Why Rahul Gandhi's Modi-Shah bashing speech at Cong Plenary failed to ignite hope

An opportunity missed.

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Why Rahul Gandhi's Modi-Shah bashing speech at Cong Plenary failed to ignite hope
Rahul Gandhi


In his 40-minute speech at Congress Plenary session, party president Rahul Gandhi had the option of highlighting his vision for India in front of his workers.

It was the first time, Gandhi got such a platform to talk to his foot soldiers, after being elevated as the party president. But rather than charting out a positive agenda of what the Congress seeks to achieve, Gandhi used a major portion of his speech to bash BJP, thus reducing it to merely another stump speech he delivers during the election cycle. 

As an orator, Rahul Gandhi is still leaps and bounds behind his bête noire Narendra Modi. PM Modi plays the underdog card and nationalistic fervour to the hilt, to make an instant connect with the voters.

Gandhi on the other hand excels when he is telling a story, like his breakout Kalavati speech in Parliament nearly a decode ago.

His Twitter handle may be now millennial-compliant with snarky jibes directed at Modi and BJP, but the punchlines lose considerable fizz when he says them out loud.

Still Gandhi started his speech, with a powerful imagery of a Dharma Yodha, with Congress as the truthful Pandavas up against devious politics of Kauravas aka BJP. He upped the ante with direct attacks at Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley.  

Attacking PM, just for sharing the Modi surname with Nirav and Lalit was amateurish. The entire speech was an effort to contrast between the Congress and the RSS ideology. It was an effort by Rahul to reiterate that Congress is the default option to replace BJP. However, it was amazingly blind to the fact that party's stock has fallen rapidly post 2014.

 In states after state, Congress has been relegated to the margins. In UP, it is now a mere afterthought in the voter's mind. Despite having massive support from dominant caste groups, it failed to dethrone BJP in Gujarat. In Meghalaya, despite winning the most seats it failed to form a government, especially when Rahul Gandhi was out of the country surprising his grandmother.

 So, while Rahul Gandhi celebrated BJP's recent electoral reverses in bypolls, he conveniently forgot to mention or acknowledge that Congress lost its deposits in both Gorakhpur and Phulpur. 

The grand old party needs to be in tune with the changing reality of Indian polity and reassess its agenda accordingly. However, no such reflection was noticeable in Rahul Gandhi's speech. He gave no roadmap to workers to confront rampaging BJP in states, where party's stocks are at an all-time low.

Rahul also didn't have make any compelling argument about why Congress can still claim to be first among equals, in the opposition space. While he may believe it to be his divine birth right other opposition parties are unlikely to be so charitable. 

His announcement of breaking the wall between workers and leaders got the loudest cheer, but how exactly is he going to achieve that? As former Congressman Himanta Biswa Sarma pointed out, Rahul Gandhi’s core team at the Congress mostly consists of scions of political dynasties.

Congress President was very light on specifics, something he accuses incumbent PM of being frequently. Truth be told, Congress party in most states still is a cosy club of dynastic cabal, where the need to promote wards of political leaders is far more important than pushing sons of the soil.

If Congress is microcosm of India as Rahul said, it pretty much suffers from the same chronic problems plaguing the country. Rahul promised change in Congress set-up but left out specifics.

While giving lip-service to doing self-reflection, the actual speech exposed Congress hubris which doesn’t acknowledge the political reality of our times.

 As Congress President, it was an opportunity to lay down the marker with a heart-to-heart conversation with workers. It ended up being rehashed version of his past speeches. If Rahul Gandhi had a dream, he failed to articulate it on Sunday. 2019 looks pretty far as of now. 



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