200311 rahul gandhi
Rahul Gandhi speaks with his mother and interim president of the Congress party Sonia Gandhi at a prayer meet during their visit to Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, India. Image Credit: Reuters


  • Voters are bewildered at this Opposition, which seems to be the B team of the BJP.
  • Why bother voting for them when you have the real thing?

Rahul Gandhi is now 50 years old and has been relaunched in politics more times than I have had hot rotis.

So as the Congress preps to get him back as president, why am I welcoming the move?

The quality of governance in a democracy is as good as the quality of the Opposition. And, among all the Opposition leaders, Gandhi is the one you can actually count on not to do a shady deal with the Narendra Modi regime. Consider all the weather-beaten luminaries: they have either been a part of the BJP government or in ally with it.

Amit Shah, Union Home Minister, has no qualms using his steadfast allies - the central investigative agencies - the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against the entire spectrum of the Opposition as and when it suits him.

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Let me unpack that for you. The migrant workers’ exodus from the big cities due to coronavirus was an unimaginable, wretched tragedy of humanity comparable to the Partition exodus.

The migrant workers largely comprised people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Yet, the two regional heavyweights, Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party and Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, barely registered a pro-forma protest at the sheer misery the migrant workers had to go through.

Why were they quiet as their constituents suffered?

Even in the case of Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar, an ally of the BJP, he could not have cared less for the plight of the Bihar migrant workers.

Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, did not waste his time attacking Mayawati and Yadav. He chose to focus on Priyanka Gandhi, Congress general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, for her efforts to get aid and transport for the walking migrants.

Sharad Pawar, NCP chief, Congress ally in the government of Maharashtra and former defence minister of India in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet, struck a discordant note as he tried to offer a clean chit to the Modi government on China’s aggression and intrusion into India in the Galwan valley in Ladhak.

Voters are bewildered at this Opposition, which seems to be the B team of the BJP. Why bother voting for them when you have the real thing?

Rahul Gandhi's vital role

This is why Gandhi as Congress chief despite two general elections defeat is significant. Gandhi’s politics is defined by a steadfast and steely opposition to Modi. It is not just political, it is viscerally personal such as when Gandhi said: “He has attacked my mother, but I will never stoop so low as to attack his mother.”

Gandhi’s jibe “suit boot ki Sarkar” punctured Modi’s alleged crony capitalism drive in his first term. Now the clever pun of “Surender Modi,” which turned Modi’s bhakts into mini Wren and Martins, has been a clever way to showcase the Modi government’s deer in the headlight approach to China’s aggression.

While other leaders, overawed by the Modi and Shah power juggernaut, are happy to do quiet deals, the Gandhi family knows that this is not in the realms of possibility for them.

Modi and his party launch vituperative attacks on Gandhi every day. This is why Gandhi matters. Whether his personal attacks on a Teflon-coated Modi work is a matter of debate. Senior Congress leaders want to focus on the policy failures of the Modi government.

However, on the issue of Chinese aggression, the entire Congress party appears to be on the same page with Manmohan Singh pitching in and advising Modi to watch his words in the national interest.

Gandhi’s return as party chief is now a question of when not if. And, eventually Modi and Gandhi will be defined by the other man. India needs a real Opposition to keep a check on the very powerful government. The jury is out on whether Gandhi can do it.

Swati Chaturvedi, Special to Gulf News-1592296808900