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Lalit Modi row: Congress questions PM's silence even as RG is missing in action

Panini Anand | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:16 IST

The offensive

  • Congress has put BJP on the mat on the Lalit Modi controversy, demanding the resignation of Vasundhara Raje and Sushma Swaraj.
  • The party has been holding press conferences almost every day; has released crucial documents pinning Raje.
  • Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, however, has been missing in action.

The reasons

  • Some say Congress wants to keep Gandhi as a trump card for the upcoming Parliament session.
  • Critics say Gandhi will not directly take up the issue of corruption, given the allegations against his family.

The Congress party is going for the BJP's jugular in the Lalit Modi controversy and criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence on the issue.

But it isn't just Modi who has remained silent. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has also been missing in action.

Not too long ago, Gandhi had attacked the Modi government with the catchy 'suit-boot ki sarkar' slogan, creating an impression that the Congress scion had finally grown into a combative political leader.

But at a time when the Congress has successfully managed to use the Lalit Modi row to put the BJP on the backfoot, Gandhi's absence is surprising.

For the last two weeks, the party has been deploying one leader after the other to hold press conferences attacking the government on the issue.

From senior leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Jairam Ramesh, to Vasundhara Raje's Rajasthan adversaries Sachin Pilot and CP Joshi, and other prominent leaders like Randeep Singh Surjewala and Ajay Maken, the Congress has consistently been on the offensive. The party even released documents against Raje and has demanded her resignation.

But during the entire row, the Congress' first family has been abroad.

On being asked about Gandhi, party leaders immediately go on the defensive.

"He is not here, that doesn't means he is not aware of things. His consent is taken in deciding our moves here. He would have reacted on such a big issue if he was available during the past few weeks," says Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmed.

"But now he is coming back," Ahmed adds, in anticipation.

So when he does return, will he join the chorus against the Modi government? Ahmed is non-committal.

"Let him decide when he wants to speak. The party will raise this issue under his leadership in the Parliament during the upcoming monsoon session," he says.

Congress may be saving Rahul Gandhi as a trump card for when the Lalit Modi issue comes up in Parliament

There are clear answers on why he hasn't spoken on the Lalit Modi issue so far.

When the issue came up, he was busy with agitating for Delhi's sanitation workers to be paid their wages. He has attacked the Modi government for being anti-poor, but hasn't really questioned Modi's claims of zero tolerance towards corruption.

It seems that the the party is keeping Gandhi as some sort of a trump card for when the issue comes up in Parliament

"It would be better if he speaks in the House instead of getting engaged with the issue on a daily basis. If he speaks in Parliament, it will re-energise the party and the Opposition. Even if the media loses focus of the issue by then, Gandhi can help bring it back on centrestage," reveals a party insider.

The Congress's critics, however, say that the Gandhi scion wouldn't dare to rake up corruption charges.

From the Bofors scam to Robert Vadra's land deals, the Gandhi family has always been at the receiving end of corruption allegations.

"Instead of reacting to a national issue, Rahul Gandhi chose a local issue like wages for sanitation workers. He was in the capital when the issue surfaced. The Gandhis don't have the guts to stand up and say things when it comes to corruption," says a BJP leader.

Another possible reason why the Congress vice-president has been kept away from the present offensive is that the party fears it has lost focus.

A Congress leader accepts that the party made some mistakes in "moving from Sushma Swaraj to the PM and then demanding an inquiry".

"This made the focus fade. Other deals of Raje family diverted it further. We are now fighting state matters in the capital. What if things don't go the way we want them to?"

He hints that this is why Gandhi should not put himself at risk by becoming the face of the campaign.

"It's not a good idea to jump into the fight without clarity and an unbeatable strategy. New developments are taking place every day. He will comment at a appropriate time; most probably in the house," a party insider says.

Meanwhile, the party itself has to figure out how much energy it intends to invest in the Lalit Modi issue.

First published: 1 July 2015, 11:24 IST
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.