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Strange Challenge

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In what capacity is Rahul Gandhi seeking to take on PM Modi in a proposed debate? What if every candidate from every constituency was to propose the same? Would it be even feasible? Has the Congress leader forgotten that India’s is a parliamentary democracy and, if he wishes to debate, he can do so against his opponents from the Raebareli constituency? It is not as if there is a presidential system in India and he is the nominated candidate from the main opposition party for the top job.

It is obvious that this demand is just another attempt to equate Rahul Gandhi with the Prime Minister. Since there will be no such debate, the effort will be to present it as a victory for the Congress. It may be recalled that there has been more than one occasion in Parliament when Rahul Gandhi has delivered a speech and walked out when the Prime Minister has chosen to respond. And, on these occasions, the PM has more or less shredded the opposition’s arguments. This fact will be conceded by any neutral observer of the political scene.

The fact that the Congress, in particular, has been conducting its campaign in the presidential fashion, indicates the distance of its leadership and strategists from the Indian reality. The truth is that any hope of the INDI Alliance winning a good number of seats in this election is if it wins the local constituency level contests by not only overcoming the Modi factor but also the candidate on the ground. There are those in the alliance that stand by this approach, such as the TMC, the MVA in Maharashtra, and so on.

The probability is that the hyphenation with Modi is a strategy to consolidate Rahul Gandhi’s position in the Congress, which would be under serious threat if there is another electoral rout; also, to make him seem the most viable leader of the opposition, post-election. It is no wonder that someone like AAP Supremo Arvind Kejriwal has also offered his own set of national level ‘guarantees’ despite the fact that his party is contesting only a miniscule number of Lok Sabha seats. Like leaders of other regional parties, he is not comfortable with conceding the ‘national’ leadership of the INDI Alliance to Rahul Gandhi. That would effectively put an end to Kejriwal’s future in politics. In reality, if the Congress scion is the best they can offer, what hopes are there of winning the people’s mandate?