NEW DELHI: The stench of uncleared garbage overflowing onto the streets of East Delhi could have been raked up at a Congress spokesperson’s daily briefing, armed with statistics. Add to it an epidemic scare. The product: ample ammunition to target the ‘self-obsessed’ AAP Government’s fight with ‘wont-yield-an-inch’ Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, by extension the Modi Government.
But Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi chose to bypass the obvious middle-class angst over the collapse of civic amenities in Delhi and addressed the real issue -- the problems faced by sanitation workers and why they were on strike, according to a senior party leader.
If the Congress leader is to be believed, Rahul is not interested in attacking the Modi Government or Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal just “for the sake of attacking”. He wants to act as a “pressure point”, highlighting the plight of those who do not feel empowered and who needs someone to put across their views, so that the government is forced to act.
Apparently, according to the Congress leader, it would have been far easier and politically profitable to just raise the issue of non-collection of garbage in parts of Delhi than commit himself to a struggle for the rights and wages of sanitation workers, who have been caught in the middle of the fight between the Kejriwal Government and BJP-run municipal corporation.
Whatever the Congress leaders or Rahul’s close-door strategists may claim, there is no denying that Rahul has been assiduously trying to resurrect the old connect that the Congress had with its votebanks, SC/STs and dalits, while also adding the neo-middle class to it, ever since he got back in an aggressive avatar from his 56-day break.
It could not be ignored that Rahul sitting on the floor in the midst of striking sanitation workers juxtaposed well with Giridhar Gamang, a former Odisha Congress leader with a tribal background, shaking hands with Amit Shah to join the BJP on Friday.
Some days back in Kolkata, Rahul had met middle class home buyers over the Real Estate Regulatory Bill and also the jute mill workers. He rushed to lend his voice to agitating dalit students of IIT-Madras, who were concerned after the derecognition of their study circle. That apart, he went on a padyatra to learn about farmers’ plight and raised his voice against land acquisition Bill.
In a desperate need to revive the Congress votebank at a time when the Indira-era socialism no longer yields dividends and the Manmohan-Sonia decade’s economic welfarism is drowned by criticism of policy paralysis and nepotism, Rahul has little option but to connect with those whose voices are not always heard by those in power. It’s as much activism by choice as by compulsion.