Rahul Gandhi – The Man of the Moment

Featured & Cover Rahul Gandhi The Man of the Moment (Indian Currents)

On July 1, 2024, Rahul Gandhi, participating in the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address, made an astounding maiden speech as the Leader of the Opposition (LOP) in the House of the People (Lok Sabha) of Indian Parliament – the first day by a recognised LOP in a decade.

Rahul Gandhi was interrupted by Narendra Modi twice, Amit Shah four times, and four other top Ministers – Rajnath Singh, Kiren Rijiju, Bhupender Yadav and Shivraj Chavan – and other members of the treasury, citing rules and trying to prevent Rahul Gandhi from making his speech on one pretext or the other, and Amit Shah even seeking protection from the Speaker against Gandhi’s relentless attack on the government. They were rattled by his speech. He remained undeterred. The treasury benches did not expect him to make such a fiery speech that lasted more than 100 minutes and take the ruling party to task. After the House was adjourned, the Home Minister and the Parliamentary Affairs Minister met the Speakers and pressurised them to expunge certain remarks of Rahul Gandhi from the record. Some 14 portions from his speech were expunged arbitrarily, in gross violation of the norms of Parliamentary democracy. It insults the LOP, who represents the entire Opposition in the House. Rahul Gandhi wrote a letter to the Speaker protesting against this selective expunging. What he said is nothing unparliamentary or objectionable. The treasury benches simply wanted to delete the inconvenient facts from the Lok Sabha record.

The letter reads: “While the Chair derives powers to expunge certain remarks from the proceedings of the House, but the expulsion is only those kinds of words, the nature of which has been specified in Rule 380 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha. I am, however, shocked to note the manner in which considerable portions of my speech have been simply taken off from the proceedings under the garb of expunction. I am constrained to state that the portions expunged do not come under the ambit of Rule 380. What I sought to convey in the House is ground reality, the factual position. Every member of the House who personifies the collective voice of the people whom he or she represents has the freedom of speech as enshrined in Article 105(1) of the Constitution of India. It is every member’s right to raise people’s concerns on the floor of the House. It is that right and in exercise of obligations to the people of the country that I was exercising yesterday. Taking off from records, my considerable remarks go against the very tenets of parliamentary democracy. I request that the remarks expunged from the proceedings be restored.”

Speaking to the Media the next day, Rahul Gandhi said: “In Modiji’s world, truth can be expunged. But in reality, the truth can’t be expunged. I said what I had to say, that is the truth. They can expunge as much as they want. Truth is truth.” In reacting to the attack on the Congress office in Ahmedabad by the BJP workers, following his speech, he said: “The cowardly and violent attack on the Gujarat Congress office further reinforces my point about the BJP and the Sangh Parivar. BJP people who spread violence and hatred do not understand the basic principles of Hinduism.” The July 3 editorial in The Free Press Journal reads: “The essence of his address was to highlight the ethos of India, Bharat, which is fundamentally rooted in peace and non-violence… He invoked the symbolism of the open palm, a gesture widely recognised among religious leaders and icons, to emphasise the nation’s core values. Gandhi portrayed the Indian people as inherently fearless, unwilling to bow before dictators.” He resonated with many who have felt marginalised over the past five years, during a period marked by division rather than unity and recrimination rather than reconciliation. As someone who has endured political adversity and suffered ridicule and campaign of calumny for so long, his indignation was palpable, reflecting the sentiments of the people he represents.

The next day, July 2, Narendra Modi mounted a scathing attack on Congress, particularly on Rahul Gandhi, in his speech, which lasted more than two hours amid non-stop sloganeering by the Opposition. Instead of answering the issues raised by Rahul Gandhi, he spent most of his time attacking Congress, from Pandit Nehru to Rahul Gandhi, by distorting the truth and telling lies to the nation. Modi chose to personalise his attack on Rahul Gandhi, calling him ‘childish’ and ‘juvenile’ and ‘infantile’ and the Congress a ‘parasite’, demonstrating his mental bankruptcy, disrespecting the self and the high office that he holds. If Rahul Gandhi’s remarks could be expunged based on ground reality, why can Modi’s cheap and coarse words go on record? How could Modi say anything, use derogatory language, ridicule and insult the LOP, and get away with impunity? Modi was no match for Gandhi’s intellectual prowess; he came as an arrogant, poorly read, uninformed and insincere leader.

Valson Thampu, theologian and retired Principal of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, has beautifully analysed Rahul Gandhi’s speech in his YouTube videos. He calls him ‘the man of the moment for the destiny of India’ that history has thrown up. He decodes Rahul Gandhi’s ‘volcanic speech’ and describing it as ‘the most unforgettable matchless powerful historical speech’. No one actually expected an atomic bomb like this. The treasury benches were taken aback. Rahul demolished the Modi magic. He says Rahul made ‘a memorable historical speech’. The contrast between Rahul and Modi: Rahul confines himself largely to themes, patterns, and principles, as well as the issues relating to the ideology of the Sangh Parivar and how Hinduism is abused and misused. It is ideas vs personal attacks. Ideas must be countered by ideas and ideology by ideology. To Modi, it has become his second nature to attack personally, leading to the vilification of Rahul Gandhi. Sooner or later, the people of India are bound to see through it. It is utterly infantile. Modi gets fixated and obsessed with Rahul Gandhi, which makes him unwilling to adapt to the changing reality. This is not a sign of maturity. It is a self-seeking pursuit to perpetuate power.

Modi is carrying the coalition government in the same bulldozing style, as if nothing has happened. What is worrisome is that despite reduced numbers and an unequivocal message from the people, he is in no mood to concede even an inch to the Opposition. Unless and until he changes his style of functioning, he will invite more trouble from a resurgent Opposition and find it difficult to run the government. He has not understood Rahul Gandhi’s power of truth.

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