A sentence over a phrase: Surat hands spotlight back to Rahul
As first reported by this newspaper, they have asked the Congress to open seat-sharing talks with them while freezing the leadership question of the united Opposition till after the poll verdict.
Published: 24th March 2023 12:40 AM | Last Updated: 24th March 2023 12:40 AM | A+A A-
With a Surat court on Thursday sentencing Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to two years in jail for criminal defamation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making unacceptable comments on his surname, it ironically pitchforked him as the tallest leader of the Opposition at present. Even parties that owe their sustenance to nibbling away at the Congress vote bank have vociferously opposed the judgment. The verdict came at a time when non-Congress Opposition chief ministers have ganged up to set the tone for the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
As first reported by this newspaper, they have asked the Congress to open seat-sharing talks with them while freezing the leadership question of the united Opposition till after the poll verdict. If the premise for their arm-twisting was that the Congress did not have the stomach to confront Modi’s election juggernaut head-on, the Gujarat court verdict appears to have given organic momentum to Rahul’s popularity that reached its first peak with his Bharat Jodo Yatra. His consistency in attacking the BJP where it hurts is beyond compare in the Opposition pantheon. The Mamatas, Nitishs and Pawars can no longer consider him a pushover.
Rahul’s off-the-cuff remark on the Modi surname was decidedly in bad taste, but legal eagles are divided on whether it merited such a harsh sentence. He subsequently got bail and will contest the verdict. Though Rahul is not a gifted speaker, his sincere purpose has made him an acceptable leader in the Opposition space. The episode also indicates he should continue doing what he is good at, though sounding repetitive. It is for his minders to ensure he does not attempt improvisations as he did in Karnataka in the run-up to the last Lok Sabha elections, which landed him in the current trouble. As they say in cricket, play with a straight bat; don’t fish outside the off stump.
When a ruling party behaves like the Opposition by stalling Parliament, it would indicate the arrival of a towering personality who needs to be taken down. That was the message the BJP sent when it went after Rahul’s ‘democracy under siege’ statement in London and tried to get him disqualified from the House on a flimsy pretext. Its drumbeat against an ‘entitled dynast’ versus a ‘wronged’ Modi will grow louder. The 2024 polls will determine how strong Rahul’s word is as compared to Modi.