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By Sushil Kutty

The Congress has less than 60 days to stop Narendra Modi from becoming Prime Minister again. And allowing Modi to set the electoral agenda is not how it should be done. The electorate wants an alternate plan of action and Modi should be rightly attacked on his many broken promises, his omissions and commissions. His bluff on national security should be called out and ‘Rafale’ shouldn’t be consigned to the hangar. But will these be enough?

The theme of the Congress Working Committee meeting in Ahmedabad Tuesday was “Gandhi and Godse”, symbolizing “love and hatred”. Modi’s ‘Feku’ image was at the core of the discussions. Turn the pages back to before Pulwama and Narendra Modi and the BJP were in deep-sh*t trouble. Modi was getting hammered on his record on jobs and unemployment, BJP spokespersons unable to defend him on missing jobs data and insurrection at the NSSO.

Modi’s ‘Feku’ image was tightening around his neck to the point where it was the proverbial albatross. It looked like nothing could save him from the wrath of farmers and youth, one in distress – at the end of the tether – the other in despair, their futures bleak. By January 31, the Modi Government was at a loss for words and the headlines spoke the story, loudly.

Then, out of the Kashmir fog, Pulwama happened. Massive intelligence failure and homegrown terrorism! The result of a failed Kashmir policy, forgotten in the dastardly nature of the attack, the twisted skeletal remains of the bus and body parts found scores of metres away. Modi called for national unity, asking that nobody use Pulwama for political and electoral benefits. The Opposition listened and spoke in one voice.

But the saying “trusted like a fox” applies to certain people. True to his style, Modi shifted the goalposts. Keeping to his notorious reputation, he reneged against his own advice to the Opposition to close ranks behind the government and not politicize national security. The BJP openly politicized national security by claiming credit for Balakote (“Modi’s political will”) even while hailing the IAF’s precision strikes and Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s bravery in the face of the enemy.

Post-Balakote, Modi became hero. The avenging angel. Protector of India’s borders. And Modi made a clean getaway on his many broken promises. The military build-up was not at the borders but in the minds of the people. The National War Memorial was one more link in the fence. Patriotism consumed all other issues. ‘Ghar Mein Ghuske Marenge’ drowned ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’, in its repetition and decibels.

Today, the Opposition is in total disarray. With no help from Mahagathbandan and Federal Front, Rahul Gandhi stands lonely on the burning deck. Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav; Mamata Banerjee and Chandrababu Naidu, none of the vaunted have time for the Congress. Pulwama and Balakote have limited them to their regional fiefdoms. Brigade Grounds in Kolkata is a distant memory, a Mirage!

The Mirage 2000s, which struck deep in Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa, not only broke the JeM’s back, they also left opposition unity in shards. Mayawati said Tuesday the BSP will have no alliance with the Congress anywhere. And the Congress does not want any tie-up with the AAP in Delhi. The Ahmedabad CWC Tuesday sought to cut losses with a return to “asli” issues: unemployment and farmers-distress, compel Modi to answer to his many failed promises.

The CWC resolution made a distinction between Modi’s “broken promises” and the Congress party’s “kept promises”. It said while the BJP routinely dishonoured electoral promises, the Congress always honoured the promises it made, right from “MGNREGA on.” It also asked Modi “not to play with people’s emotions” by building a sense of insecurity in the country. Sonia Gandhi charged Modi with “compromising national security for electoral benefits.”

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra made her “debut” and asked Modi to stop “lying” to the people. Rahul Gandhi resurrected Rafale from the debris of Balakote and led the crowd in shouting ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’. It was planned, working to a strategy, perhaps to be fine-tuned in the coming days. But the question remains: Will the course correction draw the people’s attention back to the “asli” issues, blunt Modi’s Balakote-advantage?

Modi is the sort of person who is consumed by his own infallibility. And the BJP is building him into a cult figure. Omnipotent. The one person who can save the country from its enemies, external and internal. The impression given to the Great Unwashed is that Narendra Modi can never go wrong. That he’s the only leader who has India’s interests at heart.

And the legions who follow him believe! It’s Black Magic. Voodoo! The “bhakts” are in a trance. The fence-sitters are hypnotized. Sections of the media are co-opted to build the Modi cult. ‘Modified television anchors’ are openly threatening “guests” to prove allegiance to India, stand with Modi. It is now about more than Modi’s broken promises. It’s about what’s in the future. Modi has correctly diagnosed that over-dependence on the Nehru-Gandhi family is the Congress’s Achilles Heel. The larger-than-life image of Modi is to cut “dynasty” to size.

And less than 60 days are too few days to move the axis. The Axis lost WW-II because the Allies were united. Neither did Prime Minister Winston Churchill nor did President Franklin Delano Roosevelt look for personal or respective nation’s glory. They fought as one and defeated the Dictator. There is no such unity of purpose in the Opposition – Rahul Gandhi and Mayawati, Mamata. Divided they will fall and the cult of Modi will rise. Even today, at this late stage, the Congress should declare Rahul Gandhi its PM Candidate and give the electorate a clear choice: Dictator Vs. Dynast. Choose. (IPA Service)

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