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Indira Gandhi Parallel, 'Satyagrahi' Rahul Gandhi & Chance of Revival: How A Cup of Coffee Helped Congress Wake Up & Smell Hope in ED Probe

By: Pallavi Ghosh

CNN-News18

Last Updated: June 16, 2022, 13:04 IST

The pictures of Rahul Gandhi being escorted to court are to be used by the party to make the point that “here is the only neta who repeatedly attacks the government and he refused to bow and compromise”. (ANI)

The pictures of Rahul Gandhi being escorted to court are to be used by the party to make the point that “here is the only neta who repeatedly attacks the government and he refused to bow and compromise”. (ANI)

The Grand Old Party and its strategists have a bigger plan, which stems from the hope that Rahul Gandhi is arrested to give a fresh lease of life to his political career and that of his party

It all began over a cup of coffee shared among close aides of Rahul Gandhi and political strategists, including Sunil Kanugolu, who has also joined the Congress as one of the members of the 2024 task force. The issue was the upcoming Enforcement Directorate (ED) probe of both Rahul and Sonia Gandhi and the brief was simple — Rahul Gandhi was to be projected as someone who is not scared and is instead geared up for a long-haul fight.

The execution of the deliberations can be seen in Delhi where, in a first in recent times, almost the entire party is out on the roads. Big posters and banners have been put up with a determined-looking Rahul Gandhi being projected as a ‘Satyagrahi’. The leader, often accused of being an absentee politician who is found more on Twitter than on the ground, managed to bring his party together out on the streets for a change as he was interrogated for three days.

However, the Grand Old Party and its strategists have a bigger plan — a hope that Rahul Gandhi is arrested to give a fresh lease of life to his political career and that of his party.

A leader, who is part of the planning, told News18.com: “Arrests help politicians boost their image. It’s a false, old case and we hope to use this to give Rahul Gandhi and the party an image makeover.”

The inspiration is from Indira Gandhi’s arrest in 1977 on corruption charges. It was evident then that she was goading the Morarji government to arrest her. Not just that, she wanted to be publicly handcuffed so that she could be seen as a martyr and victim of political witch-hunt. The irony is like Rahul Gandhi, the former PM and his grandmother was facing corruption charges. The central government at that time was also weak and plagued by many crises and it worked to Indira Gandhi’s advantage who used the arrest to make a comeback.

Having failed repeatedly, Rahul Gandhi hopes to reap the same advantage, should he be arrested. The party cadre across the country has already been discreetly sounded out. The challenge is to keep the momentum on the streets going till the former Congress president gets bail.

But sources in the know also say that should he be arrested, he wouldn’t want to apply for bail soon. The pictures of Rahul Gandhi being escorted to court are to be used by the party to make the point that “here is the only neta who repeatedly attacks the government and he refused to bow and compromise”.

The calculation is also that it would help build a core team who would work in close coordination and ensure that the party shows a semblance of unity. The carefully chosen faces fronting the campaign show the party has a plan. The two chief ministers — Ashok Gehlot and Bhupesh Baghel — were asked to brief the media constantly; a win given Gehlot’s years of experience. Randeep Surjewala is yet another face who has been put forward to front the campaign.

Younger leaders like Sriniwas and Manickam Tagore, who are seen as close to Rahul Gandhi, are taking on the Delhi Police. State units, Mahila Congress and women leaders are also very much part of the plan. It’s also believed that should Rahul Gandhi be arrested, sister Priyanka Vadra will hold the fort. It’s quite likely she will hit the streets then. Plus, the fact that all this happened while their mother Sonia Gandhi was in hospital, will be stressed to make the point that the Modi government is insensitive and vindictive.

However, there are many problems here. First, unlike during the Indira Gandhi arrest, the central government is not on a weak wicket. The Modi team is smarter and astute and won’t cede any brownie points to the Congress.

Second, in private, many Congress leaders and observers wonder why the party did not hit the streets on peoples’ issues such as bulldozers razing down houses. “It looks as if the party cares only when a Gandhi faces the heat.” And the BJP would certainly want to highlight this sense of “entitlement” as it calls it.

Third, Indira Gandhi goaded and used the then central government as a successful politician but Rahul Gandhi doesn’t enjoy that tag. The BJP is bound to use the narrative that a failed corrupt neta is seeking desperate measures to bounce back and claim the throne.

It’s clearly a cat-and-mouse game for now. While the Congress thinks an arrest would work, BJP perhaps may not want to make him a ‘martyr’ or at least seek that tag. Some in the BJP also think it wouldn’t be a bad thing if Rahul Gandhi resurrects a bit; as a BJP leader said: “He is our trump card as he makes us look even better.”

For now, only time will tell who wins the political game. All eyes are now on Friday, Rahul Gandhi’s fourth round of questioning.

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first published:June 16, 2022, 10:01 IST
last updated:June 16, 2022, 13:04 IST