (political) family and whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather had been prime ministers, did not have trust in the country’s government and systems, Modi added.
"He meets the Chinese ambassador to know what was happening in Doka La. By doing so, did he (Rahul) not shame the country, the armed forces? His intentions are questionable. Can the country trust a person who doesn't have any primary knowledge?" he quipped.
Terming the Congress a "laughing club", Modi said the party was losing its hold in every corner of the country. The Grand Old Party, under its current dispensation, has degenerated into "Sadi hui soch" (rotten thought), he said.
Congress workers are surely not going to take the jibes kindly. It remains to be seen how Rahul responds to that.
Way back in 2009, in the run-up to Parliamentary polls, Modi had termed the Congress as having been reduced to a "125-year-old budhia (old woman)". Responding to his attack, Priyanka Gandhi, during her campaigning in Amethi had responded by saying, "Kya mein budhi dikhti hoon (Do I look old to you)?
However, the Congress won those elections and the matter ended there. But the time has changed now. The Congress is ebbed, in Parliament, in states Assemblies and in local bodies across the nation.
What is important to note here is that in recent months, this has been Modi’s sharpest attack on Rahul. This comes at a time when a number of so-called secularists, left-liberal writers and analysts have rediscovered immense virtues of the Congress vice-president and believe that he has come of age and acquired maturity and articulation to effectively take on Modi now and in the 2019 Parliamentary elections.
Rahul now has a chance to respond to Modi by winning the Himachal Pradesh or Gujarat Assembly elections. But if he fails to win these two states, then Modi would have won decisively yet another battle.
Modi knows that targeting an individual may not augur well so he tried to link it with the degeneration of main Opposition party from being an organisation which effectively ruled every inch of the country to a rotten thought, which is no longer a party which Mahatma Gandhi and other freedom fighters once nurtured to an organisation which was corrupt, dynastic, promoted communalism and casteism for electoral gains. Modi didn't spare former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru either.
He said that when he talked of a Congress-mukt Bharat he was referring to getting rid of that degenerative thought, which the present-day Congress represents. He referred to former finance minister P Chidambaram's advocacy for Kashmir’s autonomy, asking who gave him (Chidambaram) the right to insult jawans who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the integrity of the nation.
Besides distancing from Chidambaram's remark, the Congress had not said anything on its leader's position. Interestingly, Rahul has been talking highly of Chidambaram in his public meetings while blasting Modi on demonetisation.
The BJP leaders would be satisfied by the kind of response he evoked from the massive crowds gathered to hear his speech.
Updated Date: Nov 02, 2017 19:35 PM