The no-confidence motion debate in Parliament on Friday was billed by many as Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s golden opportunity to redeem himself after his disastrous showing from time to time in the House of the People.
That the BJP would come through a clear winner in the vote was never really in doubt. Interest, therefore, centred on how a seemingly transformed Rahul would take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this baptism of fire.
With the battle having ended, the jury is out on Rahul and it is far from reassuring for him. Indeed, Rahul came off as an immature and blundering individual with an appalling lack of depth. He was as usual no match for Modi’s clever manoeuvrings.
Right from the word ‘go’ Rahul was combative. If only he had substance, he could well have come out stronger. But as many times in the past, he forfeited an opportunity to seem a leader who could be depended upon to lead with convincing force of arguments and well-prepared repartees.
Rahul’s speech eventually will be remembered for his jhappi (hugs) of the prime minister all of a sudden after he (Rahul) ended his speech and his wink to a colleague sitting by Rahul’s side to show what a fool he had made of Modi, not realising that he had made a fool of himself and disturbed a hornet’s nest.
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The BJP was up in arms and Congressmen, always more loyal than the King when it comes to the First Family, was in an angry mood, defending the indefensible.
Right through her political career except towards the end, his mother Sonia used to read from prepared texts, but Rahul chooses to speak with jottings on pieces of paper and often goofs up.
As usual, he ranted about demonetisation and the GST without showing that he knew what he was talking about. He took on Modi with no holds barred even mocking at him for not looking him in the face and hurled accusations that had no proof to substantiate them.
Modi’s smile that seemed to betray a sense of wonder at his foolishness and poor behaviour never appeared to leave him but Rahul was unfazed as though he did not understand.
When Speaker Sumitra Mahajan disapproved of his hugs, the wink and more, Congressmen were irritated no end. Or at least they felt it fit to put on a show of resentment to ingratiate themselves to the leader. How much of it was sheer hypocrisy it is difficult to say.
While Rahul’s antics were the dubious flavour of the day, there was little else that lifted the standard of the debate.
What has brought acute embarrassment to Rahul is a prompt response from the French Government to his accusations of unwarranted secrecy in regard to the Rafale deal in which it has stated that the Congress government had signed an agreement with France in 2008 in which the two countries agreed to maintain secrecy on the commercial aspects of the deal. India was bound to secrecy under that agreement.
Evidently, Rahul has been caught on the wrong foot and his poor preparation for the speech and half-baked understanding has been exposed yet again. He has tried to justify his remark by saying that he stands by his claim and that Manmohan Singh and Anand Sharma were with him at that time, but it is unlikely to cut much ice. There has indeed been no word from them.
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Clearly, Rahul Gandhi’s speech has yet again embarrassed the Congress party and queered the pitch for him, showing him in poor light.
Rahul had claimed in his Lok Sabha speech that the French president had told him when he met him in Paris that there was no secrecy sought by him on the trade deal between Rafale and India. Not only has Macron denied this, but it is diplomatically wrong for a leader (Rahul) to disclose details of a private conversation with an overseas dignitary.
With Manmohan Singh and Anand Sharma so far not standing by Rahul despite his claim that they were with him when they met Macron, the Rahul saga may not yet be at an end.