Keep mum

Minutes after the Congress Party’s much touted re-launch vehicle for Rahul Gandhi, columnist Ashok Malik tweeted, “My unsolicited, gratuitous advice to both the Congress party and Rahul is the same: Keep Mum.” Pun firmly intended. And advice bang on target. Rahul Gandhi seemed as disconnected from the farmers as the person he was painting as the villain.

It was a Super-Sunday with both the BJP and the Congress yanking the legendary weather-beaten Indian farmer on to their camps. But what everybody who was watching the speeches by Modi, Rahul and Sonia was doing was comparing the oratorical element. Oratory is important for success in politics. So is content.

Rahul Gandhi addresses a large gathering of farmers at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi yesterday. Rahul neither appeared eager nor did he look like he had a plan of action in mind. All he seemed to suggest was that he would stop the Land Acquisition Ordinance/Act. How? That is left to our imagination, and that of the beleagured farmer. Pic/PTI
Rahul Gandhi addresses a large gathering of farmers at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi yesterday. Rahul neither appeared eager nor did he look like he had a plan of action in mind. All he seemed to suggest was that he would stop the Land Acquisition Ordinance/Act. How? That is left to our imagination, and that of the beleagured farmer. Pic/PTI

When it comes to delivery style and idiom usage in speeches, Modi is head and shoulders above both Sonia and Rahul. However, Sunday’s speech at the BJP MP’s workshop gave the impression that Modi was annoyed. Irritated with media, nothing new…impatient with his party workers, also nothing new. He conveyed a sense that he was annoyed that he had to clarify his intent and action…that he had to contend with the party’s message not being delivered to the people, when he was busy running the country and had more pressing matters to attend to. In politics, it’s not enough to let ‘actions speak’. People don’t judge you just by your actions; you even have to appear to be sincere and humble while doing those actions, however constructive those actions may be.

Rahul, meanwhile, neither appeared eager nor did he look like he had a plan of action in mind. All he seemed to suggest was that he would stop the Land Acquisition Ordinance/Act. How? That the beleaguered farmer and we are left to imagine. Just like the Congress workers are left to conceptualise in their minds a party where Rahul is at the helm. Nobody really knows if, when and how that could happen.

He berated the BJP for being a party of industrialists who owe it to big business for having won the election. As if any party has won an election on love and fresh air! He totally misses the point that had the farmers of India seen the Congress party as their voice then his party would not have had such a poor showing in the elections.

Sonia Gandhi doesn’t look anywhere close to a woman on the verge of retirement. She gave a fiery speech on Sunday, wagging a finger at the BJP, thinning her lips and frowning with anger at the perfidy of the ‘Modi Sarkar’. Sonia thundered, “Inki kathni aur karni mey farak hai, zabaan mey kuch aur kaam kuch aur hai. Neeyat aur nitii mey farak hai”. She also said, “aaj hum is liye ek jutt huen hai, Modi sarkar ko bataane, ab bohat ho chuka hai.” But Mrs. Gandhi is probably not noticing that her party has somewhat the same message for her: Ab bohat ho chuka. Enough is enough. Her son better shape up to lead the party.

Earlier, Rahul also tried to sound angry and agitated over what he said was a raw deal to farmers: “No Make in India is planned or being executed. It’s a ploy by Modiji to grab your land. We will not allow it to happen. I will stop it.” Brave words indeed. How will he stop it if he is neither in Parliament nor among farmers? That he did not answer.

This was just another speech by Rahul. It was not the comeback speech that was supposed to establish him as the leader. If attacking Modi cannot get him animated, nothing else can.

Conspicuous by her absence was Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. If anything, Sonia Gandhi has laid to rest all speculation that Rahul is being replaced by his sister, who like a monsoon blossom only appears during elections and polling day, but she is supposed to be the trump card that will only be imagined about.

Meanwhile, the fight continues on who is the real messiah of the poor. Who can do the most for the poor farmer? Who can shed the image of being a land shark? Two-thirds of India is dependent on farm income. Unseasonal rains in March and April and prediction of an El Nino effect on monsoons can upset the best of plans of the Modi government. Food inflation could shoot up, government would have to announce higher Minimum Support Prices (MSP) or bonuses, waive off farm loans or electricity charges to farmers, rural spending could further go down.... nothing will seem rosy about the economy if rural India goes into distress.

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash

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