There seems to be no holding back now. The Congress has made up its mind that despite being accused of being anti-national and not showing solidarity with the government on a critical national security issue, it will not stop demanding answers and attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The latest to join in is former PM Manmohan Singh. In an early morning statement on Monday he said:
Those who lead us bear the weight of a solemn duty. And in our democracy that responsibility rests with the office of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister must always be mindful of the implications of his words and declarations on our Nation’s security as also strategic and territorial interests.”
China is brazenly and illegally seeking to claim parts of Indian territory such as the Galwan Valley and the Pangong Tso Lake by committing multiple incursions between April 2020 till date. We cannot and will not be cowed down by threats and intimidation, nor permit a compromise with our territorial integrity. The Prime Minister cannot allow them to use his words as a vindication of their position and must ensure that all organs of the Government work together to tackle this crisis and prevent it from escalating further.
This is a moment where we must stand together as a nation and be united in our response to this brazen threat.
We remind the Government that disinformation is no substitute for diplomacy or decisive leadership. The truth cannot be suppressed by having pliant allies spout comforting but false statements.We call upon the Prime Minister and the Government to rise to the occasion, to ensure justice for Col. B. Santosh Babu and our jawans who have made the ultimate sacrifice and resolutely defended our territorial integrity.To do any less would be a historic betrayal of the people’s faith.
His statement comes a day after Rahul Gandhi’s Sunday tweet wherein he took a dig at the PM, saying he was not ‘Narendra Modi but Surender Modi’. This made the BJP accuse Gandhi of being a poor leader and one who was making statements that would help China.
Despite BJP Releasing footage to show that the Gandhis had signed agreements with China, the Congress has decided not to be daunted. It wants to go ahead and take on the government. Congress President Sonia Gandhi was the lone voice at the all-party meeting and shot off many questions to Modi on the reality at the border: ‘Did Chinese intrude into Indian territory?’ This was clearly a cue from Rahul Gandhi. Sonia was met with a strong statement of denial from the PMO and also many opposition parties did not approve of the Congress asking these questions. In fact, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said this was no time to shake the solidarity with the government.
Behind the Congress’s stand is Rahul Gandhi's politics. Some say it could be seen as his return strategy. But could it be the Rafale 2 moment?
During Lok Sabha polls in 2019, Rahul had repeatedly attacked Modi and BJP for what he called was a ‘shady Rafale fighter jets deal’. In fact, he had made the slogan ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’, much to the discomfort of party colleagues who felt that corruption charges wouldn’t stick on the PM. The BJP countered the move with ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’ campaign, which was a hit. That Rahul's Rafale moment had failed was evident with the election results where Congress failed to reach the 100-mark. Rahul was also upset with his party for not convincingly backing him on his Rafale campaign, which is when he quit as party president and took responsibility for the party’s poor poll performance.
There are now demands that Rahul come back as the party president as Sonia is clearly reluctant to continue for long. But he needs a platform, an issue on which he could make this comeback. The China and Covid-19 issues have given him this chance. On both the issues, he has constantly attacked the government and Modi of fudging figures and facts. On China particularly, he wants to dent Modi's image of being a machismo and one with a strong foreign policy and showing the ‘lal aankh’ to the errant foreign powers like Pakistan and China.
Unlike the Rafale issue, at least this time the party seems more in sync with Rahul on the China issue. Stalwarts like Capt Amarinder Singh, Ashok Gehlot and many others have agreed with him publicly and often echoed his sentiments. This time see a more united and concerted Congress strategy. And it’s the top trio that is now taking the lead and setting the agenda. So while Rahul will be the most aggressive voice, he is being backed by Sonia with her questions and a firm instruction to the party that they should not let up on the attack.
Singh’s joining of the chorus is being seen by Congress strategists as an icing on the cake. Singh is respected across political parties and on the world platform. As former a PM, his words cannot be dismissed easily. He adds weight to the Congress’s plans and its plan is to build on the China issue to launch itself as the main vocal alternative to the BJP and also show how other opposition parties have become meek. But more importantly, the strategy at play intends to make Rahul Gandhi the voice of this scheme.