Rahul Gandhi's direct attack on PM Narendra Modi is a low-risk, smart political strategy

Rahul Gandhi has brought Armageddon to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's door. After having threatened an "earth-shattering" expose for the last few days, the Congress vice-president in a joint press conference on Wednesday called the Prime Minister a corrupted man and said he has "concrete" proof of Narendra Modi's personal complicity in the "demonetisation scam".

That is why, the Gandhi scion said with a swing and a swagger before the media, the "prime minister is terrified of me and is not letting me speak inside the Parliament."

As the parliamentarians heave a secret sigh of relief at not having the House descend on their heads due to the Congress vice-president's seismic revelations, cynics are already wondering why Rahul Gandhi isn't making the proof public. After all, there are no rules against lawmakers speaking to media when Parliament is in session and surely, if the allegations are so damning and the evidence of Modi's "personal corruption" so "concrete", won’t it make sense for the Congress vice-president to divulge the information and expose the prime minister before the world?

The short answer is: no.

 Rahul Gandhis direct attack on PM Narendra Modi is a low-risk, smart political strategy

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi with TMC member Sudip Bandyopadhyay at a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI

On the contrary, the Gandhi dynast stands to gain much more from the politics of allegation and insinuation than furnishing of "concrete proof". It seems fairly certain, as much as certainty is possible in politics, that Rahul Gandhi's allegations are more in the realm of rhetoric than facts.

This inference is based on the fact that the Congress president-in-waiting got ample opportunities during the course of the entire Winter Session to furnish his "incriminating documents" against the Prime Minister.

Let us, for arguments' sake, assume that the Gandhi scion has only recently been in possession of the documents. If that is the case, what stopped him from tabling the papers on the floor of the House when Lok Sabha began its proceedings on Wednesday after a four-day break?

It was quite evident from the behavior of both the government and the Opposition that neither side were even remotely ready for a debate on demonetisation. If Congress was ready to expose the Prime Minister, why did it create a ruckus over Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, knowing well that the provocation would trigger a counter offensive from the treasury benches?

The gusto with which the Opposition was ready to disrupt proceedings and the way the treasury benches reacted by raising AgustaWestland issue in return make it clear that both sides were unwilling to meet even halfway for a meaningful debate on decommissioning of notes which would have also allowed Rahul Gandhi the chance for an intervention.

This refutes the Congress dynast's claim that he was not allowed to speak in the Parliament. And even if he was obstructed from speaking, there is always the option of going public with the details. He did hold an impromptu news conference within the House premises but only to stoke the allegation fire a little bit more.

This brings us to the motive behind Rahul Gandhi's shoot-and-scoot strategy in which he seems to have been inspired by the pioneering Arvind Kejriwal.

This is a low risk game for Rahul Gandhi and a seemingly smart move. By accusing the Prime Minister directly of corruption (a rarity even by the standard of Indian politics), the Gandhi scion was trying to achieve several objectives in one stroke.

One, this was attempt to dispel the prime minister's aura of incorruptibility. Modi's track record as a Gujarat Chief Minister and at 7 race Course Road has so far been clean. Despite a lot of controversies over different issues, his personal integrity as a politician has rarely been questioned. The BJP has exploited this political capital to the hilt, contrasting itself with a scam-ridden Congress. At a time when AgustaWestland ghosts have been resurrected, such a direct attack ensures conversation about PM and corruption and gives Congress some breathing space.

Two, perception matters in politics. Rahul Gandhi would be able to make a political capital out of these charges when he hits the streets for rallies and public appearances. As the leader of a party that is fast eroding from public consciousness after a never-ending string of defeats at every level of elections, the Congress vice-president stands to lose little even if he fails to substantiate his allegations.

Three, on the contrary, these daring allegations immediately catapults Rahul, whose image is that of a bungling politician who lacks leadership capabilities, into the league of PM hopefuls that also includes Kejriwal. Little wonder that the AAP supremo wasted no time in tweeting that Rahul Gandhi should reveal the details instead of just talking about it.

Four, the resultant sound and fury has the additional benefit of elevating Congress to the forefront of rivalry against the government. The Congress feels upstaged by the mercurial Mamata Banerjee, who has emerged as the most vocal opponent of Modi, and this could therefore be seen as an attempt to seize the narrative and show that they are in charge.

Finally, politics of insinuations and allegations lower considerably the bar of electoral politics (consider the recent charges of coup, assassination, earthquake) and each time the proponent has to come out with something even more outlandish to get noticed. This is the biggest tragedy.

Updated Date: Dec 14, 2016 16:12:46 IST