political games

Playing the mimic: Rahul Gandhi just took a leaf out of Narendra Modi’s book

His speech at a Congress special convention in Delhi on Wednesday indicates that he is close to taking over as party president.

When Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi returned from a 57-day-long unexplained sabbatical in 2015, he surprised his critics with his image make-over. He was, at once, vocal, visible, confident and aggressive, launching a no holds barred attack against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, thereby casting himself as the party’s “angry young man”.

A year later, the Nehru-Gandhi scion appears to have changed tack. This was evident in the two speeches he delivered at the special convention organised by the Congress at Delhi’s Talkatora stadium on Wednesday against Modi’s decision to annul Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes last November.

Gandhi continued with his aggressive anti-Modi pitch. However, instead of adopting the “angry young man” approach, he chose to mock the prime minister. The Congress vice-president poked fun at Modi’s pet phrases, and choice of words like “mitron”, the various schemes the prime minister has introduced over the last two-and-a-half years and his inability to do the padmasana (lotus position) while participating in Yoga Day celebrations. Taking a jibe at Modi’s promise of “acche din” to the people, Gandhi said, “Acche din will only come when the Congress comes to back to power in 2019.”

Mocking Modi

Gandhi’s potshots at Modi drew the loudest cheers from the audience, comprising state-level and district-level party leaders and workers.

“The Prime Minister says he can do yoga very well but have you noticed he cannot do the padmasana,” said Gandhi. “I also noticed that when he launched his Swachh Bharat campaign, he wielded a broom. But did you see how he was holding the broom…it was all wrong? Nothing gets cleaned if you hold the broom like that.”

At one point, Gandhi even compared Modi to Amitabh Bachchan, saying that the prime minister delivered dialogues in the same fashion as the Bollywood superstar did in films.

He flagged demonetisation as the Modi government’s worst decision that had eroded the credibility of institutions like the Reserve Bank of India, hit the economy and hurt the poor.

Here again, he mimicked Modi, putting his hand into his kurta pocket to declare: “Mitron, all the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in your pockets are now mere pieces of paper.”

Continuing with his mocking tone, Gandhi quoted from a song in a Bachchan film. “Ram naam japna, gareeb ka maal apna [Take the name of God, usurp the money of the poor]…. That’s the philosophy of this suit-boot sarkar.”

By making fun of Modi, Gandhi has clearly taken a leaf out of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s book. In the past, as part of a carefully-calibrated strategy, the prime minister and BJP spokespersons have caricatured Gandhi, and portrayed him as an immature and a non-serious leader at every opportunity.

“It is true that Rahul Gandhi was essentially telling Modi and the BJP that if you can make fun of me, I can do the same,” said a senior Congress office-bearer.

Almost president?

While the stated objective of the day-long convention was to unveil the second phase of the party’s campaign against demonetisation, a clear message emanating from the proceedings was that Gandhi has taken over Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s responsibilities as she chose to stay away from the programme.

This is in line with her earlier decision to absent herself from the last meeting of the Congress parliamentary party, the working committee meeting and the Congress foundation day programme on December 28. All these were presided over by Rahul Gandhi.

“Today’s convention was as good as Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as party chief,” said a Congress MP. “While this was already clear to party MPs and office bearers in Delhi, the message has now been conveyed to the grassroots workers…this will put an end to all the confusion among the cadres on the leadership issue.”

Said former Lok Sabha MP Sandeep Dikshit: “This programme shows that Rahul Gandhi has taken over the intellectual and operational leadership of the party.”

Party leaders said that Gandhi’s formal takeover of the party was just a mere formality, which would now happen only after the forthcoming Assembly polls in five states including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Goa.

The delay in Gandhi’s anointment as party chief was attributed partly to his own reluctance and partly to the resistance put up by senior Congress leaders, or Sonia Gandhi’s team members who feared they would be marginalised once the Nehru-Gandhi scion took over the top party job.

It was also pointed out that the transition in the party this time is different as earlier leaders like Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi took over under unusual circumstances when there was a vacuum at the top. In this case, Sonia Gandhi is still in office, and her team members are apprehensive about their political future.

Congress against demonetisation

However, the presence of all seniors, who openly deferred to Gandhi’s leadership at Wednesday’s convention was a powerful signal that they have accepted his imminent take over of the party.

Not only were the senior leaders in attendance when Rahul Gandhi arrived at the venue, they were all present on the stage while many of them, including Ahmed Patel and Janardan Dwivedi, were seen conducting the proceedings.

Patel, Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, has been entrusted with the task of implementing the party’s campaign against demonetisation.

Though there are lingering doubts in the party about the efficacy of this campaign, Gandhi has led the Congress charge on this issue, directing the rank and file to keep up its sustained attack.

Congress insiders said that this decision is based on the party’s internal assessment that the real impact of demonetisation will be felt in the coming months, and that when the people wake up to the hardship caused by this decision, the Congress should be seen to be standing by them.

“We admit people are willing to give Modi the benefit of the doubt today, but we see this as a long-term battle,” said a Congress office bearer.

He said the issue was discussed at length by party strategists and the overwhelming opinion was that the Congress should continue with its campaign, irrespective of its immediate impact.

“It is possible that our campaign may fail but we decided to take the risk,” said the office bearer. “It was better than doing nothing about it.”

Above all, it is important for Gandhi personally to see that the campaign, kickstarted by him, does not peter out. Having been criticised for poor follow-up on issues and for his lack of staying power, Gandhi could see this as an opportunity to redeem his reputation and silence his critics.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Inspiration for the lazy, the casual and the gourmet home chefs alike

Discover, or rediscover the daily delight in food, one ingredient at a time.

It is known that home chefs can be arranged in a pyramid - the lazy ones at the bottom, the casual cooks in the middle and the gourmet experts at the top. While the challenges differ with each level, great solutions exist to make every meal an experience, regardless of the kind of cook you are. This guide to creating delightful food has something for everyone.

The lazy, hassled home chefs

You can ease into cooking by putting together meals that require minimal technique. Salads are a good place to start. Experiment with seasonal and exotic fruits and vegetables, tender vegetables and herbs, and artisanal breads as sides for a fresh, healthy and surprisingly gourmet experience.

Don’t be dismayed if you’re a non-vegetarian. There are still meals that require next-to-no prep. Think sausages that can easily be fried or grilled and cold cuts that pack a flavour punch. Health-conscious people can look for additive-free, preservative-free meat, bromate free bread and produce from free-range farms for assurance of quality. For variety, you can even put together a great Middle Eastern platter with fresh hummus and other dips.

For the casual cooks looking to impress

So, you can cook a decent meal but are looking to give your food that X-factor? To liven up regular dishes, experiment with superfoods which make your meals nutritious and novel. Try combinations like oats chila, quinoa or couscous upmas or a sprinkle of chia seeds in your breakfast pudding. Look for quality imports and efficient distribution for maximum retention of nutrients in superfoods.

Skilled enough to host people? An upgrade from basic ingredients is the most visible sign of your culinary progression. Experiment with exotic herbs like parsley, rosemary and sage as garnishing for intriguing flavours in your soups and salads. For lip-smacking desserts, use exotic fruits like kiwi, dragon fruit, acai berries and rambutan – your guests will be delighted.

For the perfectionist gourmet chefs

You’re quite the culinary expert in your circles, but want to leap to the next level? At the core of a successful gourmet creation lie the best ingredients. Seek a delicatessen which gives you only the freshest and most diverse range of ingredients. You’ll notice the difference in flavours as you move from garlic powder to actual garlic, and from chilli powder to real paprika in your preparations.

From the basic to the exotic, whatever ingredients you seek to implement the tips we just gave you are available at Godrej Nature’s Basket, the best store for fresh, quality ingredients. As the video below shows, their online and offline stores source and serves a wide variety of foods - fruits & vegetables, authentic delicatessen, the finest meats, irresistible bakery products, ready-to-cook sauces, healthy snacks and more.

Play

Health-conscious people can also be assured of unmatched quality. You can choose from pesticide free offerings, organic fruits and vegetables, steroid-free meats, first catch of the day fish and seafood, bromate free bread and the best dairy and cheese from all over the world.

With their collection of hors d’oeuvre, artisanal breads, confectionary and desserts, there’s really no limit to what you can achieve daily in your kitchen. What’s more, all these high-quality products come at great, affordable prices.

To elevate your cooking and discover a world where food is a delight every day, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Nature’s Basket and not by the Scroll editorial team.