Former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh’s statement that “demonising Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn't help the Opposition” started a debate within the Congress on Friday, with a number of leaders coming out in support of Mr. Ramesh.
Senior party leaders Shashi Tharoor and Abhishek Singhvi took to Twitter to back Mr. Ramesh, but the Congress, at its official press briefing, refused to react to the comments.
"Always said demonising #Modi wrong. No only is he #PM of nation, a one way opposition actually helps him. Acts are always good, bad & indifferent—they must be judged issue wise and nt person wise.Certainly, #ujjawala scheme is only one amongst other good deeds. “tweeted Mr. Singhvi with hashtag #JairamRamesh.
At a book launch on Wednesday, Mr. Ramesh said the “governance model of Prime Minister Modi is not a completely negative story.”
His comment stands out, as the Congress’s 2019 campaign was centred around Mr. Modi's style of leadership and former party chief Rahul Gandhi had targeted the Prime Minister with slogans such as “chowkidar chor hain” over the Rafale fighter aircraft deal.
Though privately a few Congress leaders had raised the very personal nature of the campaign, Mr Ramesh is the first high-profile leader to suggest moderation in the Congress’s anti-Modi rhetoric.
He said the Opposition should recognise the work done by Mr. Modi for which he was voted back to power by over 30 percent of the electorate. And as an example of success, Mr. Ramesh cited the Ujjwala scheme -- offering free LPG gas connections along with cylinders to Below Poverty Line families -- that paid rich political dividends.
“He [Mr. Modi] talks in a language that connects him with the people. Unless we recognise that he is doing things which people recognise and which have not been done in the past, we are not going to able to confront this guy,” Mr. Ramesh said.
Echoing this, Mr Tharoor said, “As you know, I have argued for six years now that Narendra Modi should be praised whenever he says or does the right thing, which would add credibility to our criticisms whenever he errs. I welcome others in opposition coming around to a view for which i was excoriated at the time!”
When asked to comment on the views expressed by these leaders, Congress leader Manish Tewari said at the party’s official press conference, “They are best placed to clarify or amplify, add or subtract to what they have said.” He added, “As the Congress party, we believe the country is facing a grim economic situation that will affect the lives of millions and we are extremely worried about it.”