Should Rahul Gandhi have made those utterances about India on the foreign soil of Cambridge University? A theatrical slugfest with potent punch-ups has ensued between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, and it continues to catch eyeballs. There could be a debate on the rights and wrongs, whether it was Constitutionally correct, did Rahul breach the standard operating procedures of foreign policy, whether a Member of Parliament should have denigrated his own country internationally; but all this coming as it does immediately after the colossal success of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, one does not need unusual sagacity and insight to understand that the Cambridge trip is nothing but an astute and intelligent extension of Rahul Gandhi’s idea of India, characterised during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, with the sole aim of cornering the BJP and its immoral misconducts now on international fora. His assertions and declarations were hoisted in Britain in the refined and credible casing of preserving democratic ideals. And this certainly hit the BJP where it hurt the most.
Let's understand what Rahul said in his various interactions in London. He listed five keys aspects of the alleged attack on Indian democracy - a) capture and control of media and judiciary, b) surveillance and intimidation, c) coercion by federal law enforcement agencies, d) attacks on minorities, Dalits and Tribals, e) shutting down of dissent. But what he also said along with this, and which was conveniently ignored and shut out by the BJP, was – and I quote – “This is an internal problem of India and we will find solutions within India.” He also said “140 crore Indians are part of your democratic setup and the fate of Indian democracy will have an impact on the democracies across the planet”. What he actually was trying to say was that India will decide the fate and direction of democracies all over the world. This was indeed a powerful statement as far as democratic values are concerned. The BJP took selective umbrage in accusing Rahul of maligning India on foreign soil be it Union Minister Anurag Thakur or Ravishankar Prasad, but the Lakshman Rekha was demolished with statements from Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju saying that Rahul is extremely dangerous for India's unity and his provocative statements were dividing the nation. Two days after Rijiju's comment came another validation of BJP’s line from none other but the Vice President and Chairman of Rajya Sabha, Jagdeep Dhankar who threw a counter to Rahul's remark where he said that mics of opposition MPs are switched off inside Parliament. Dhankar said, “No political strategy or partisan stance can justify compromising our nationalism and democratic values. I am before a noble soul, my silence on this misadventure, if I observe silence on this orchestration by a Member of Parliament outside the country which is ill-premised and motivated, I would be on the wrong side of the Constitution. It would be constitutional culpability and outrage of my oath.” Dhankar went on to say, “How can I sanctify the statement that mics in Indian Parliament are put off? How dare he have the courage to say so? We did have a dark chapter of our history, the proclamation of Emergency. The darkest period any democracy can suffer. But the Indian democratic polity has now matured. There can be no repeat of that.”
It's Congress vs BJP again which clearly goes to show that Rahul has rattled the nerves of the ruling dispensation. At the culmination event of the 85th plenary session in Raipur, Rahul reflected that the party needed more events to speak against the Modi government, not necessarily yatras but other manifestations which would be bigger, bolder and more heroic. BJP might scream and holler by calling Rahul a constant cynic and a persistent purveyor of propaganda, but Rahul seems to be the only one wounding the tender spots of the Modi-led BJP government. Rahul’s Cambridge trip does give a glimpse of the future roadmap of Congress where Rahul will be seen on a newer agenda of calling upon all the democratic forces across the world to unite against the sectarian, fascist and authoritarian regimes. The Grand Old Party will cement the secular forces and Rahul seemingly will fuse and amalgamate a democratic squad or regiment and emerge as the voice to phase out the dictatorial or semi dictatorial regimes across the world. Rahul looks like on a far-reaching assignment with the predominant theme of saving the Constitution, its structure, architecture and the spirit of plurality which encompasses India as a whole. The jury is out on whether he would succeed or not, but this certainly looks like a long-term plan of the Congress where the party is not worried too much about the 2024 victory but is working on a secular template on the domestic and international front. For BJP the only option is to discredit, consolidate and amplify the Pappufication campaign, and call Rahul Gandhi an anti-national through its troll army and IT cell.
So is Rahul pushing the BJP to the scale where it is compelled to charge him for sedition or arrest him? Is Rahul aiming to create a situation where he would be seen as a victim and a martyr which in turn could create a momentum in the Congress’s favour within the country, at the same time projecting himself as a statesman and a messiah who would sacrifice anything for upholding democratic ideals across the world and within India? Cambridge, his alma mater could be the first stop, next could be US, Australia, Canada and if the rantings and ramblings are the same, BJP could be left in reddening humiliation. Kiren Rijiju and Vice President have already made a strong statement calling Rahul a danger, maligning India internationally, coupled with BJP MP Nishikant Dubey calling for the ouster of Rahul Gandhi from the Lok Sabha for supposedly making derogatory remarks against the prime minister. Dubey deposed before the Privileges Committee of the Lok Sabha a few days ago. Many political experts have begun to draw a parallel with what happened in 1976 where Subramaniam Swamy was expelled from Rajya Sabha for making defamatory innuendo against India in UK, the US and Canada.
Dubey had argued before the Privileges Committee that Rahul was guilty of committing three breaches of privilege during his speech on the motion of thanks to the President's address. Dubey had also accused Gandhi of violating Rule 352 by levelling unsubstantiated, defamatory and unparliamentary allegations against Modi and that too without giving notice to the Speaker. The big question now is, can Rahul be expelled or disqualified from the Lok Sabha? Will BJP bite the bullet before 2024 which will almost be seen as an act of political harakiri?
The game, it seems, has just begun between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi.
Neelu Vyas is a senior television anchor and consulting editor with Satya Hindi
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