Rahul Gandhi seems to have learnt a lot of headline-making tricks from Aam Admi Party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal — target the Prime Minister with hard words, with or without substance, believable or unbelievable, but phrases that would make instant news and set agenda for discussions on broadcast, digital and print media.
Last week he thought, if he spoke inside the Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would become "speechless", then a day later he had claimed that "if they allow me to speak in Parliament you will see what an earthquake will come".
He has so far not spoken in Parliament, so the possibility of an earthquake, the uprooting of the Modi regime has been temporarily averted. Four days, from Saturday to Tuesday, in the Winter Session of Parliament gave that breather to Congress and the ruling BJP.
On Wednesday, minutes after Lok Sabha was adjourned, Rahul Gandhi had announced the big breaking news. He had to because he had come out with a ballistic charge against PM Modi, of having proof of alleged corruption by Modi in his demonetisation move, of the PM personally benefitting from demonetisation. Within a span of less than an hour, he gave sound bytes to media at three different places, two inside the Parliament, and then drove a kilometre away to Jantar Mantar, the dharna protest site in the national capital. He asserted that his was a personal allegation against the PM, implying why he (Modi) knowingly committed a "monumental disaster".
See what Rahul Gandhi had to say: "Narendra Modi ji par personal information hai, unke baare mein personal information hai, jo mai Lok Sabha mein rakhna chahta hun because I want to see it in Lok Sabha as an MP. I have been chosen by people of India, mujhe Hindustan Amethi ke logon ne chuna hai mai Parliament ka ek member hoon. Mai iss sadan me rakhna chahta hun. Mujhe roka ja raha hai."
From Congress' perspective, Wednesday, 14 November, would be a historic day in its calendar, something first family loyalists would ever like to boast and relish — on his first-ever structured press conference in the Parliament, he sat on the head chair flanked by Trinamool Congress Sudip Badhopahadhya on his right and Tariq Anwar on his left, leaders of some other political parties in opposition including the Left joining him at seats on slight distance. Other senior Congress leaders taking seats behind Rahul, which are otherwise kept for lesser office bearers of the party which holds media briefings. The message, of which the Congress, is not officially talking now is that, thanks to protests on demonetisation, UPA or no UPA, Rahul has accidentally emerged as leader of the Opposition coalition.
Earlier on some occasions during the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament, Rahul would stand in lead position and senior leaders of other opposition parties would stand on his left and right while staging a stand up dharnas in front of the Gandhi statue.
He can now safely claim ownership of Amitabh Bachchan's famous dialogue in movie Kalia: "Hum jahan khade hote hain line wahi se shuru hoti hai."
But then there is a problem. Within minutes of Rahul positioning himself as lead challenger to Modi, he faced challenge from Arvind Kejriwal. The AAP chief tweeted: "If Rahul Gandhi actually has papers on Modi ji's personal involvement in corruption, then why doesn't he expose it outside Parl?"
Congress' strategy, in coordination with its new found friends in TMC and Left is that they let Rahul make his charge on floor of the House, make the news and then disrupt Lok Sabha, not allow government to respond as they did in Rajya Sabha after making former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speak and not allow government to respond.
The BJP is thus raising the issue of the arrest of former Air Force chief SP Tyagi and corruption in Agusta Westland VVIP chopper deal that took place during UPA regime. The India Today sting showing leaders or prominent political parties, including Congress offering to change high-value old currency notes with new currency too is on BJP's agenda.
More so, PM Modi has already gone to the people, addressing public rallies, presenting his account and trying to build a public narrative around his speech. With only two days remaining in the Winter Session and no possibility of a structured debate on demonetisation, the BJP does not want to give Rahul Gandhi a field day, unless the ruling party brass gets a chance to counter.
In an interview to Firstpost, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Rahul's claim that Modi was terrified of him, for his speech could cause an earthquake, said: "I'm not supposed to sit in judgement over his arrogant self-certification. But I am very keen to hear him speak and I have said so publicly as well. Let him read his speech... The question is over the kind of language he uses in political discourse and in criticising the prime minister. Is he living up to the legacy he claims to represent with this kind of language?"
On being queried if BJP allow him (Rahul) to speak, Prasad said, "Why not. But on the condition that he must also hear our reply. This can't happen... It cannot be that you speak and when our turn comes, you start creating disorder in the House... not even heeding to sage advice of the honourable President... He has already shaken the roots of his party under his leadership. I think the more he speaks the more there will be earthquake in his own party. But I can understand his frustration. Since the day he took over the leadership of his party, there has been nothing for him to comment on; except for the 22 Vidhaan Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh."
By his tall claims and headline-a-day strategy, Rahul has raised popular expectations. Now the problem for him is that he has to come true to those expectations, give proof of PM Modi personally benefitting from demonetisation. Else, Rahul would yet again be laughed off by his rivals and possibly by a substantive section of Indian electorate.
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Updated Date: Dec 14, 2016 17:15:53 IST