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Mouth wide open, both feet in

November 27, 2018 11:14 IST

The imprudent, not to mention immature, attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Congress leaders, especially on the election trail, can only be read as a sign of nerves on the eve of an important poll battle.

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

It's a 133-year-old political party, so perhaps the verbal incontinence exhibited by its leaders from time to time is a sign of advanced dotage.

But despite making such leeway, the imprudent, not to mention immature, attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Congress leaders, especially on the election trail, can only be read as a sign of nerves on the eve of an important poll battle.

If Mani Shankar Aiyar famously set the ball rolling in 2013 (see below), and caused untold damage to his party's electoral fortunes, the roll of honour is being carried forward by a distinguished lineup of Congress politicians.

 

Of whom only the latest is:

C P Joshi

The word on the street has it that the Congress stands a very good chance of dethroning Chief Minister Vijaya Raje Scindia in Rajasthan.

Some ex-Bharatiya Janata Party leaders who have crossed over to the Congress too believe the same.

Now if the election machinery is running so smoothly, and perceptions favour you, who would someone chuck a spanner in the works?

Only C P Joshi, the Congress candidate from Nathdwara for the assembly elections, can answer what prompted him to, well, become a cheerleader for ‘brahminical patriarchy’.

That’s what the former Union minister became, when he said things like "Uma Bharti is a Lodhi, and she talks about Hinduism. Modiji talks about Hinduism, it's Brahmins who don't talk about it.

"In 50 years they have lost their minds… If anyone knows about religion in this country it is only the Brahmins."

Rapped on the knuckles by the party high command, Joshi put out a bland retraction and apology.

Shashi Tharoor

Before entering the murky world of politics, Shashi Tharoor was a distinguished diplomat. Plus, he was an author with a string of books to his credit.

So it is strange how easily politics, in which he has barely spent 10 years, affects his Broca’s area, the part of the brain that controls speech.

What else could explain why the erudite Tharoor would launch a broadside against his party's bugbear, Prime Minister Modi?

In August Tharoor had said, "You see him (Modi) in hilarious Naga head-dress with feathers, various kinds of extraordinary outfits, which is right thing for PM to do...

"Indira Gandhi has also been photographed wearing various kinds of costumes.

"But Why does he always refuse to wear a Muslim skull cap? Why does he refuse to wear green?"

The previous month, his comment that India would turn into a Hindu Pakistan if the BJP won the 2019 elections led the BJP’s youth wing to vandalise his office in Thiruvananthapuram, which in turn spurred him to ask if the BJP had started a Hindu Taliban.

As they say, never a dull moment if you are a man of letters..

Sanjay Nirupam

His name may not carry much resonance beyond Mumbai’s shores but the city Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam is known for being combative.

Which explains his criticism of the prime minister in September, calling him an 'anpadh-gawaar' (uneducated country bumpkin).

Nirupam’s outburst was sparked off by the Maharashtra government’s decision to screen a short film on Modi’s life in schools.

“What will children learn from the life of an anpadh-gawaar?" Nirupam asked. "They should be kept away from politics."

Even as his words set off a storm of words, Nirupam remained unapologetic, insisting the words he used to describe the prime minister 'were not undignified'.

Digvijaya Singh

The veteran leader has held a variety of offices in the course of an illustrious career, so it makes little sense that someone of his calibre, seniority, experience, not to leave out gravitas, would invite opprobrium by forwarding a scurrilous WhatsApp fwd.

The meme forwarded by Digvijaya Singh in September 2017 had Modi’s photograph with the following words: ‘Mere do achievements -- bhakton ko ******* banaya aur ******** ko bhakt banaya (I have two achievements -- fooling the bhakts and making bhakts out of fools).’

If Singh hoped that his explanation -- -- 'Not mine but couldn't help posting it. My apologies to the person concerned. He is the best in the 'Art of Fooling!'' – would spare him criticism, he was sadly mistaken.

As the BJP stepped up its offensive, Singh stuck to his guns, "The PM is fooling the people from the ramparts of the Red Fort. He has not fulfilled his promises. My simple statement is the PM is master in the art of fooling. Those words are mine," he insisted.

And signed off with the classic: "Retweets are never endorsements."

Mani Shankar Aiyar

In the world of booboos, Mani Shankar Aiyar, one suspects, occupies a special, hallowed place.

For, in the runup to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when Narendra Modi was not a cinch as the next prime minister, it is widely acknowledged that Aiyar’s jibe during an All India Congress Committee meeting in New Delhi targeting the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate was among the factors that turned the tide in the latter’s favour.

“I promise you in 21st Century Narendra Modi will never become the prime minister of the country. …But if he wants to distribute tea here, we will find a place for him,” the patrician Aiyar said, years before ‘brahminical patriarchy’ as a term would enter the popular lexicon.

And he refused to withdraw his remark despite the storm that broke out over his head following the remark.

Not only that, three years later, he showed that he had learnt no lesson at all, when he referred to Prime Minister Modi as a 'neech aadmi, not civilised’.

Once again it was a runup to an important election, this time to the Gujarat assembly.

The Congress till then looked like it would nose ahead of the BJP in Modi’s redoubt. That didn’t come about, many agree, because of Aiyar’s loose tongue.

The Rediff News Bureau / Rediff.com