Congress steps into its trap - By calling Uma Bharati an 'outsider' in UP, Rahul Gandhi has ended up on the wrong side of the debate Congress steps into its trap
25.01.2012 - 23:31
25.01.2012 - 23:31
By Rajesh Singh
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
By calling Uma Bharati an 'outsider' in UP, Rahul Gandhi has ended up
on the wrong side of the debate
As much as the Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh is a battle of the
ballot, it is also a battle of words. The verbal duets are often at
the level of allegations and counter-allegations on ideology and
policies, but they also take a more personalised shape.
While the tu-tu-main-main is always a welcome source of entertainment
for the voters and the media alike, these verbal exchanges do at
times change the perception of the voters towards the candidates and
But such personal barbs are a double-edged sword because they can cut
both ways. Rahul Gandhi, who is considered by the Congress as the
'tallest'; leader in the party (after Sonia Gandhi), learnt this
truth the hard way recently. Soon after it became formal that Uma
Bharati would contest the election from Charkhari constituency in the
Bundelkhand region of the State as the BJP candidate, Mr Gandhi
immediately fired a salvo
He ridiculed her 'outsider' status saying that she had migrated from
Madhya Pradesh. But before Mr Gandhi's sycophants could begin
celebrating their icon's 'master-stroke', the fiery BJP leader hit
back, and hit where it hurts the Congress the most. She pointed out
that his mother Sonia Gandhi had come all the way from Italy to India
(and Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh which she represents in the Lok
Sabha). Whoever suggested that line to Mr Gandhi must have been
If it was the brainwave of the Congress's heir apparent, then Mr
Gandhi has a long way to go, and ought to really be more careful. He
is comparatively still a greenhorn, and as political veterans will
tell you, getting entangled with Ms Bharati is entirely at one's own
In any case, coming from the Congress, the charge that a political
leader is an 'outsider' does not sound credible. Perhaps Mr Gandhi
has forgotten that its most 'celebrated' Chief Minister of Delhi --
Sheila Dikshit -- hails from Uttar Pradesh.
When she was brought to Delhi to turn the Congress's fortunes, which
were then at a low, regional satraps had strongly objected to the
move on the ground that she was an 'outsider'. But the Congress had
brushed aside those misgivings. Today, neither the Congress nor the
Opposition raises the issue of Ms Dikshit being an 'outsider'. One
wonders what the Chief Minister of Delhi has to say about Mr Gandhi's
comment on Ms Bharati.
Mr Gandhi appears to have also conveniently forgotten that his
party's Prime Minister represents Assam with which he has no
connection. Also, the 'youth leader' must keep in the mind that his
party's MP, Mohammed Azharuddin has come all the way from Hyderabad
to represent Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh.
The fact is that the Congress is jittery over the damage that the BJP
leader can inflict over the former's prospects at least in the
Bundelkhand belt which Mr Gandhi has been regularly visiting for
months now. He has been unfailingly reminding its residents of the
region's backwardness and the lack of opportunities that they have
for growth and prosperity under Ms Mayawati's regime.
He has been telling them how the Congress can do wonders for them --
if only they would vote for the party. He has left nothing to chance,
goading the Government into announcing a 'special package' for the
region, and then accusing the Mayawati Government of bungling in the
implementation of that package. In December last year, Deputy
Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia too
joined the act by expressing concern at the 'tardy progress and
widespread irregularities' in the scheme for which more than Rs 3,600
crore had been released by the plan panel more than 18 months ago.
The Congress is worried that the lack of any real progress on the
ground will cost it heavily in terms of votes in the coming election
and, more important, result in a loss of face for Mr Gandhi. The
people here will not buy the Congress's argument that Ms Mayawati
alone is responsible for messing up the region although the Congress-
led UPA had given its money for development.
Their reasoning is: If the State Government has indeed mismanaged
central funds, why has the Union Government not taken action against
The Congress believes that it has this time a good chance to dent the
BSP's support base in the region, given that the anti-incumbency
factor is said to be strong throughout the State. In the last
Assembly election in 2007, the BSP had unexpectedly swept
Bundelkhand, winning 16 of the 21 Assembly seats, while the Congress
had to be satisfied with a mere three seats.
But the arrival of Ms Bharati has become a spoiler for the Congress.
The BJP has nothing to lose in the region and everything to gain; it
had drawn a blank in 2007. Analysts believe that any gain by the BJP
in Bundelkhand will be at the cost of the Congress.
By raising the pitch against Ms Bharati, the Congress, and especially
Mr Gandhi, has invited from her another retort that could well define
the future shape of an already contentious political relationship
within the Congress: That of between Mr Gandhi and Digvijay Singh.
Call it the glorious uncertainty of Indian politics, Ms Bharati is in
a way pitted against her old bete noire Digvijay Singh whom she had
trounced in Madhya Pradesh in 2003 and who is now Mr Gandhi's advisor
of sorts on Uttar Pradesh.
In fact, there is little doubt that the Congress's scion's forays in
Uttar Pradesh have been largely crafted by Mr Singh. After Mr
Gandhi's 'outsider' remark against her, the BJP leader did not stop
at castigating him but went a step further and said that his "guru"
Digvijay Singh too would be cut down to size in Uttar Pradesh like
she had done to him in Madhya Pradesh.
If the Congress does worse than the worst-case scenario that it has
worked out, Mr Singh's credibility and job should be at stake. In
such a situation it may become difficult for him to retain Mr Rahul
Gandhi's confidence. But even if the Congress manages to do somewhat
better than it did in 2007 when it ended up with just 22 seats in the
403-member House, it will be seen as a defeat.
Since no leader of the Congress will dare point to Mr Gandhi for the
cause of the poor show, Mr Singh can become the fall guy. So, by
clubbing the two Congress leaders as "guru-shishya", Ms Bharati has
made sure that any setback to the Congress in the election is seen as
much a failure of Mr Gandhi's leadership as it is a voters' rejection
of Mr Singh's dubious guidance.
Calling names does not work beyond a point in politics, and Mr Rahul
Gandhi should be educated about that. When Mrs Indira Gandhi was
dubbed a dumb doll -- "goongi gudiya" -- by her opponents within the
Congress when she first became the Prime Minister, it must have given
a kick to all those veterans who had ganged up against her. But she
had the last laugh.
When Ms Sonia Gandhi injudiciously referred to the likes of Chief
Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi and his Government as "Maut ke
saudagar" in an implied way, she ended up dramatically polarising
support in his favour that led to the BJP sweeping election after
election in that State. So, has Mr Gandhi done a favour to Ms
Bharati? Let's see.
Jai Maharaj, Jyotishi
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