As the ruling National Democratic Alliance prepares to celebrate the completion of its first year in office on May 26 with a massive countrywide publicity campaign showcasing its achievements, the Congress is all set to unveil an equally high-pitched counter-offensive.
An army of 60-odd Congress office-bearers, senior leaders and spokespersons will fan out to different parts of the country over the next five days to challenge the BJP-led government’s claims that it has arrested the slide in economic growth, unveiled a series of pro-poor schemes and generated employment.
The Congress brigade is slated to address as many as 200 press conferences in the state capitals and other towns on different subjects, where it will puncture holes in the Modi government’s claims while maintaining that it had failed to deliver on its promises. The party’s state unit presidents and spokespersons were given prior instructions to prepare the ground by raising local issues and projecting the Modi government as an “anti-poor and anti-worker” dispensation.
The campaign has taken a cue from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi who has launched an all-out attack against the Modi government ever since his return from a mysterious sabbatical. The government’s decision to amend the 2013 land acquisition bill provided a perfect opening for Rahul Gandhi to spread the message that the ruling alliance was acting in the interests of its corporate friends and is anti-farmer. Keeping up this offensive, Rahul Gandhi declared in Amethi that he would give “zero out of 100” to the Modi government after its first year in power.
Take the fight outside
Rahul Gandhi’s continuing belligerence shows that the coming days will see a replay of what was witnessed in the recently-concluded budget session of Parliament, when the Nehru-Gandhi scion and Congress president Sonia Gandhi took the initiative on several occasions to raise a host of issues. The Congress vice-president’s charge that the NDA government had deliberately cancelled a mega food park project in his constituency Amethi had invited howls of protests from treasury benches and several explanations from the Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
The face-off will now shift outside Parliament. While the Modi government will place an account of its achievements before the people, the Congress brigade will simultaneously counter these claims at their specially-convened press conferences. The proposed counter-offensive against the BJP-led government is said to be Rahul Gandhi’s brainchild.
A beginning was made on Tuesday when the Congress fielded former Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal to set the ball rolling for the forthcoming attack with a special focus on the current farm distress, foreign policy issues and economy. Former minister Jairam Ramesh, who has also been at the forefront of the Congress attack against the Modi government on the land acquisition bill, has been picked to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his constituency Varanasi on May 26. Others who will hit the road include former ministers P Chidambaram and Salman Khurshid, party office bearers Digvijaya Singh, Mukul Wasnik and Mohan Prakash, and a host of younger leaders including Deepender Hooda, Sachin Pilot, RPN Singh and Randeep Singh Surjewala.
A mega press conference slated for May 26 – the Modi government’s first anniversary – will bring down the curtain on this nationwide campaign. The Congress had held a similar press conference when the NDA government completed six months in office and came out with a special booklet on the various U-turns it had made during this period. The party will release another booklet with a special focus on the Modi government’s failures, such as the dilution of the land acquisition bill, the budgetary cuts in social sector schemes and the increase in fuel prices.
'Varsh Ek Kaam Anek'
Pushed on the defensive by an aggressive Congress, the NDA government and the BJP have also lined up a series of programmes to dispel the public perception that it failed to keep its promises and that it was anti-poor.
While ministers will hold special press conferences to highlight the government’s achievements, Modi has decided against a first formal interaction with the media to mark the occasion. He will instead address a public rally in Mathura on May 25. At the same time, government-owned public broadcasters Doordarshan and All India Radio will run special programmes on the ruling alliance’s pro-poor schemes and highlight success stories through interviews with its beneficiaries.
A booklet on the government’s achievements will also be brought out on the occasion while exhibitions will be mounted to provide a glimpse of the work done during the past year. Two new slogans “Varsh Ek Kaam Anek” and “Modi Sarkaar Kaam Lagataar” have been coined by the prime minister’s spin doctors to be used during these programmes.
While the government has drawn up elaborate plans for the occasion, the BJP is not lagging behind in these celebrations. The party plans to hold over 200 public rallies across the country to be addressed by its leaders as part of its Jan Kalyan Parv. All the party MPs have been instructed to hold special programmes in their respective constituencies to provide details about the government’s initiatives like the Jan Dhan Yojana and the various social security schemes.