Rahul Gandhi’s Handling of Mani Shankar Aiyar Gives Him Upper Hand

Rahul Gandhi showed who’s the boss and reacted decisively in what can be termed his first decision as nearly Congress president – the suspension of Mani Shankar Aiyar for his “neech” comment on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Gandhi’s swift and tough action – he first demanded a public apology from Aiyar and then threw Aiyar out in a bid to damage control – represents a clear break from the way the Sonia Congress did things.

Aiyar’s ridiculous and ill-timed jibe that “Modi would never be PM but was free to sell tea outside the All India Congress Committee (AICC)” had virtually wrecked the Congress campaign in the 2014 general elections. Modi and the BJP capitalized on the sneer to the full.

Modi quickly used Aiyar’s comment yesterday to similar effect and Aiyar who seems to be the gift that does not stop giving to the BJP tried to brazen it out with a perfunctory non-apology. Gandhi was having none of it and Aiyar, who seems to think that he is still debating in the rarefied environs of the Shakespeare Society in St. Stephen’s college, was out. Contrast that with his motor-mouthing when the UPA was in power – he said he agreed with Digvijaya Singh “one lakh percent” that P Chidambaram was intellectually arrogant apart from serial sniping at Dr Manmohan Singh – when he faced no disciplinary action from Sonia Gandhi.
With his action yesterday, Rahul Gandhi put the Congress on notice about the kind of presidency he would run; more importantly, he has enforced new pressure on the BJP which regularly uses uncivil language to attack him.

“BJP and the PM routinely use filthy language to attack the Congress party. The Congress has a different culture and heritage. I do not appreciate the tone and language used by Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar to address the PM. Both the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said”, Gandhi tweeted. That puts Modi and the BJP in the firing line. Modi has during this Gujarat campaign referred to the Congress as “termites”; in the past, he has referred to Sonia Gandhi as a “Jersey cow” and the late Sunanda Pushkar as Shashi Tharoor’s “50-crore girlfriend”. Party President Amit Shah called Mahatma Gandhi a “chatur baniya” a few months ago; earlier this week, BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao called Gandhi a “Babur and Khilji bhakt”.

As I exposed in my investigative book, I am a Troll: Inside the BJP’s Secret Digital Army, the BJP, which cottoned on earliest to using social media as a huge electoral weapon, has made a cottage industry of abusing Gandhi and his family. “Pappu jokes” and unproven allegations were mass-manufactured by the BJP’s IT cell. This is now flourishing on an industrial scale on WhatsApp. Modi also follows more than two dozen Twitter handles which routinely issue rape and death threats and indulge in communal incitement, a fact which I exposed and which was reported by the international press. Following the gunning down of Bengaluru journalist Gauri Lankesh in September, a handle which continues to be followed by Modi gloated that “a bitch has died and her puppies are crying”.

Gandhi with his swift action has issued a challenge to the BJP, which did not ask GVL Narasimha Rao to apologise for his “Khilji” attack. In fact, post-Aiyar comment, he was visible on a Hindi channel with tears streaming down his face at the insult to Modi.


Rahul Gandhi greeted with chants of ‘Modi Modi’ in Gujarat

This is not the first time that he has been a witness to such a scenario. In a video tweeted by Delhi BJP spokesperson Tajinder Bagga, traders at the Gujarat textile markets were heard chanting ‘Modi, Modi’ when Rahul arrived at the location.

Rahul went to the temple ahead of a series of rallies that he is holding in the state on Sunday. He will also be offering prayers at Shamlaji Temple.

The elections in Gujarat are a litmus test for the Gandhi scion who is leading the charge of the campaign in the state. It also comes ahead of his elevation as Congress President.

The BJP, too, is not leaving anything to chance in what is being termed as the prestige battle for Narendra Modi and the party.



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