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Rahul’s speech shows what's wrong with the Opposition in India

Amitabh Tiwari
·Columnist
·5-min read

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government in Parliament during a debate on Budget 2021 on 11th of February.

"You all must remember the saying we used for family planning -- 'Hum do, humare do'. This government has given that slogan a new meaning. The country is run by four people. 'Hum do, aur hamare do'," said Rahul. He, however, did not name anyone, declaring instead, "everyone knows them".

He asserted that the farm laws will not only ruin farmers, but finish the middlemen and have a "devastating effect" on small shopkeepers, small businessmen and will "destroy" India's rural economy.

When the Bharatiya Janata Party members heckled him for not sticking to the topic of discussion - the Budget - he retorted by saying that ‘agriculture is also part of the budget’.

Rahul has been using such barbs against the Modi government like - ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’, ‘chowkidar chor hai’, ‘Adani-Ambani ki sarkar’ and now ‘hum do, hamare do’ - which have had limited success.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tore apart Rahul’s charge of crony capitalism with facts and figures on February 12. She highlighted that 1.69 crore farmers have benefited from e-NAM, 9 crore under Fasal Bima Yojana and 11 crore under PM Kisan Nidhi. More than Rs 27,000 crore have been disbursed to small and medium businesses under MUDRA yojana.

She added that the budgetary provisions have been made for the poor, dalits, farmers and students.

Rahul Gandhi has, time and again, displayed his inability to judge the pulse of the nation correctly. It is these antics that has led to a dip in his popularity ratings.

As per India Today Mood of the Nation survey of January 2021, Rahul Gandhi has virtually ceased to be a challenge to Modi. While 38% respondents said Narendra Modi should return as the next prime minister of India, the closest second is Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, named by 10%, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah by 8%. Only 7% of people find Rahul as a worthy next prime minister.

Congress and other Opposition parties have latched on to the farmers’ protests, but people clearly understand that it is a people’s protest and they want to take mileage out of it for political reasons.

The two biggest protests against the Modi 2.0 dispensation have been the anti-CAA and anti-farm bill agitation, with nearly zero contribution from the Congress or the Opposition parties.

The Opposition has failed to properly counter Modi even during the unprecedented crisis arising out of the lockdown and resulting in a migrant crisis.

The speeches of Opposition leaders in Parliament on important debates show how ill prepared they are, lacking content and high on rhetoric.

According to Choi Young-il, a political commentator and adjunct professor at Kyung Hee Cyber University, there are three points to be a successful Opposition:

1. The first is criticising the government’s shortcomings,

2. The second is providing an alternative to it, and

3. The third is cooperating with the government when it is doing a good job.

The first point is very important. Don’t criticise just for the sake of criticising. The Opposition also needs to sift and choose from the issues which are likely to resonate with the voter. During the Lok Sabha elections 2019, farm/rural distress, unemployment, economic slowdown were big issues.

However, the Congress chose to take up the Rafale issue vociferously. That didn’t ring a bell with the people. After the Balakot strike, some leaders of opposition demanded proof from the government, shooting themselves in the foot.

And thus providing an opportunity to the Modi government to ride on the nationalism plank.

The second point lends credibility to the Opposition. Just pointing out loopholes / shortcomings of the incumbent will not be sufficient for the Opposition. The Opposition also needs to prepare and share with voters their blueprint of action and show how they will do better than the incumbent, solve the problems.

So just saying that the Farm Bill is anti-annadata or the Budget is anti-poor won’t help its cause. What is their version of pro-farmer reform? How different would their Budget have been to bring relief to the poor? Why didn’t it present a shadow budget before the public for debate?

The Grand Old Party has ruled the country for more than 50 years and has many stalwarts who have handled important portfolios. Why doesn’t the party use their experience and present an alternate vision, Congress party’s vision on farm laws, budget document before the public? Why doesn't it pass a model agriculture reform bill in one of the states it rules and put it up?

My favourite is the third point. The Opposition needs to support the government when it is doing a good job like the Balakot strike. India needs both the government and the Opposition to face crisis situations.

Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had hailed Indira Gandhi as Goddess ‘Durga’ after India defeated Pakistan in 1971 leading to the creation of Bangladesh. The prime minister as well on numerous occasions has hailed the contribution of former prime ministers in the growth and development of the country.

Opposition parties shouldn’t shy away from complimenting as it is taken positively by the public. Just criticising for its sake is no good.

They need to learn from their mistakes and adopt the three point model of Choi Young-il.

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