In a frontal attack on the Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the Congress was cheating farmers in the country in the name of loan waivers.
“The Congress earlier cheated the country in the name of ‘garibi hatao’ for years and is now cheating farmers in the name of loan waivers,” Modi told a public rally of the BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) alliance in Gurdaspur town.
“The Congress is doing the politics of lies and cheating. It has done nothing for farmers. It is misleading farmers in the name of waiving farmer loans,” Modi said in his 35-minute address.
He said that in Karnataka, loans of farmers were not being waived and police were raiding their homes to arrest them, forcing the farmers to be on the run.
Referring to Punjab, Modi said the Congress promised to waive massive loans of farmers but that was far from truth.
“The truth is something else. As per their own documents and admission, only loans worth Rs 3,400 crore were waived in one and a half years.
“Is loan waiver a five-year plan for Congress? Will they (give loan waiver) after the farmer dies?”
Modi said that the central government was working hard to bring around development in rural India.
“We are working to doubling farmers’ income by 2022. We want to empower the farmers and make them self reliant,” he said.
Accusing the Congress of messing up on issues of national security, the Prime Minister said that the NDA government at the centre “is constantly working to make the country secure”.
“The Congress leadership has messed with national security. They are spreading lies for the benefit of one family,” he said, in an obvious reference to the Congress raking up irregularities and corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal.
Modi accused the Congress leadership of not only shielding the leaders accused of killings of hundreds of innocent Sikhs in Delhi in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots but also rewarding them with Chief Ministership.
“Their history has been the massacre of innocent Sikhs. They have rewarded one accused with Chief Minister’s chair. The whole country wanted that Congress leaders should be punished for the killings of Sikhs in Delhi. Our government formed the SIT (special investigation team) and the result is before you all,” he pointed out.
SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, union Minister Harsimrat Badal and the entire senior leadership of the SAD-BJP alliance was present at the rally, around 230 km from Chandigarh. (IANS)
It was India’s “Grand Old Party.” The Congress Party ruled the country for 55 out of 71 years since independence. But following the party’s crushing electoral debacle for a second time, there are questions about its future as the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty at its helm is unable to counter the most powerful leader India has produced in decades: Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Contrary to expectations, India’s mammoth general election turned out to be virtually a no-contest between Modi and Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi as it became a presidential-style battle.
“It is not what went wrong with the Congress, it is more of a story of what went right for Prime Minister Modi. He stood as a tall leader, as an achiever, as somebody who understood people’s aspirations,” says political commentator Rasheed Kidwai, who has authored a biography of Rahul Gandhi’s mother, Sonia Gandhi. On the other hand, “Rahul Gandhi is temperamentally not a power wielder. He is a trustee of power.”
The sixth member of the Nehru Gandhi family to lead the party, Rahul is often seen as a “reluctant politician”, despite his spirited campaign to revive the party and challenge Modi after its rout in 2014.
Gandhi’s rallies drew crowds, but his efforts to project Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party as a threat to India’s secular traditions or to highlight issues of economic distress failed to resonate. His attempts to nail him for corruption in a deal to buy Rafale French fighter jets fell flat. His promise of a minimum wage for India’s poorest families was met with skepticism, even among the poor.
On the other hand, Modi, successfully wooed voters with his message of strident nationalism and subtle appeal to the majority Hindu community. Along with it, there was another theme: he projected himself as the humble son of a tea seller, a self made man who fought all odds to reach the top post in contrast to what he called the “entitled” Gandhi who had inherited the mantle of leadership of the Congress Party. It drew cheers from the country’s emerging middle and lower-middle classes, exhausted with dynastic politics.
The Congress Party’s tally of 52 seats in parliament was only a notch higher than the 44 seats it won in 2014 in the 545-member parliament. The party’s candidates returned empty-handed in half the Indian states and in several others the party only mustered a single digit tally.Modi’s BJP won 303 seats.
The scale of its losses not just crushed hopes the Congress Party would either lead a credible challenge to Modi or return as invigorated opposition – it once again raised questions over the leadership of the Gandhi family.
Rahul Gandhi has offered to resign, but expectedly the party that has no second rung of leadership has turned it down. “The party will fulfill its role as a strong opposition. We need Rahul Gandhi to lead us in these challenging times,” Congress Party spokesman Randeep Surjewala said after a meeting of the party’s senior leaders on the weekend.
Rahul Gandhi also lost the Amethi constituency the party had held for 50 years in Uttar Pradesh state. In another humiliating blow for the Gandhi family, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was appointed in a senior post to revive the party, failed to make an impact. Rahul’s mother, Sonia Gandhi, won her party’s only seat in the state.
Rahul Gandhi’s victory in another constituency in South India means he will continue to be a lawmaker. Dynastic politics is not limited to the Congress Party: lawmakers from political families are a routine feature of Indian politics. But political commentators say in an era showing a preference for strong, populist leaders, Modi was the clear victor.
“There is a new sense of nationalism sweeping across many conventional democracies. There is a yearning for a strong leader that captures the public imagination,” according to political analyst Ajoy Bose. “I don’t really see the conventional Congress Party or the conventional leadership mounting a challenge to Modi. He has completely taken the country by storm.”
Gandhi tried to give a positive message after the party’s rout. “We have a different vision of India [from Modi]”, said the head of the party that has long projected itself as a defender of India’s minorities, such as Muslims who worry about religious polarization and a rise in hate crimes since Modi came to power. “There is no need to be afraid. We will continue to work hard and we will eventually win.”
But it may be difficult to reinvent what analysts call a “fading party.” They say Modi’s BJP now occupies the dominant political space that the Congress party did for decades. “Congress is going to get reduced to, you know, like the Liberals did in Britain,” says Rasheed Kidwai. (VOA)