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HomePoliticsSaffron Scoop | 'Reinvented' Rahul Can't Just Walk Away from 'Pappu' Tag,...

Saffron Scoop | ‘Reinvented’ Rahul Can’t Just Walk Away from ‘Pappu’ Tag, Say BJP Leaders


Saffron Scoop

Rahul Gandhi’s newfound passion for unifying India, by walking hundreds of kilometres over months, has indeed enthused some Congress workers and sympathisers. While many Bharatiya Janata Party leaders say it is good for the health of the Nehru-Gandhi scion to walk regularly, they are mystified about the objective of the yatra and what he hopes to achieve by undertaking it.

Over the past few months, the Congress has been trying to reinvent Rahul Gandhi’s image once again through the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The grand old party seems to be upbeat about the prospects of the ‘yuvraj’ achieving a newer and more acceptable persona that can find more acceptance with voters ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

However, despite spending so much effort and money on the complete image makeover of the Lok Sabha lawmaker, the move isn’t making many heads turn and take notice in the Bharatiya Janata Party. The saffron outfit feels that the yatra is the latest of several attempts by the Congress to get the Wayanad MP out of the “Pappu” image.

Should BJP be worried that Rahul’s walkathon has become the talk of the town among Indian voters?

No, says almost everyone in the BJP that News18 spoke to. According to discussions in the inner circles of the party that take place whenever Rahul’s attempt to emerge as a mass leader through the cross-country walk is taken up, the Congress is trying desperately to help Rahul lose the ‘Pappu’ tag that stuck to him due to his comments and takes on several issues. The most recent one, they say, was fear of the cold as the reason that people were wearing warm clothes.

While some are looking at the yatra as Rahul’s attempt to re-establish himself as the leader of the party and unite the cadre, many believe that his actions contradict whatever he is out on the roads to achieve. And the current example is Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections from which he was almost completely missing.

Many in the BJP were amazed by his actions and say Congress leaders, in their private conversations with their BJP counterparts, expressed dismay at seeing him addressing just two rallies and focusing more on his ambitious yatra. This too benefitted the BJP as it created history by winning Gujarat for the seventh time in a row with a record majority.

The BJP leaders maintained that Rahul Gandhi is their star campaigner and whenever he speaks the party gains more votes. But is the reinvented, confident Rahul, a concern for the BJP in assembly or state elections? Or does the BJP believe that Rahul would do more harm to regional parties, helping the saffron outfit win handsomely?

Rahul Gandhi had been the BJP’s favourite, say leaders, and whenever there are elections around and if he addresses a rally, many of them would listen just to have fun at his expense. “Whatever he spoke, out of his ignorance of common knowledge about the lives of the common man or on a subject that is technical, it has always worked for us as he stood exposed,” stated a senior leader.

‘Paidal chalne se kamata hai , bolne se ganwata hai’

Has Rahul’s perception in the public changed, and is BJP concerned?

The answer is apparently a big “no”. The BJP still mocks him when he tries to be impromptu and witty in his replies. As a senior BJP leader puts it, “Paidal chalne se kamata hai , bolne se ganwata hai (He earns when he walks but loses all when he speaks). Does he not know or is told that speaking against Savarkar and RSS in Maharashtra will be unacceptable to the people of the state? I wonder who gives him those ideas, and will he ever be able to overcome his follies? People mock him.”

What has Bharat Jodo Yatra achieved, wonders BJP?

Party leaders say when Adi Shankaracharya began his tour of the country, it was with a purpose. The purpose was to revive and protect the Hindu religion. To revive the culturally and traditionally rich heritage. What is being asked around is what is Rahul Gandhi achieving out of his “paidal yatra”.

“Nothing. There may be places where his party workers may feel rejuvenated but nothing more,” opined a BJP leader. The party strategists, in fact, were quick to point out that the Wayanad MP didn’t visit any important Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu from where he began his yatra.

‘Opposition unity is a distant dream’

“Majoritarianism and nationalism are two main planks where BJP is strong, led by a round-the-clock working leader in the form of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. What will an aimless yatra achieve? Congress knows 2024 is a gone scenario. The popularity of the PM has increased over the years,” reasoned a BJP leader.

The BJP is well aware of the Congress’s desperation as it tries to turn Rahul into a genuine contender in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the 2024 polls. But the saffron party feels that by undertaking this yatra, Rahul may be trying to prove himself as a worthy leader to the Congress party and he isn’t yet ready to take on the top BJP leadership. This was evident as the Congress struggled to present a united front in Rajasthan during the yatra.

“I think he is out to unite Congress rather than the country and even that goal seems to be unattained as the fissures between the state leaders in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, and Rajasthan are out in public. So, one wonders why is he even walking?” said one of the leaders.

The BJP top leadership doesn’t seem to be bothered much by the Congress’s attempts to resurrect Rahul’s image as they feel that by undertaking this yatra, the party has so far not even been able to establish the Wayanad MP as a leader who is taken seriously within its own ranks.

It is a widely held view in the BJP that the repeated attempts at creating new avatars for the Gandhi scion will not prove to be beneficial for the Congress as his current image was built over decades and it would take a similar amount of time to carve out a new one.

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