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16 Dec 2016

Rahul takes Opposition pole position

Rahul Gandhi outside Parliament on Thursday.
Picture by Prem Singh
Sanjay K. Jha, TT, New Delhi, Dec. 15: Fifteen political parties are pleading with the Lok Sabha Speaker over the past few days to start the debate on demonetisation under whatever rule the government wished as they are eager to know what Rahul Gandhi had to disclose about Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The government and the BJP have been rising with full force to stall the proceedings of the Lok Sabha.
The dramatic transformation of focus - from the merits and demerits of demonetisation to a Rahul-centric discourse - has delighted the Congress.
Several senior leaders had felt Rahul's response to the people's miseries over the past month was inadequate and feared the ascendance of Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal who took the lead in protesting against the Prime Minister's decision. There were murmurs within the Congress that Rahul had ceded the Opposition space to these leaders.
But the dynamics of Opposition politics changed after Rahul claimed to be in possession of information about Modi's alleged personal corruption. Now, Trinamul leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay is taking the lead in pleading with the Speaker to allow Rahul to speak and a miffed Kejriwal is daring the Congress vice-president to reveal whatever evidence he has against the Prime Minister.
The other Opposition parties faced a trickier situation. While the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party opted out of the media conference in which Rahul directly attacked the Prime Minister, the JDU has been left hamstrung because of Nitish Kumar's perceived attempt to shine in Modi's reflected glory.
A senior Congress leader said: "Regional and state parties cannot take on the might of the BJP. It is Rahul alone who can confront Modi and this will get clearer in the coming days."
The government too has unwittingly contributed to Rahul's rising profile by blocking Parliament. By doing this, the government has not only lent credence to suspicion that it had something to hide but also accorded a special status to Rahul among the Opposition leaders competing for the recognition as Modi's principal rival. Rahul's aides are watching these developments with curiosity.
Soon after the Lok Sabha was adjourned today without transacting any business, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said: "It is now clear the government is scared of Rahul Gandhi. A 323-member-strong ruling party is disrupting the House to ensure Rahul's voice doesn't reach the people. The pre-meditated and organised disruption of Parliament at the behest of the Prime Minister is a first in our parliamentary history."
Asked why Rahul did not reveal the evidence outside the House so far, Singhvi said: "He has definitely not given up. He will speak to the people at a time of his own choice. But that's a strange logic for the government to give. What is Parliament for? How is the entire Opposition gagged? Is that not a larger issue in democracy? It is not a question of immunity, it is a question of right and democratic tradition."
Several senior Congress leaders wondered why Rahul was being ridiculed for not speaking outside while the larger question is the assault on fundamental rights and the curbs on democratic practices.
A leader said: "It is foolish to presume that Rahul didn't have any evidence and that he would abandon the idea if he was not allowed the immunity of Parliament. We are the main Opposition and we are committed to fight Modi tooth and nail. The evidence will be placed in the public domain come what may. If we have said demonetisation is a scam, we will furnish evidence. Wait for the right opportunity."
Rahul is starting his state tours from tomorrow. Beginning with a rally in Goa, he will address two public meetings in Uttar Pradesh, and one each in Punjab, Goa and Karnataka later this month.

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