Rahul packs a punch to counter Modi’s Rambo act
Faced with criticism from the BJP about Rahul Gandhi’s absence from the country while Uttarakhand was reeling under one of the worst ever flash-floods, the Congress rushed its deputy chief to the affected state on Monday, eight days after the rains and avalanches had washed away hundreds of pilgrims, wreaking havoc and destruction.
But as thousands are still stranded or are being rescued from the treacherous heights of the Himalayas by the Armed Forces, a tale of political one-upmanship is under way amid the heart-wrenching plight of death and destruction.
If it was Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s turn on Saturday, it was Rahul’s on Monday. This visible display of “action” from Rahul, after he had gone “missing” for eight days, was somewhat intended to counter Modi’s “Rambo act”, which the latter claimed had rescued 15,000 stranded Gujarati pilgrims in Uttarakhand. Though the Gujarat CM’s rescue statistics has since been disputed in the media as “an impossible figure” and lambasted by the Congress as yet another “PR exercise”, it created enough tension in the grand old party for it to have flown Rahul back home and then to the disaster zone.
In fact, just before leaving for the devastated hill state, Rahul along his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party leaders flagged off 24 trucks carrying relief material, clothes, food, medicines and candles to Uttarakhand from the AICC headquarters.
Since the Congress is in power both at the Centre and Uttarakhnad, the party is understandably in a tizzy. Ahead of Rahul’s visit, two of the party’s senior leaders -- Motilal Vora and Ambika Soni -- were dispatched to oversee the relief and rescue efforts being carried out through the Congress control room in Dehradun. Even Chief Ministers of neighbouring Haryana and Rajasthan -- Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Ashok Gehlot -- visited Uttarakhand. However, none of these visits caught as much eyeball or media attention as the Modi visit. The need for a more high-profile visit thus became necessary for the Congress. The party’s new media chief Ajay Maken said that 100 trucks with relief contributions from the various Congress-ruled states, the PCCs and its workers have been dispatched to the affected state. With the crucial Assembly elections just round the corner and a general election scheduled to take place in less than a year’s time, the politics over the relief work is hard to desist from. So, the Congress was quick to point out how all the CMs had deputed senior officials for rescuing the pilgrims from their respective states and even contributed to the Uttarakhand CM’s relief fund.
Chidambaram said “disaster management will always be criticised, but we will deal with it later.” He was obviously trying to underline that this was not the time for hurling accusations or politically-motivated criticism at each other. The Congress feels Modi crossed the ‘lakshman rekha’ by criticising the relief work on Sunday.
There is no denying the fact that politicians on both sides are using the disaster to increase their ‘ratings’.