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ANALYSIS | On Political Tightrope, Rahul Gandhi Leaves Breadcrumb Trail for Congress

After the flip-flops of this week, 2018 promises to be a curious year for the Congress under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership.

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18_pallavighosh

Updated:December 30, 2017, 10:49 AM IST
ANALYSIS | On Political Tightrope, Rahul Gandhi Leaves Breadcrumb Trail for Congress
Congress president Rahul Gandhi arrives for Congress Working Committee meeting in New Delhi on December 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
New Delhi: Congress’s first week in Parliament under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership has left party leaders confused on their strategy this Winter Session.

The party first tried to capitalise on the sedimentary effect of the Gujarat election results, seeking an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Congress MPs disrupted the House for a week, demanding an apology for Modi’s comments against predecessor Manmohan Singh during the campaign.

At the first Congress Working Committee meeting under his leadership, Rahul Gandhi had taken up the issue and had instructed his colleagues to hit the streets. He came out and accused the BJP of being a pack of liars. Congress workers across the country were asked to organise street protests.

All this turned out to be a damp squib when Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad accepted the “clarification” from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley that the PM wasn’t insinuating that Dr Manmohan Singh was pro-Pakistan.

The Congress claimed to have extracted an apology from the Treasury Benches, but it was the BJP which was smiling.

Top government sources say there was a written agreement finalised by Arun Jaitley and Azad. This was also to ensure that no comments would be made against each other after the detente.

But then came Rahul Gandhi’s attack on Jaitley. He tweeted, punning on the Finance Minister’s name to call him a liar.

This took senior leaders within the Congress, who had worked on the truce, by surprise. The BJP was angry and dashed off a privilege notice against Rahul Gandhi.

The events of last week have left some senior Congress leaders confused. If Rahul had agreed to accept an apology, why did he attack Jaitley?

The party workers, who were enthused after Rahul’s call to hit the streets, are also at sea.

‘Why a climbdown from the demand of an apology from the PM’ is a question many are asking? Why not make the “humiliation” of Manmohan Singh the rallying point for the party?

The other confusion in the Congress was seen in its stand on the Triple Talaq issue. Rahul Gandhi held a meeting before the Parliament session in the morning. It was decided that the Congress won’t oppose the Bill as it would be seen as being regressive and anti-women.

With the Congress demanding the Women Reservation Bill, opposing the Triple Talaq Bill would have diluted the party’s stand. Assam MP Sushmita Dev, as Mahila Congress President, was asked to articulate the party’s view on the subject.

The Congress issued a statement before the Bill was taken up, stating that the party “will not oppose the Bill, or move amendments. It will only raise concern over the criminality clause.”

However, midway through the discussions, the Congress moved two amendments and demanded the Bill be sent to the Standing Committee.

Sources say this changed strategy comes from Congress’s newfound love for ‘soft Hindutva’. It has tasted blood in Gujarat where Rahul’s temple visits helped the party shun the perception of being pro-Muslim, at least partially. At the same time, it also didn’t want to antagonise the Muslim core vote.

So Rahul was conspicuously absent from the discussions and voting. He was holding meetings with state leaders. No whip was issued to the party either.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MP Asaduddin Owaisi was quick to see through this. “The Congress is pursuing janeu (sacred Hindu thread) politics and they stand exposed,” he pointed out in Parliament.

After the flip-flops of this week, 2018 promises to be a curious year for the Congress under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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