Will Rahul's Combative Stance Help Congress?
Rahul Gandhi's new-found combativeness in taking on Narendra Modi on his home turf has raised the pitch of the Congress campaign for the Lok Sabha elections with some political observers saying the ruling party needs to be more assertive against its rivals to keep alive diminishing hopes in the electoral contest ahead.
Rahul Gandhi compared the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi with Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler at a rally in Gujarat earlier this week. Gandhi's remarks on Modi were preceded by a sharp attack on the RSS over the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
Analysts said that Gandhi had not been very assertive vis-a-vis Modi so far and had been mostly focusing his election speeches on the welfare initiatives of the United Progressive Alliance.
Aditya Mukherjee, a professor of Contemporary Indian History at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said that Congress will improve its prospects in the long run by attacking Modi frontally.
"I am glad they have woken up. It is about time he (Rahul Gandhi) did it. If they do not take on Modi frontally, (it will appear) they have not joined the battle at all," Mukherjee said.
He said Gandhi's aggression against Modi "may be too late in the day" for the Congress to win the 2014 Lok Sabha elections but it was in the party's long-term interest.
Mukherjee said the Congress has to state "its USP (unique selling proposition)" otherwise it will look to be the B-team of other parties.
"Congress taking a position on the communal question was "in itself a step forward," Mukherjee added.
Gandhi's comments about Modi came after Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal visited Gujarat and sought to pick holes in Modi's much flaunted Gujarat model of development.
Gandhi, 43, is guiding the poll efforts of the Congress for the Lok Sabha polls as its campaign chief. In his rally in Gujarat Tuesday, the Congress vice-president compared Modi to Hitler and said there were leaders who believe they were the epitome of knowledge and make big claims.
"There are two types of leaders. One who think people are wise and you can learn from them, like Mahatma Gandhi... Then there is another kind of leader, whose best example is perhaps Hitler. Hitler thought there was no need to go to people and never realised their power. He always thought he was the epitome of knowledge...They just deliver big speeches, make huge claims and make tall promises," Gandhi said.
The BJP has dismissed Gandhi's comparison of Modi with Hitler and said the Nazi dictator's steps "inspired" former prime minister Indira Gandhi for the Emergency she imposed in 1975.
The BJP has also moved the Election Commission over Rahul Gandhi's remarks linking Rashtra Svayamsevak Sangh with Mahatma Gandhi's assassination.
Noted historian Mushirul Hasan said it was high time somebody took on Modi.
Hasan, a former vice chancellor of the Jamia Millia in Delhi, said the Congress in Gujarat has been soft on Modi and Gandhi's attack has also been delayed.
"It is important to expose (Modi). The decision is right," he said.
Hasan said that Rahul Gandhi's combativeness will energise Congress workers and also send a message to sections of the weaker sections who were wary of the BJP leader.
A.S. Narang, a professor of political science at IGNOU, said political leaders from various parties were displaying aggression in their speeches which had taken the level of political debate "to a low level".
He said Modi had been calling Gandhi "shehzada (prince)" and the Congress was seeking to pay him back.
"I think they (the Congress) have decided that offence is the biggest form of defence. They apparently want to make a dent now with less than a month left for the first phase of the Lok Sabha election," he said.
Narang said that Congress "has not been able to properly project achievements of UPA government" and the party apparently wants its campaign to peak now.