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Analysis | Rahul Gandhi's Yuva Aakrosh and NRU rally seems part of a Congress gameplan to counter CAA-NRC

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi flanked by Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, Deputy CM Sachin Pilot and other party leaders at the Yuva Aakrosh Rally at Albert Hall in Jaipur on January 28, 2020.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi flanked by Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, Deputy CM Sachin Pilot and other party leaders at the Yuva Aakrosh Rally at Albert Hall in Jaipur on January 28, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

But the now viral video clip of a former Shaheen Bagh protest organiser and JNU alumnus delivers an equally well-timed advantage to the BJP.

 

Two days before the Budget Session of 2020 gets underway, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi decided to hold a Yuva Aakrosh (‘youth anger’) rally in Congress-ruled Rajasthan on January 28 to highlight “growing unemployment, rising prices of food items and the consistent slide of economic parameters”.

While it seems natural for the principal Opposition party to focus on the economy ahead of the Budget Session, there is clearly more to Congress thinking than merely timing it well with the Budget Session.

It comes at a time when the fight for Delhi gets more intense with slogans like “tukde tukde gang” and “goli maro desh ke gaddar ko” (‘shoot the traitors of the country’) heard at the election rallies of Union Ministers.

Video clip’s impact

After over a month of peaceful anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, which has now become a symbol of resistance to the new citizenship law and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), the ruling party at the Centre now has a video clip that may suit its political narrative.

In it, former organiser of the Shaheen Bagh protests Sharjeel Imam is heard talking about cutting off Assam from the rest of India, exhorting Muslims to assert their religious identity, and so on. Now, if you consider the fact that Sharjeel Imam is a PhD scholar from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the now viral video clip is the best thing that could have happened to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The party’s leaders are already trying to argue that the Shaheen Bagh protests are more about Muslim identity than protecting any higher Constitutional principle or a contesting view of nationalism. They are attacking the JNU’s “tukde tukde gang” for creating unrest in the country, and accusing political rivals like the Congress of “minority appeasement”.

Voting nationalism

So, now voters of Delhi will have to decide to choose between the “nationalist” BJP and others like the Aam Admi Party (AAP) and the Congress that are backing protesters whose allegiance to the nation is repeatedly questioned by the BJP.

Home Minister Amit Shah, at a rally in north Delhi, dared Mr. Kejriwal to visit Shaheen Bagh and clarify his stand on Mr. Imam.

As this reporter had pointed out in an earlier piece, both Mr. Kejriwal and Mr. Gandhi have been careful not to engage in an “us versus them” narrative — that’s why they avoided going to JNU or Shaheen Bagh, despite backing anti-CAA protesters on social media.

True, the Congress is not the major player in Delhi, but the BJP’s portrayal of it [the Congress] as a party given to “Muslim appeasement” stays, with ramifications far beyond.

Congress’ ‘NRU’

That’s why the Congress, while continuing to oppose the CAA-NRC on grounds that it violates the basic principles of the Constitution, has come up with the NRU or the National Register of Unemployed in an attempt to steer the debate back to bread and butter issues.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 11:56:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/congress-yuva-aakrosh-economy-focused-rajasthan-rally-is-timed-to-the-budget-session/article30675007.ece

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