Gandhis take the battle to an ideological plane

To show up BJP’s ‘intentions’ behind the veil of development plank

Updated - November 16, 2021 07:23 pm IST

Published - April 17, 2014 02:18 am IST - NEW DELHI

The gloves are off. Over the past few days, the three Gandhis of the Congress — Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka — have sharpened their rhetoric against the Bharatiya Janata Party, framing the general election purely in ideological terms, as a battle between pluralism and divisiveness, fraternal love and hatred, as also between the protector of the poor and the promoter of the rich.

Congress sources said the BJP manifesto, released on April 7, made it clear that the party’s attempt over six-odd months to project “development” as its central plank was just a veil behind which its original Hindutva agenda lurked.

BJP themes

“All the contentious issues the BJP had set aside in earlier elections to attract coalition partners were back in the manifesto — abrogation of Article 370, a uniform civil code and the Ram temple issue. And listen to Modi’s speeches, he doesn’t spell out how he plans to transform India. On the other hand, the Shining India, Shining Gujarat rhetoric is back,” a senior Congress functionary told The Hindu .

As the campaign progresses, the Congress has realised that the UPA government’s achievements on the economic and social fronts — despite statistics to back its claims — have been overshadowed by its inability to control prices and tales of corruption. What the Congress is left with at this stage is to puncture the Gujarat model and warn people of the dangers of a Modi-led government. This is, however, difficult for two reasons — the anti-incumbency factor and the growing Hindu-Muslim polarisation.

With four of the nine phases of the elections over, on April 14, Congress president Sonia Gandhi made a direct appeal to defeat the BJP in a three-minute television advertisement: “The Congress ideology will continue to take us towards a healthy, free democracy open to the light of change and transformation. Their [the BJP’s] vision, clouded with hatred and falsehood, their ideology, divisive and autocratic, will drive us to the ruination of our Bharatiyata, our Hindustaniyat,” she said.

Varun flayed

If hers was an emotionally charged appeal to the people, who had made her, she said, one of their own, her daughter, Ms. Priyanka Gandhi, now the party’s key strategist, launched a blistering attack against her cousin Varun Gandhi, accusing him of “betraying the family” by representing the BJP. Speaking in Amethi, she described the Lok Sabha election as an “ideological war,” not a “family tea party,” provoking Mr. Varun Gandhi to say she was “crossing the limits of decency,” and to ask her not to interpret his “decency and large-heartedness” as weakness.

The BJP’s Yashwant Sinha advised the young MP not to have compunctions as this was the Mahabharata, the epic battle in which cousins went to war. He said, “Varun shouldn’t worry about taking on relatives in this ‘dharma yudh.’”

Ms. Priyanka Gandhi’s onslaught came on a day when Mr. Varun Gandhi, sitting MP from Pilibhit, filed his nomination for Sultanpur, a constituency that sits cheek by jowl with Amethi, a seat that has been represented by his father, Sanjay Gandhi, uncle, Rajiv Gandhi, and now cousin, Mr. Rahul Gandhi.

It was no coincidence that on Tuesday, the Congress vice-president — and the face of the party’s campaign — spoke of the battle between the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and his assassin, Nathuram Godse, at a rally in Pune, a city that follows the principles of love and brotherhood taught by Mahatma Gandhi.

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