Rajat Sharma


akb fullA fresh war of words has broken out between BJP and Congress, after Rahul Gandhi described Muslim League as “a completely secular party” at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday. Rahul said, “there is nothing non-secular about them”, when asked about his party’s alliance with Indian Union Muslim League in Kerala. While BJP leaders described Rahul as “illiterate” and his remarks as “sinister”, Congress leaders replied, Jinnah’s Muslim League and the party with the same name in Kerala is different. Rahul’s remarks in the US have been making headlines in the Indian media. On Wednesday, he mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for prostrating full length before the ‘Sengo’l, the sceptre of Chola dynasty installed in Parliament. Rahul described the new Parliament building as “a monument of arrogance” and said Modi was trying to divert people’s attention from real problems by prostrating before idols. “I never prostrated before anybody”, remarked Rahul. In reply, BJP supporters circulated an old video of Rahul, titled ‘Pehchaan Koun’ (Identify him). The video taken in November last year shows Rahul prostrating before Lord Mahakaaleshwar (Shiva) at the famous shrine in Ujjain. BJP supporters asked, if Rahul can do so, what mistake did Modi commit? Congress wants to project Rahul Gandhi as a fighter. For the last several years, the problem with Rahul was that he became the butt of several jokes and people started describing him as ‘Pappu’ (childish). In the last two years, Congress have been trying to change Rahul’s image. They have formed a team to do so. Rahul’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ was part of that lexicon. Rahul’s speech in Cambridge University was part of that image building exercise. He was then shown dropping at a Delhi University hostel mess, chatting with students over meals, and a late midnight travel and talk with truck drivers from Ambala to Chandigarh. These images were publicized on social media, and now his visit to the US. Rahul’s interaction with cross sections of people in the US, including media, was part of that image building exercise. Nobody should have problems with this exercise, but one cannot ignore the fact that Rahul had been making fun of Narendra Modi for the last nine years. It has been part of his collection of jibes. He mocks Modi even in foreign countries and nobody can stop him. I have come to know that Rahul’s image builders are worried over his remarks that make him the butt of ridicule. Rahul, while praising the founder of Sikh religion Guru Nanak Dev, went on to say that the Guru had visited Thailand, which was factually incorrect. Several Sikh leaders objected to Rahul comparing his ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ with Guru Nanak Dev’s travels across India and beyond. When Rahul mocked Modi’s prostration, videos came out of Rahul doing the same thing at the Ujjain shrine. By doing this, Rahul has been throwing cold water on the painstaking efforts of his image builders. What can one do? His team of image planners are ready to face similar instances in the coming months too, which they may have to handle. Old timers in Congress say that by mocking or denigrating Modi, the party has to bear losses during elections. But Congress strategists have made up their mind to adopt the Karnataka formula in all elections: Focus on local issues and promise freebies to voters. The latest example came from Rajasthan.


On Thursday morning, most of the national newspapers carried full page ads of Rajasthan chief minister announcing ‘zero electricity bill’ for consumers up to 100 units and waiver of fixed charge and surcharge for consumption up to 200 units. BJP and BSP chief Mayawati described it as ‘pre-election gimmick’ to woo voters, while Gehlot said, the waiver will continue even after elections. This is only the beginning. I have information that Ashok Gehlot is going to announce more reduction in excise duty on petrol and diesel. His government has been holding Inflation Relief Camps across the state. Gehlot has already introduced free hospital treatment scheme up to Rs 10 lakhs.


After the Maha Khap Panchayat in Muzaffarnagar, UP on Thursday, another Khap Panchayat took place in Kurukshetra, Haryana, on Friday over the issue of treatment meted out to medal winning female wrestlers. The Khaps have decided to call on President Droupadi Murmu and demand action against BJP MP and Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is facing allegations of sexual harassment from female wrestlers. Nobody should be under the illusion that farmer leaders led by Naresh Tikait will launch agitation on the issue of ‘honour’ of female wrestlers. They are merely trying to take advantage of the wrestlers’ problems for their own advantage and trying to settle old scores with the government. The intentions of those who attended the Khap Panchayats may be good, they might be having sympathy towards the female wrestlers, but the Panchayats have no control in which direction the agitation will proceed. One can understand the compulsions of wrestlers. They are forced to accept support from any quarter because they have no other alternative. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee also came out in the open to take up the cause of wrestlers. She took out a candle march in Kolkata. A sort of anti-Modi front is evolving on the wrestlers’ issue. Such a situation suits the main accused Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who finds the government standing with him because of the opposition. He is taking full advantage and is adamant, while the victims are desperately seeking support. This is very unfortunate. Such a situation is neither good for Indian wrestling nor for the image of the government.

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