After a high-intensity battle for Karnataka, that saw the INC-JD(S) win, Congress President Rahul Gandhi spoke to the media and also took questions. He appeared confident and sharp and raised some key issues that set the stage for the electoral landscape ahead.
Here are some key points –
Nationalism: One of the first things Congress President pointed out was that BJP legislators chose to get up and leave the house before the national anthem. For a party like the BJP that sources a large part of its discourse from symbolic ideas of nationalism – like playing the national anthem before movie screenings, brands any dissenter as an anti-national, and attempts to impose a majoritarian national identity glossing over the plurality, this disrespect to the national anthem becomes shocking. Incidentally, supporters of the BJP, as well as BJP friendly media, are the first to raise a massive hue and cry if someone fails to stand during a national anthem – recently a disabled man was abused and few people beaten in cinema halls for not standing up.
Corruption: Rahul Gandhi attacked the BJP on massive corruption that followed in the aftermath of the Karnataka election results. He pointed out that the idea that PM is fighting corruption has proven to be a blatant lie with the horse-trading that commenced after results and attempts that were made to purchase MLAs. Gandhi stated – “In a way, he (PM Modi) symbolizes this horse-trading and corruption. He is doing everything – everything to subvert the constitution.” Kumaraswamy alleged BJP was offering 100 crores to MLAs for switching over and later INC released several audiotapes proving the fact.
Constitution and institutions: This was the most important theme in Gandhi’s press conference. Reiterating the faith in judiciary he said that the PM is attacking and disrespecting every institution of the country. He pointed out that Karnataka elections proved that, “… PM is not bigger than India. The PM in not bigger than the people of India. The Prime Minister is not bigger than the Supreme Court. The Prime Minister is not bigger than the Parliament and the Vidhan Sabha. The Prime Minister needs to stop thinking that he is bigger than every single Institution in this country.” It must be noted that SC’s decision to reduce the time frame for proving majority proved to be one of the key factors for BJP’s loss. While horse-trading was attempted (along with coercion), it failed.
Media: Rahul Gandhi included media as one of the institutions that was under attack. While he lauded the some of the ‘brave’ media he stated that “some of you need a little bit of may be supported or push from us to attack and speak the truth.” He hit the nail on the head. This election saw one of the most biased and unethical coverages by the media. Some anchors laughed when horse-trading was suggested. Buying of MLAs was seen as an excellent political strategy. Alliance protecting its MLAs was seen as a grave injustice by the media. The resignation was seen as a ‘major moral and political victory’, followed by a discussion on how BJP will benefit from this. The gloom that descended upon some anchors after the resignation was laughable at best and embarrassing at worst.
RSS ideology: lastly Rahul Gandhi attacked the RSS ideology. He pointed out that no institution was immune from the attack from the RSS including the office of governor. It must be noted that this election renewed the debate around the role of the governor. Karnataka’s governor Vala, a long-term RSS man, not only refused to honour the post-poll alliance but also gave as many as 15 days to the BJP to prove majority. Gandhi pointed out that this was a symptom of the larger problem – the RSS control on institutions – and the “next man will do exactly the same thing.”
Rahul Gandhi’s press conference foreshadowed some interesting ideas for the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections 2019: that the role of institutions will be under scrutiny, that tactical alliances might see opposition unity, and that the battles will continue to be fought on ideology.
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