Devil’s Alternative

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Jatin Gandhi in Open the Magazine:

On 19 January, sycophantic Congressmen went ecstatic over the Congress Working Committee’s declaration in Jaipur that Rahul Gandhi would be the party’s new Vice-President and official No 2. They still can’t stop talking of how Gandhi’s address at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session the next day tugged at the heart of everyone in the audience. The three-day event, which included a two-day Chintan Shivir (introspection conference) and the AICC meet, was reduced to partymen first demanding a greater role for Gandhi and then lauding the announcement.

Across the political divide, cadres of the Bharatiya Janata Party have started referring to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi with the same reverence that contemporary Congressmen reserve for the Nehru-Gandhis. And Lutyen’s Delhi saw similar scenes of madness at the principal opposition party’s Ashoka Road office last month when Modi visited. The symbolism at play in the two events is hard to miss. While the 127-year-old party shifted the action to the City of Royals to anoint a Nehru-Gandhi successor to its top leadership (in effect, its PM-in-waiting), Modi made a journey to India’s capital a day after he was sworn in as Gujarat Chief Minister for the fourth time in a row. Though Modi was officially in Delhi to attend a meeting of the National Development Council chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the highlight of the trip was his reception at the party’s headquarters amid chants of “PM! PM! PM!”

At his victory speech in Gujarat a week before this trip, his followers had similarly shouted for him to make a pitch for the BJP’s PM candidacy. Though he had won the state election, Modi chose to speak in Hindi instead of Gujarati as he usually does within the state.

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