Rahul Gandhi's 'prime minister in 2019' remark in the highly charged electioneering in Karnataka was an issue that Narendra Modi couldn’t have left unchallenged. In fact, it was ready fodder, an easy picking for the prime minister to take on the Congress president, present him as arrogant, immature "namdar (dynast)" and use that to turn public discourse in BJP’s favour.
The BJP relishes a Modi versus Rahul contest at the national or state level. They know that any Modi versus Rahul contest is heavily loaded in favour of the former. The party leaders were all smiles when the Congress president made his PM assertion. On his part, Modi took one full day to respond to Rahul’s overt prime ministerial aspirations at a public rally in Bangarapet in Karnataka.
To ensure that his message reached the target audience with required effect, he chose to relate Rahul's self-proclaimed bid for prime ministerial post with a real-life situation often seen in semi-urban lower income group areas or in rural areas with little access to potable water. He discreetly let the crowd know that he was using an analogy to talk about the arrogance of Rahul Gandhi.
The prime minister said that in areas where a water tanker comes in early morning, say at 3 am, the people — instead of queuing up through the night — put their buckets in a queue. And that is taken as them standing in the queue. But when the tanker comes in at 3 am, a 'sarfira' (one who does not believe in order), a 'dabang' (muscular person) comes out with a certain swag and would place his bucket in front of everyone else's buckets. Something like this happened when a person (Rahul Gandhi) ignored the claims of other parties and coalition partners and put his claim in front of everyone else's.
“The manner in which he proclaimed himself as the next prime minister in 2019 is indicative of his cloud nine arrogance…That's the arrogance of a dynast. That exposes the kind of internal democracy that is practised in the Congress…big meetings are being held to remove Modi aur kuch bade diggaj neta ke pair pakde ja rahe hain (and some big, important leaders' feet are being massaged) but the dynast does not respect coalition dharma, nor has any faith in those seniors. Will the people of the country ever accept such an immature dynast for prime ministerial post?" Modi had said.
Modi was also trying to send a message across to Congress' present and prospective alliance partners that the new Congress president does not treat them with due dignity. As a Firstpost article had pointed out on Tuesday, soon after Rahul pitched himself as an alternate to Modi in 2019, one of the party's allies NCP was quick to question the premature announcement. Another prospective ally TRS had its own set of questions over Rahul's competence. Recently, Mamata Banerjee, whose party's current strength in Lok Sabha (34) is only slightly less than Congress', had expressed her reservation in accepting Rahul as the chief of the anti-BJP coalition.
The JD(S) too had been part of Opposition unity meetings convened by the Congress but in Karnataka, Congress is locked in a bitter fight with JD(S) and BJP. In fact, in one of his public rallies, Modi had come out strongly against Rahul Gandhi for making some disparaging remarks against JD(S) patron and former Prime Minister Deve Gowda. Modi went on to state how he treated the veteran JD(S) leader with due courtesy and dignity, contrasting that with how an “arrogant” Congress president was talking about Gowda in election rallies.
Mawayati's BSP has partnered with Gowda's JD(S) in Karnataka. Mayawati was present at a rally in Karnataka along with top JD(S) leaders where several of latter party leaders claimed that only she had a pan-Indian appeal to become future prime minister and an alternate to Modi.
It would be interesting to note that during the Winter Session of Parliament in December 2016, in response to Rahul’s claim that if he was “allowed to speak in Parliament, an earthquake was going to come”, Modi had publicly acknowledged that the Congress president was kind of an asset for him.
"Ek yuva neta (Rahul Gandhi) hai, abhi bolna sikh rahe hain. Jabse unhone bolna sikha hai, aur bolna shuru kiya hai, meri khushi ka koi para nahi hai. 2009 me pata nahi chalta tha ki iss packet (Rahul) ke andar kya hai. Ab pata chalta hai ye nahi bolte toh bada bhukamp aa jata hai. (They have a young leader who is now learning to speak. Since the time he started speaking, my happiness knows no bounds. In 2009, no one know what was in this packet. Now we know. If he'd been silent, there would have been a major earthquake)," he had said.
It is interesting to see that in the thick of Karnataka polls, where only a day more is left for campaigning and the contest is turning increasingly bitter, top leaders are building a public narrative on the 2019 parliamentary elections. Rahul, on his part, is unfazed. In Bengaluru, he said in the next few days, the popular verdict to throw Modi out as prime minister will come, first from Karnataka, then from Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
Updated Date: May 09, 2018 21:05 PM