Rahul takes on Modi in Assam
Rahul Gandhi makes his presence felt in a close contest
Akshay Sharma Delhi
With the election campaign in full swing, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has once again made his presence felt by addressing a big rally in Diphu, Assam. Earlier, he had undertaken reasonably successful padyatras in other parts ofAssam.
It is interesting to look at Gandhi’s intervention in this context. In his speech given at a public meeting in Diphu, he targeted Narendra Modi aggressively in keeping with his new-found style. But he did make a statement that could come back to haunt him. He claimed that Congress has brought peace inAssamduring its 15 years of rule. His opponents argue that this is a contestable claim considering the violence that broke out in 2012. Where Gandhi could have a strong case is in regard to the insurgency which has declined considerably over the years in the state. And so has communal polarization and tension due to identity politics.
This can be partially attributed to the Congress-led state government as it is also a function of the changed external factors. The arrival of a friendly government inBangladeshwhich was assistingIndiain counter-insurgency operations helped the security agencies in no small measure to contain these groups. The co-operation withMyanmaralso greatly assisted Indian authorities. Still, the receding of insurgency was considered a major factor in Congress’s victory in 2011. However, the suggestion that there has been peace in the state for 15 years may not be entirely accurate.
Apart from this, Gandhi lambasted Modi using the usual arguments of the Congress against the BJP-led government in Delhi. This included reminding people of the promise to bring black money back that Modi made during the Lok Sabha election campaign. He took a jibe at the PM and said, “Modiji aate hain, vaade karte hain aur chale jaate hain.” (Modiji comes here, makes promises and leaves). This formed the core of his attack on Modi and the BJP.
He didn’t spare the RSS either. Apart from accusing the BJP of trying to impose uniformity on the whole nation, culturally and politically, he told the crowd that if BJP comes to power, the government would be run fromNagpurand the PM’s office inDelhiand notAssam. He warned the crowd that their language and traditions would be under threat from a BJP dispensation. According to him, the Sangh Parivar has mastered the art of creating polarisation and engineering riots wherever they sense an electoral opportunity and they have been trying the same tactics inAssam.
There was also a reference to the BJP government’s removal of special status forAssam. Gandhi asked, how can BJP justify this decision?
According to reports, Rahul Gandhi’s padyatras inAssamhave been rather successful, this assault on the BJP could help the Congress build upon the advantage in the run-up to the elections. However, there has not been enough focus on ground-level problems that the people are facing and the Congress vice-president is also not looking to confront issues which are controversial like the ‘infiltration’ from Bangladesh and the alleged change in demographics. What is clear from the tone and tenor of Rahul Gandhi’s speech is that this election will become a close fight and a regional battle with national overtones. The two parties are not just fighting for a state assembly, but also bragging rights.