When its leaders made personal attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the past, the Congress often found itself on the back foot.
Objectionable personal remarks by Congress leaders against PM Modi put the party on the defensive while the BJP, led by Modi, turned it into ammunition for poll pitches.
It seems that reaction of the Congress is now a thing of the past.
A confident Congress in Karnataka is choosing to go on the offensive this time, doubling down on its criticism of Modi even as he attempts to turn “abuses” into poll pitches.
‘PM cries, cribs’
“This is the first time I have seen a prime minister who comes before you and cries that he is being abused. Instead of listening to your woes, he cribs about his woes to you,” AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said during her public rally in Jamkhandi in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka.
Her direct rebuttal to Modi came a day after he claimed that he was given a list of the 91 times the Congress abused him.
He reiterated his charge against the Congress for “abusing” him during his election rallies on Sunday as well.
Modi’s “abuse” pitch came after AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge likened him to a “poisonous snake“.
While Kharge backtracked on his statement but insisted that he BJP-RSS ideology was venomous, the Congress as a party, it seems, has decided to “call out” the tried and tested strategy of Modi to convert such remarks into poll pitches.
“It is bizarre. I have seen many prime ministers in the past. Indira Gandhi took a bullet for this country. Rajiv Gandhi was martyred for this country. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh worked day and night for this country. But this is the first time I have seen a prime minister who comes to you and cries,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said.
This stance of the Congress is a clear departure from past instances where the party had to struggle to defend itself as the BJP and Modi turned its leaders’ personal remarks into electoral currency.
A chuckling Priyanka Gandhi Vadra used Modi’s own words to insist that his “abuse” pitch was a diversionary tactic.
“Someone in his office has made a list. It is not a list of your problems. It isn’t a list of the issues farmers face and what the government should do to solve them. But this list is about how many times who has abused Modi. At least this list fits on a sheet of paper. If we start making a list of abuses they have heaped on my family, we can list one book after another,” she said.
“He is making this all about himself because he has nothing to say about you. What will he speak if he has to speak about you? If he is to speak about farmers, women or youth or development or progress — he has nothing to say. Hence this attempt to ensure this election is not fought on issues of your concerns, your struggles, effort, aspirations and your future,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra added.
No sooner did she deem Modi’s attempt to use “abuse” as a diversionary tactic from real issues, Congress leaders were quick to take the campaign forward claiming that “CryPM” was attempted to deflect from “PayCM” — insinuating that Modi was attempting to deflect from allegations of corruptions against the Basavaraj Bommai government.
0.56 inch CryPM defending 40% PayCM
Summary of BJP’s Karnataka campaign! pic.twitter.com/fr04cdodbp
— Srivatsa (@srivatsayb) April 30, 2023
CryPM is diverting from PayCM! https://t.co/8BSLpxPOjt
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) April 30, 2023
It was only a matter of time before members of other opposition parties picked up on the slogan to go after BJP and PM Narendra Modi.
— YSR (@ysathishreddy) April 30, 2023
The Congress’ offensive on the BJP and Modi comes at a time several BJP leaders and political observers have insisted that Kharge’s statement was a “folly” and could “cost the Congress”.
Unlike in the past when the party has had to take a step back and indulge in damage control every time its leaders made personal remarks on Modi, Congress has changed its tactic in Karnataka this time.
Priyanka also had a word of advice for Modi, pointing out that one had to take such attacks in their stride in public life, and counselled him to learn from her brother Rahul Gandhi.
“Have courage, Modi ji. Learn from my brother Rahul Gandhi. My brother says he is ready to take a bullet — not just abuse — for the sake of this country. My brother says he will stand for truth, whether you abuse, shoot a bullet or stab with a knife,” Vadra said.
“Don’t fear Modi ji, this is public life and one has to bear such things. One needs to have courage and move forward,” she said, adding, “Now that I’m talking to you, let me tell you, if you learn one more thing it will be good: listen to the voice of the people.”
(With PTI inputs)