Rahul Gandhi's forgets Narendra Modi is in Israel, launches Twitter tirade over H-1B visa issue

Just returning from his sojourn abroad, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday launched a Twitter salvo against Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling him a weak "prime minister".

Duly scripted for consumption by the domestic and global audience, this five-word tweet was released at a time when Modi is on a "historic" three-day visit to Israel, the first ever by an Indian prime minister. The significance of this visit can be gauged from Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu's first words spoken to Modi "we have waited 70 years for you" which made it big in today's newspapers in both the countries.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

The Congress second-in-command even picked up evidence in the form of two screenshots from The Hindu newspaper with one headline saying "H-1B didn't figure in Modi-Trump meet" to drive home his point claiming Modi as a "weak prime minister".

Before going into the merits of the tweet by the Congress vice-president it would be wise to go into the genesis of this whole thing. Modi and US president Donald Trump met on 26 June in The White House when Rahul was in Europe on a private visit. Notwithstanding the timing of his reaction which is for all practical purposes delayed, what the Congress vice-president attempted to convey was that Modi by not taking up the H-1B visa issue for Indians with Trump indicated that he is a "weak prime minister" intimidated by the presence of the US president. Rahul's reaction on the issue concerning Indians working in the US ties comes at a time when the prime minister is actually in Israel.

The Congress vice-president probably wanted to emulate the BJP strategy of targetting Manmohan Singh, when the senior Congress leader was in office as the prime minister. This new strategy of taking on the prime minister comes in because Gandhi might have realised his follies of drawing parallels of Modi with Shahrukh Khan and Gabbar Singh, which he kept on repeating in public rallies.

Now that Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal is relatively silent, perhaps Rahul sought to fill in the vacuum by taking an extreme pole position against Modi.

The Congress vice-president also could have been influenced by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar's argument that the Congress as the biggest opposition party was only reacting and not setting agenda. Rahul would have hoped that his tweet would set a new agenda and the discussion would revolve around Modi's perceived 'weak' persona. Significantly, the Congress vice-president remains silent on his absence during the deliberations that took place between his party and its allies to select a presidential candidate or when Congress decided to boycott the special midnight session of Parliament to mark the launch of a transformative GST regime.

Rahul's charge on Twitter, however, was transitory with the Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad Yadav soon dumping him while listing names of leaders whose coming together for 2019 would spell doom for Modi and BJP. Lalu said if Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Robert Vadra, Priyanka Gandhi and Kejriwal come together in 2019 it would mean end game for Modi. Rahul didn't figure in that list.

It's interesting to note that Lalu finds greater vote catching potential in Robert Vadra than the Congress vice-president.

The Congress vice-president should care to read a piece published in British publication The Independent on Modi's Israel visit. The article headlined, Indian Prime Minister Modi's visit to Israel puts him firmly on the side of Trump and his international strongmen, makes an interesting argument: "This is more than a historic visit. Prime ministers from India always took a balanced and sensitive approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the past. Not Modi. He won’t even bother meeting with Palestinians during his visit.What we are watching, in slow motion, is the biggest realignment of the global order since the Second World War...Before Netanyahu, Modi was in the United States giving Donald Trump a hug. The Indian PM wasn’t reticent or embarrassed in meeting Trump, unlike other world leaders, he relished it. And when Modi went to meet Putin last month, he called him a 'natural ally'...Thirty years ago the world was broadly split between liberal democracies and communist countries. Now the world is increasingly divided between liberal democracies and authoritarian strongmen."

The authoritarian strongman remark may not be charitable to Modi but it certainly negates Rahul's "India has a weak PM" conclusion.

Updated Date: Jul 05, 2017 21:25 PM

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