After declaring that he has detailed information to establish Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “personal corruption,” Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi will reportedly meet with PM Modi today at parliament. The agenda is for Mr Gandhi to present a list of demands – including substantial loan waivers – that he says he accumulated from farmers during his extensive tour of Uttar Pradesh, which will vote soon for its next government.
On Wednesday, Mr Gandhi was picked by opposition leaders from as many as 15 parties to speak on their behalf. “Read my lips,” he told reporters at parliament, before claiming that PM Modi is “terrified” by the likelihood of “detailed information about his personal corruption” being shared by Mr Gandhi in parliament. This, the Congress No 2 concluded, is why the government has refused to yield to the opposition’s demand for a debate in parliament that will be followed by a vote on its sudden cancellation of high-denomination notes.
The BJP appraised Mr Gandhi as “desperate” and said he has delivered “the year’s biggest joke.” It is in this context that Mr Gandhi has sought time with the PM, whose decision to outlaw 500- and 1,000-rupee notes he has attacked “as a huge scam.” The BJP’s response: the Congress, linked to mega financial swindles till it lost the general election, should pipe down about scams.
In 2014, it was Mr Gandhi who was pushed by the Congress as its option to PM Modi in the campaign for the national election. The initiative climaxed for the country’s oldest party in its worst-ever result: 44 Lok Sabha members. After that, Mr Gandhi has been unable to stem electoral defeats in states held by his party, Kerala and Assam among them.
In September, he toured Uttar Pradesh for nearly a month using a bus. Billed “Kisan (farmer) Yatra”, the program, designed by strategist Prashant Kishor, included large meetings where farmers were seated on cots to resemble village gatherings. Problematically at the beginning, farmers rushed away at the end of the sessions carrying the cots, which had been hired, on their heads. The Congress alleges that the PM forms only industry-friendly policies at the cost of farmers’ interests and rights.
Uttar Pradesh has 403 seats in its assembly. In the last state election, the Congress won just 28. In the national election two years ago, Mr Gandhi and his mother, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, were the only Congress parliamentarians to be re-elected.
Winning the state will give the ruling BJP a huge boost and serve as a huge endorsement of PM Modi’s risky demonetisation drive aimed at checking black money. The result will also be used to measure his chances of retaining power when India chooses its next Prime Minister in 2019.