The Rahul-Modi Showdown – A Glimpse Of People Vs Government

The Rahul-Modi Showdown – A Glimpse Of People Vs Government

The Opposition, buoyed by numbers, has rediscovered its voice. Spirited verbal clashes, therefore, are to be expected when the House is in session

Neelu VyasUpdated: Thursday, July 04, 2024, 11:24 PM IST
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Leader of the Opposition Rahul Gandhi | File

The 2024 election mandate in India has shown that the janata is supreme, and if this government is mute and laconic it will meet the same fate as that of the previous one. It appears at the outset that no lessons have yet been learnt and the biggest example of this is the latest showdown between Rahul Gandhi and PM Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address. The divide was stark, pitched strongly between the government’s “submit to my authority or find another way” attitude versus the real needs and aspirations of the people on the ground. For the last 10 years the Modi government shirked accountability and resisted the culture of scrutiny and questions, but it won’t be able to afford this any more because it will come with a huge price.

Leader of the Opposition Rahul Gandhi voiced the wish of the people be it Agniveer, MSP to the farmers, NEET paper leak, price rise — he even spoke with elan about the culture of hate and hostility, and he did it impactfully holding the pictures of various gods in hand to show that Hindus don’t spread abhorrence. Gandhi in fact touched a tender spot saying that the BJP and the RSS cannot be the sole representatives of Hinduism and the politics of Hindus. This really hit a raw nerve. Gandhi was fiery, exuberant and unrestrained, he exhibited the confidence reposed in him by the new mandate, and this was the power of the people. It was an all-out assault, a direct invasion when he told Speaker Om Birla not to bow before the Prime Minister. PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah looked vulnerable; in fact Shah seemed to plead for cover and protection, which was never seen before in the last 10 years.

Contrast this with what Prime Minister Modi said. He combined the personal with the political in his signature — and by now cliched — style. He mocked Rahul Gandhi as infantile, was dismissive of the Congress’s present electoral kitty, and reiterated the familiar claims of his government’s commitment to end corruption, facilitate development, and ensure justice without appeasement.. Modi used phrases like “Balak buddhi “ “tumse na ho payega”, Congress is “adamkhor” (which means a man eater that sucks blood). Modi’s frustration was clearly evident and his balking and scotching seemed to have not many takers. The country is familiar with Modi’s rhetoric and in his typical style he accused Rahul of insulting Hindus and the entire troll army gang pounced on Rahul labelling him as “Rahul Khan”.

Modi looks jaded, satiated, drained and glutted, and it seems what he speaks has lost viewership as well. Rahul Gandhi’s speech in the Lok Sabha was watched by 6,58,000 people on Youtube, whereas Modi’s speech had an abysmally low viewership with just 54,000 viewers. Modi ’s speech in the Rajya Sabha declined further with just 28,000 views. The new Dalit icon Chandra Shekhar Azaad got a whopping 7,00,000 views which goes to show that people are looking for contrarian views which are more people-centric, more rooted to the problems on the ground.

What made Gandhi’s speech stand out was his ability to offer a vision that the nation and its minders should embrace by way of a moral map. For what Mr Gandhi espoused — freedom of the mind from fear — is fundamental to the survival and the blooming of democracy. Such a kernel of fearlessness goes on to bear the fruit of a citizenry that is unafraid to ask for, nay, demand accountability from the powers that be irrespective of political colour. This culture of scrutiny, of institutions and leaders, has arguably been weakened since 2014. In demanding its resurrection, Gandhi was merely voicing the wish of the people who have given a reduced mandate to Modi’s muscular government. Som news outlets have started calling Rahul the shadow PM in the capacity of the Leader of the Opposition, and this will not let Modi have an easy time of it.

The 18th Lok Sabha differs substantially from its last two avatars in one important aspect. The Opposition, buoyed by numbers, has rediscovered its voice. Spirited verbal clashes, therefore, are to be expected when the House is in session. Can both sides, the government and the Opposition, ensure that these exchanges do not violate established codes of conduct of the House?

Neelu Vyas is a senior television anchor and digital content creator. Twitter: @neeluopines

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