Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had come to power with the help of a “fabricated strongman image” but now that image of a leader with a “56-inch chest” was under attack from Beijing. China is “basically telling Modi that if you do not do what we say, we will destroy the idea of Modi as a strong leader,” Gandhi said.

In a new video on the recent border tensions with China, the Congress leader said Beijing may be thinking on a larger scale of “doing something with Pakistan in Kashmir” and wanted to improve its tactical position in areas such as Demchok, Galwan and Pangong lake.

“Chinese do not do anything without thinking about a strategy,” Gandhi said. “In their mind, they have mapped out a world and they are now trying to shape the world...that is the level at which they are thinking. That is what Gwadar [port in Pakistan] is, that is what Belt and Road [Initiative] is. It is the restructuring of the planet.”

Gandhi said India’s recent faceoff with China in Galwan Valley, Ladakh, was not just a mere “border issue” but a calculated step designed to put pressure on Modi. “And what they are doing, is that they are attacking his [Modi’s] image,” the Congress leader added. “They understand that it in order for Modi to be an effective politician; in order for Modi to survive as a politician, he has to protect the idea of ‘chhappan inch’ [56-inch chest]. And this is the real idea the Chinese are attacking.”

The question now is about how will Modi react to the Chinese provocation, Gandhi asked. “Will he take them on?” he asked. “Will he take on the challenge and say: ‘Absolutely not, I’m the Prime Minister of India. I do not care about my image I am going to take you on’. Or will he succumb to them? The worry I have so far is that the Prime Minister has succumbed.”

“PM [prime minister] fabricated a fake strongman image to come to power,” Gandhi wrote in a tweet while sharing the video. “It was his biggest strength. It is now India’s biggest weakness.”

BJP calls Gandhi’s attack ‘another failed attempt at relaunch’

Bharatiya Janata Party National President Jagat Prakash Nadda lashed out at Gandhi, calling him “weak on facts and strong on mudslinging”. “We saw yet another (failed) edition of ‘Project RG Relaunch’ today,” Nadda tweeted. “Rahul Gandhiji was, as usual, weak on facts and strong on mudslinging. Attempts to politicise defence and foreign policy matters shows one dynasty’s desperation to wash their past sins of 1962 and weaken India.”

China has made strategic investments in “one dynasty, that has given them rich dividends” since the 1950s, the BJP chief claimed. He alleged that Gandhi prefers to believe China’s version of events rather than believing India’s armed forces. “Why does one dynasty want a weak India and a strong China?” Nadda wondered. “Many leaders in Congress also disapprove of one dynasty’s shenanigans!”

“Remember 1962, giving away of a UNSC [United Nations Security Council] seat, losing lot of land to China in the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] years, MoU signed with much fanfare in 2008, funds to RGF [Rajiv Gandhi Foundation] and more,” Nadda tweeted.

Nadda claimed that though the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty had been trying to “destroy” Modi for years, his connect with Indians is “deep-rooted”. “Those who want to destroy him will end up only further destroying their own party,” he asserted.

Gandhi’s past attacks on Modi and the Centre

Gandhi’s latest video is the second part of a new series that he launched last week. In the first video, Gandhi had said Modi’s blunders, a fragile economy and a weak foreign policy had prompted China to act.

On Sunday, the former Congress president had warned that India will pay a “huge price” because of the government’s policies. Along with his tweet, Gandhi also posted a video from Defence Minister Rajanth Singh’s visit to Ladakh on Friday, in which he said that no country can take even an inch of land from India.

Gandhi has also repeatedly accused Modi of surrendering to China and falsely claiming that the neighbouring country did not intrude into Indian territory in Ladakh. Last month, Gandhi asked the government how the Chinese were able to attack Indian soldiers along the Line of Actual Control amid the coronavirus crisis.

The tensions between India and China have continuously escalated over the past few months. Indian and Chinese troops clashed in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh, along the Line of Actual Control on June 15. The clash led to the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers. Following this, disengagement talks between the two sides were hastened. The representatives of the two countries met for a fourth time on July 14. Previous meetings had been held on June 6 (before the clash), June 22 and June 30.