He has often been a butt of jokes on social media. You must have seen various video compilations of his “goof ups” on your mobile phone. Yes, we are talking about Rahul Gandhi, also known as “shehzada” and “yuvraj”.
His debut in Indian polity was compelled by his family situations. While his mother had been touted as “super prime minister”, his father had made it to power by bagging the maximum number of seats ever in Lok Sabha, and his grandmother was the only female PM, and one of the most powerful leaders of India.
Rahul Gandhi has undoubtedly been one of the most debatable politicians of the country. He is yet to be taken “seriously” in Indian politics. And with a politician like Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his main rival, the road has been, and still is not a piece of cake for him.
But have things been different off late? Amid all the controversies around temples, has the BJP felt the heat of Rahul Gandhi?
The Gandhi scion has been pretty consistent in the run up to the Gujarat elections. Since the battle of Gujarat began, the Congress soon-to-be chief led from the front and held the baton of the contest in his hand – not that he had much options in his hand.
Rahul was certainly the talking point in Gujarat elections, not just inside the state, but even outside, where other battles were at stake. Remember the ‘triple-attack’ public meeting of Amit Shah, Smriti Irani and Yogi Adityanath in Amethi when Rahul was on a Gujarat visit?
This was apparently an attempt by the ruling party to divert the attention of the Congress leader. But it didn’t deter Rahul from pursuing his Gujarat plan. Probably, the civic poll results in Amethi show what’s at stake for the Gandhi scion when he is fighting for the Congress party elsewhere.
While this was the initial stage of the campaign, the developments further brought to light the Congress VP. While there were violent protests by PAAS members after a Congress list, a press conference later by Hardik Patel suggested that Rahul had struck the right chord on the issue of Patels.
During the campaign trail in Gujarat, the Congress leader remained consistent in the narrative he followed. From attacking the government over GST and demonetisation to questioning PM Modi’s Mann ki Baat, the leader kept it direct and aggressive, grabbing headlines with many of his speeches.
Not to forget, his continuous offensive on Twitter, with couplets and play of words, which aided his attacks on the ruling party.
And then came the Somnath temple register entry controversy. While there was fierce war of words between the Congress and the BJP over the same – with the former even releasing pictures of rituals to prove Rahul is a Hindu.
But the Gandhi scion refused to get drawn in the controversy. All that emerged was a hidden camera recording of him addressing partymen where he claimed that his family was a Shiva bhakt.
Apart from the register entry in question, there was a picture of a visitor book, who Rahul confirmed to have signed himself. Amid all the political bickering, none bothered to note what the leader had written in the visitor book at Somnath temple. The line from him was – “A very inspiring place”. This is a strong statement in itself. Instead of talking about religion and devotion, the Gandhi scion came back from Somnath temple inspired – suggesting that his politics is certainly not so much about only religion.
During the whole campaign, Rahul has remained unfazed with anything trivial raised by the members of the ruling party. Instead of indulging in knee-jerk reactions on things, Rahul has followed his own strategy, and stuck to his own narrative. Before joining hands with the BJP, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar had once advised the Congress party to follow their design their own narrative and strategy, instead of just reacting to those set by Modi and his party. And this is just what Rahul seems to have followed in the state that gave India a politician as powerful as Narendra Modi, and which has been under the BJP for the last 22 years.
Though it is very unlikely that the Congress will gain much in numbers when the results are out, but there’s no qualms in saying that the BJP has certainly felt the heat of Rahul Gandhi this time. From Narendra Modi to Amit Shah to Yogi Adityanath to Sambit Patra, there’s no big and popular leader in the ruling party who has centred their attack around the Congress leader. While many say that the political battles have now become Modi vs the rest, it seemed little different in Gujarat – it was the who’s who of BJP vs Rahul Gandhi, who apparently is leading a one-man army.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)