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Sonia slams Modi, RSS for communal agenda


New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday launched a stinging attack on the Narendra Modi government, saying it seeks to whitewash its “communal agenda” by hiding behind the “mask of development”, and also accused the RSS of opposing the Quit India movement.

Sonia Gandhi also attacked the government on price rise at a function to mark the culmination of the 125th year birth anniversary celebrations of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi targeted the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for “intolerance” and said the country cannot be painted in “one colour”.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh said secular values of the country were in danger and accused Modi of pursuing “his own interests”.

The event was also attended by senior Congress leaders.

Sonia Gandhi, in a hard-hitting speech, said there were forces today committed to destroying Nehru’s legacy.

“Let us pledge that we will not let any force diminish its glory,” she said.

Sonia Gandhi said Nehru’s greatness was in stark contrast to “those so-called nationalists who nowadays go around giving certificates on patriotism”.

“When some individuals attempt to infect our nation with sense of intolerance, prejudice, injustice, communalism, hatred and bigotry his light continues to shine forth and show us the right way, the way out of darkness,” she said.

She said when leaders like Nehru were fighting for our freedom, “the ideological masters of today’s ruling establishment were hiding safely in their homes while some were even singing praises of their British masters”.

“In fact, in 1942 when (Mahatma) Gandhi ji announced the Quit India movement, there were two groups which actively and openly opposed the call. One was responsible for partition and the other is today the remote controller of the ruling establishment,” Sonia Gandhi said, without directly naming the RSS which is the ideological fountainhead of the BJP.

“It is a historic fact that both these groups instructed their followers to condemn Gandhi ji’s call. No matter how much the government today may wish to erase this past, it is a historical fact,” she added.

She said that for Nehru, democracy rested on the foundation of a debate, a free exchange of ideas.

“Simply because someone holds a different view or disagrees, they cannot be branded a traitor. It is a form of tyranny. Seeing the prevalent atmosphere of intolerance, we are reminded all the more of Nehru ji’s days when any citizen could speak his mind, his mann ki baat — a phrase which has nowadays been reduced to being the name of a radio broadcast,” she said.

Noting that Nehru was synonymous with laying the foundation of India’s growth, she said the Modi government seeks to use development as a buzzword but fails to take lessons from Nehru’s legacy.

“Today, we are witnessing attempts by certain individuals and elements to whitewash their communal agenda in front of the world by hiding it behind the mask of development,” she said.

She said Nehru oversaw setting up of several art and cultural centres but these were being reduced to a “joke”.

“Several eminent writers and scholars who were felicitated by the government are now returning their awards as a form of protest.”

She said members of the ruling party were quick to remind the common man what to eat and what not to eat, but have little advice to offer “those people who are forced to buy dal at Rs.200 a kg”.

Rahul Gandhi said the BJP and the RSS want everyone to sing in one tune.

“The BJP and the RSS think they know everything and don’t like to be questioned but the truth is, if they knew everything, ‘acche din’ (good times) would have come (by now),” he said.

Targeting Modi, he said the prime minister was asked by the media to comment on the issue of intolerance during his visit to Britain.

The Congress has been raising the pitch against the government over incidents such as lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh over rumours of eating beef and had met President Pranab Mukherjee earlier this month to convey its concern over “rising intolerance”.


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For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

Perhaps the BJP's only solace at the moment is that its opponents haven't been able to get their act together

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia
  • Many believe that Modi and BJP are now no longer is a favourable place
  • The new policies are not getting public approval
  • If situation isn’t handled carefully, 2019 elections will be steeper for BJP

For the Bharatiya Janata Party’s supporters, the growing belief that the party is no longer as favourably placed as before must be both bewildering and disheartening.

They must be wondering what could have gone wrong when the BJP was looking forward to not only a comfortable victory in 2019 but was also planning to celebrate the 75th year of India’s independence in 2022.

Is the Modi-magic vanishing?  Wikimedia Commons
Is the Modi-magic vanishing? Wikimedia Commons

The talk of a “New India” under the BJP’s near-permanent control was in the air with both Nitish Kumar and Omar Abdullah from two opposite sides of the political spectrum saying that Narendra Modi faced no challenge.

Yet, the scene has changed. What is more, it has happened so over a rather short period of time. Among the reasons for it may be the BJP’s electoral setbacks in, first, the Chitrakoot assembly byelection in Madhya Pradesh in November last year, the near-defeat it faced in the Gujarat assembly polls in the following month and finally the huge margins by which it recently lost three byelections in Rajasthan.

Before these contests, the successes of the Congress’s student wing in the Delhi University and of a leftist union in the Jawaharlal Nehru University student union elections over the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the saffron brotherhood’s student wing, were significant pointers to the emerging trends.

BJP will definitely see a tough time in 2019 elections. Wikimedia commons
BJP will definitely see a tough time in 2019 elections. Wikimedia Commons

The new scenario has now led to conjectures about a fall in the BJP’s number of Lok Sabha seats to 200/220 from the present 282 in a House of 545. Since these figures have been mentioned by a saffron scribe, it is obvious that assessments on these lines are currently on in the BJP. Another scribe has identified the absence of effective speakers other than Modi as one of the factors behind the BJP’s slide in popularity.

Perhaps one of the first to say openly that the Modi magic was fading was a Shiv Sena spokesperson, who also noted the change in Rahul Gandhi’s “body language” and his transformation into a credible leader. Not long after, the Sena decided not to align with the BJP in 2019.

Also Read: Editorial Freedom Should be used Wisely in Public Interest says PM Narendra Modi to Media

The BJP’s old ally is not the only party to begin thinking of greener pastures. The Telugu Desam Party, too, has expressed its displeasure over the “neglect” of Andhra Pradesh in the Union budget. To forestall a rupture, the BJP has offered the Shiv Sena 144 seats in Maharashtra in an assembly of 288 seats, but the generous gesture is more indicative of the BJP’s nervousness than of magnanimity.

So, what went wrong for a party which was riding high during the first three years of its tenure?

First and foremost reason is its failure to usher in the promised “achhe din” or better days because of a sluggish economy. The scene might have been better but for the twin blows of demonetisation, which dealt a blow to small businesses, and the shambolic rolling out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which also unsettled the traders and businessmen.

It seems unlikely BJP will be able recreate its historic win in 2019 elections. Wikimedia Commons
It seems unlikely BJP will be able recreate its historic win in 2019 elections. Wikimedia Commons

The second reason is the widespread rural distress which eroded the BJP’s influence in Gujarat. As a party essentially of urban lower middle class areas, the BJP’s connection with the countryside has never been very strong. In its Jan Sangh days, the party once even forgot to adopt a resolution on agriculture till the lapse was noticed at the last minute.

Modi is now said to have sought the advice of farming experts to reach out to the cultivators. But the move is unlikely to pay immediate political dividends.

To compound the BJP’s problems, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the Sangh Parivar’s labour wing, has raised the red flag over the “disappointing” Union budget.

Also Read: PM Narendra Modi: Government bringing Stringent Consumer Protection Law

Another explanation for the BJP’s woes is undoubtedly the inability to control the saffron goons, who have been running amok to impose their diktats on diet, inter-faith romance and film scripts, among other things.

The rampages of the cow vigilantes have hit the meat and leather industries and resulted in ageing cows being let loose by their owners to roam the countryside and city streets to forage on their own. Hence the proposal to impose a fine on the “guilty” owners.

The result is the prevalence of an atmosphere of intolerance of the kind which made a section of the intelligentsia return the awards which they had once won in protest against the deteriorating state of affairs in the country.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi 's new policies are not being received well by the public.
Prime Minister, Narendra Modi ‘s new policies are not being received well by the public.

Perhaps the BJP’s only solace at the moment is that its opponents haven’t been able to get their act together. Moreover, the fissures in their ranks are palpable with a rift in the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) over whether to align with the Congress in an anti-BJP front, and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) teaming up with the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka on the eve of the assembly elections.

There are also said to be reservations among the senior opposition leaders about accepting Rahul Gandhi as the leader of an alliance.

Karnataka will be the next big electoral battle for the BJP. If it can dislodge the ruling Congress in the state, it will be able to brush aside the party’s setbacks in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Otherwise, the road to 2019 will seem steeper. IANS