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After bail, the vendetta wail: Gandhis target Modi as Congress hits the streets

Covai Post Network

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Anita Katyal

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi set the tone for a lengthy political battle with the Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday, dropping in at the party headquarters on Akbar Road after being granted bail by a Patiala House court in the National Herald case.

Speaking to the party members and the media assembled at the Congress headquarters, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi condemned their political opponents for launching a campaign against them and reiterated the charge that the ruling BJP is using state agencies to target Opposition parties.

The Congress has been accusing the Modi government of indulging in “politics of vendetta” ever since the Delhi High Court directed the party’s top two leaders to appear before a trial court in the National Herald case, in which they are accused of cheating and misappropriation of funds in relation to the takeover of the now defunct newspaper.

In a show of bravado, mother and son declared they would not be cowed down by attacks and were ready to fight it out. While Sonia Gandhi refrained from naming the BJP, Rahul Gandhi did not hesitate to blame Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making false accusations against them. “We are not scared…we are not going to take even one step back,” the Congress vice-president said.

That Modi will be their chief target was also reflected in the slogans coined by the crowd of Congress loyalists who had started gathering at the party office early on Saturday. “Modi teri tanashahi nahin chalegi (We won’t tolerate the Modi regime),” was the most popular chant.

Targeting Swamy

As a follow-up to the Gandhis’ battle cry, the party will now hit the streets. Senior Congress leaders said while the legal process will take its course – the next hearing is on February 20 – the party will plan a series of countrywide agitations in the coming weeks to publicise that their leaders are being unfairly targeted by a vindictive government.

Congress strategists have also prepared talking points for their spokespersons and workers so that they can explain that the case filed by BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy is essentially weak, and will not withstand the scrutiny of law.

The government’s decision to give Swamy an official bungalow and accord him high-level security cover was pounced on by the Congress. They said that these actions underlined the fact that the BJP is using Swamy as a proxy in its battle against the Congress.

“Swamy has been placed under Z-category and allotted a government bungalow,” said senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. “He is not a member of the Parliament or from a border state. He is not facing any threat from any terrorist organisation. The bungalow was given as an award for dragging the Congress leadership to court.”

Survival at stake

Party workers said the latest developments had enthused and united them. However, many confessed that the National Herald case was an unnecessary distraction as their energies will now be expended on defending Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and explaining the facts of the case instead of exposing the failures of the ruling alliance at the Centre as well as BJP-led state governments.

“There is no doubt that we will lose precious time,” said a senior Delhi Congress leader. “We have been pushed into an explanatory mode when we should be highlighting the shortcomings of the BJP governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh governments and putting them on the mat.”

Nevertheless, they also admitted that they had no choice but to defend their leaders as their own political survival was at stake. It is precisely for this reason that workers amassed in large numbers at the Congress office to show support for the party’s “first family” even after Sonia Gandhi’s earlier calls for restraint. Pointing to the “spontaneous” show of strength by Congress cadres, a senior party leader maintained this was only the beginning. “Party workers are really charged up after Sonia and Rahul Gandhi came under personal attack. They realise that they will be nowhere if the party leadership is weakened,” he added.

For the present, however, the Congress is drawing comfort from the BJP also being on the defensive. Earlier this week, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal accused Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley of financial irregularities during his tenure as the head of the Delhi and District Cricket Association. While the Congress has not yet raised this issue in Parliament, party leaders believe the allegations against Jaitley will take the heat off the Congress.

“The minister is undoubtedly rattled as this is the first time that he is in the line of fire,” said an Odisha Congress leader. “We are not the only ones who have to explain ourselves to the people. The BJP is also in the same boat. Don’t forget Jaitley is the BJP’s key wicket – they have to protect him.”

Disclaimer:The views expressed above are the author’s own

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