rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » How Rahul can upstage Modi

How Rahul can upstage Modi

September 26, 2017 09:17 IST

'Even if Rahul doesn't emerge with flying colours -- at least initially -- during the jousts with the media, he will at least be posing a kind of challenge which will not be to Modi's liking,' feels Amulya Ganguli.

Rahul Gandhi at an interaction at Princeton University. Photograph: Kind courtesy: OfficeofRG/Twitter

Now that the 'reluctant' and 'stupid' Rahul Gandhi -- to quote the Congress vice-president himself on how he is projected by the BJP trolls -- has demonstrated in the US that he can hold his own in the interactions with the media, it will be advisable for him to meet the press more often.

In doing so, he will be highlighting the difference between him and Narendra D Modi considering that the latter studiously avoids the 'presstitudes', to use a term coined by the Hindutva camp, except for a few and far between choreographed one-to-one and mainly one-sided conversations with 'dependable' media persons.

If, by way of presenting a contrast, Rahul holds large, televised and wide-ranging press conferences of the kind which then prime minister Manmohan Singh held twice during his tenure, he will come through as someone to whom the freedom of the press is not a mere phrase but a lived reality.

 

The advantages of such interactions will be not only the presentation and clarification of the Congress's position on various issues, but also to take the battle with the party's principal adversary to a field which the otherwise voluble prime minister is unwilling to enter.

The press conferences will also bring to light the temperamental differences between Rahul and Modi, who may well square off against each other in 2019 if the Congress leader keeps his promise of being his party's prime ministerial candidate which he made in the US, subject, of course, to the party's approval.

Hauteur is believed to be the main reason why Modi stays away from the media and likes addressing only large public gatherings where no questions are asked.

He even avoided the customary exchanges with the media in the US after the joint statement by him and President Donald J Trump was issued.

Another reason is that ever since Modi found himself on the back foot during and after the Gujarat riots, he has convinced himself that the press is an enemy to be shunned and excoriated.

As is known, he even once famously walked out of a television studio on being asked questions which he did not like -- one of the few occasions when a public figure has shown such petulance.

There are also far too many things going wrong for Modi at the moment -- the economic downturn, farmers's distress, cow vigilantism -- for him to expose himself to probing scrutiny.

Rahul doesn't suffer from any of these disadvantages if only because he is in the Opposition.

That doesn't mean, however, that he is not vulnerable.

His weak points relate to the reasons for the Congress's decline.

Is it due to the popular aversion to an arrogant dynasty which functions like a feudal family of landlords, or the party's hankering for the outdated Nehruvian socialism, or an unthinking pandering to minority sentiments (which was noted by A K Antony, the former Union minister) which has given a bad name to secularism?

It is obvious that unless Rahul comes to grips with these issues, he can be easily wrong-footed.

In the US, he did concede that the Congress had become arrogant towards the end of Manmohan Singh's tenure and lost touch with the people.

But he never explained the reason for the haughtiness.

For most people, there was no reason for the party to feel uppity when it was enmeshed in sleaze.

Moreover, Rahul's belief that India's economic salvation lies in small and medium industries means that the country cannot ever aspire to make ships, submarines, aeroplanes, artillery guns and so on.

Evidently, he needs lessons in economics before facing questioning newsmen.

But if he intends to replicate Modi's 24/7 style by shedding his 'reluctance', there is no option for him except to plunge into the deep end.

There is also no escape from these vital questions at a time when 2019 is seemingly approaching the political class at an ever faster pace.

But even if Rahul doesn't emerge with flying colours -- at least initially -- during the jousts with the media, he will at least be posing a kind of challenge which will not be to Modi's liking.

In this respect, Rahul will be one up on Modi unlike the past when he was playing catch up with the prime minister setting the terms.

Amulya Ganguli is a writer on current affairs.

IMAGE: Rahul Gandhi at an interaction at Princeton University. Photograph: Kind courtesy: OfficeofRG/Twitter

Amulya Ganguli