With political rallies, marches, meetings and sessions of Parliament out of the picture due to Covid-19 pandemic, political duels between the BJP and the Congress found more fertile ground on social media platforms. The Congress has upped its ante against the Narendra Modi government on issues of Covid-19 management, migrant crisis, India-China border dispute and everything else that it found of some political use.
Except on Delhi riots and somewhat on the issue of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the BJP has found a way or two to come back harder at the Congress. The Congress-BJP duel is again flaring up in the backdrop of heightened tension at India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC).
1. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi launched sharp attack on the Modi government over coronavirus lockdown, resultant migrant crisis and exit strategy. He went out to meet some migrants on Delhi streets, tweeted comparative graphics to question the unlock strategy of the Modi government.
2. The BJP, the government think tanks and agencies came back with research models to declare how “timely” enforcement of lockdown saved thousands of lives, delayed Covid-19 peak to give state governments time to ramp up their preparation to fight the pandemic.
3. Special Covid-19 package and repackage worth Rs 21 lakh crore were announced to ease lives of the poor and business of the rich alike. The interventions seem to have worked with MNREGA showing highest-ever demands in May. The Congress’s charge was blunted in public discourse.
4. Rahul Gandhi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi departed from other Opposition leaders in publicly questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi over reported Chinese incursions in Ladakh. Rahul Gandhi posted satellite images and news reports to put the Modi government in the dock over the issue.
5. PM Modi held an all-party meet not a regular thing for this government except customary ones at the commencement of Parliament sessions to brief the Opposition on India-China border tension. He rejected reports of loss of land to China. The Congress questioned why PM Modi's statement was welcomed in China. BJP leaders referred to PM Modi's "sacrifice won't go in vain" remark and asked the Congress why it is soft on China.
6. The BJP came back sharply to remind the Congress of its historical “folly” of 1950s and 1960s, when China acquired Aksai Chin that is almost the size of Switzerland. This has been a weak point for the Congress for last six decades. A young Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the late BJP founder member, had given tough time to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on the issue back in those days.
7. The Congress’s sharpest attack on the BJP hinges on two-point strategy: calling the BJP a two-man party and accusing it of communal politics. The BJP dismisses the dubbing of the Congress as family-owned political business, recalling the tales of Emergency and reading out the lists of communal riots under the Congress, most horrible of which was 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom.
8. With Congress finding it difficult to dominate public discourse, the BJP continues to dig deeper into the Congress’s past. Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) is latest target. The RGF is a powerful body in the Congress’s political set up headed by party president and acquires higher status when the party is in power. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are among its current members.
9. The BJP has charged that the Communist Party of China gave donation to the RGF when the UPA was in power in 2005-06. The BJP linked it to the ballooning up of trade-deficit with China during 10 years of Congress-led UPA rule, and also referred to an MoU between the Congress and the Communist Party of China. Rahul Gandhi had signed the agreement for the Congress in 2008.
10. What gives the BJP a potent shield to fend off Congress’s blows is the long ruling legacy of the Congress. The Congress has ruled the Centre for over five of seven decades since Independence. Naturally, all the nagging problems that India faces have their roots in those years. The BJP's slate is relatively cleaner. Today’s BJP, however, might do well to make sure that it does not become yesterday’s Congress.
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