Disqualified Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on Friday took a dig at the media and his trolls over his power equation with Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, which is often seen tilted in favour of the Gandhi scion.
On the day of his disqualification as the Wayanad MP, Gandhi – visibly nervous and sad – was helping the 80-year-old Gandhi loyalist, Kharge, walk down the stairs of parliament complex after a high-level party meeting convened to discuss “recent political developments”.
His mother and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi by his side, when he along with Kharge and other leaders walked out of a parliament block, the former Congress president looked at media persons waiting outside and told the elderly Karnataka veteran: “If I touch you (Kharge) now, they say I’m wiping my nose on your back.”
“Utter nonsense! Have you seen that? That I am helping you over there, they’re saying that I’m wiping my nose on you,” complained the 52-year-old Congress scion, who has been pitching himself as the prime challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2024 re-election bid.
Although he has nearly failed in his efforts and presumably harbours the ambition of de-throning PM Modi next year, Gandhi still remains the biggest leader accepted among regional parties.
For years, Gandhi has been complaining that the national media is complicit in his character assassination campaigns and that it favours Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.
Political analysts, however, say that Gandhi can’t escape the reality that he has failed to win elections for the Congress party in states and in the 2019 national elections – when he made an objectionable remark that has now handed him conviction in a criminal defamation case, costing him his Lok Sabha membership.
On his part, Gandhi as well as his party Congress has accused the BJP of trying to suppress his voice by filing similar cases in multiple cities for his statements that generally should not be seen as objectionable in India based on his “Idea of India” vision.
BJP leaders, however, point out his bizarre statements and gaffes made in the past. At a recent press conference organised to complain that the Modi government didn’t give him a chance in parliament to respond to its allegations that he made remarks, seen insulting to India, Gandhi – being the master of goofing up badly at social situations – said: “It is unfortunate that I am a member of parliament and I hope that I will be allowed to speak in parliament.”
For nearly a minute, he didn’t realise he had suffered a slip of tongue. Congress media head Jairam Ramesh had to step in to whisper in his ears: “Unfortunately I am a Member of Parliament… They can make a joke about it saying it’s unfortunate for you.”
In 2017, Gandhi, in a slip of tongue, referred to Karnataka government’s subsidized food service providing Indira canteen as ‘amma’ canteen; another subsidized food provider popular in Tamil Nadu.
Gandhi supporters have lauded him for transforming his image as a serious political leader by undertaking a countrywide Bharat Jodo Yatra that concluded in Srinagar on January 30.
Standing under the bare sky amid snowfall in Srinagar – draped in Kashmiri pheran with his beard overgrown – told his fellow yatris, supporters, including Kashmir’s two main political parties PDP and NC, and a group of national media: “I have not done this (yatra) for myself or for the Congress, but for the people of the country.”
“Our aim is to stand against the ideology that wants to destroy the foundation of this country,” thundered the Congress leader, who has been seeking to get out his public image of “Puppu”.
Gandhi complains that his portrayal as “Pappu” (loosely translates to an inefficient man) was part of an orchestrated campaign by his political opponents.
By the end of Bharat Jodo Yatra, Gandhi emerged as a political leader who could inflict some damage to PM Modi’s 2020 prospects. To take the success story of his yatra abroad, the Congress leader made a speech at Cambridge University in the first week of this month.
During his speech, Congress’ PM contender called for Western democratic countries’ intervention to restore Indian democracy. He expressed regret that democratic parts of the world, including the US and Europe, have failed to notice that a “large chunk of democracy has come undone”.
BJP came down heavily on Rahul Gandhi and accused him of making anti-India statements in London and public sentiments – sympathetic to him after the yatra – have turned against him.