Repositioning brand Rahul as a frontline political leader seems to be in the works

The dramatic bear hug, wink and moments of levity displayed by Congress president Rahul Gandhi provided moments of interest during the no-confidence motion but the final vote count did not hold any major surprises. The daylong drama played out on Friday in Parliament, however, has thrown up sharp hints on the way political realignments may happen in next few months. Repositioning brand Rahul Gandhi as a frontline political leader to take on the Modi-Shah juggernaut seems to be in the works. His attack on the government got sharper, his narrative interspersed with easy one-liners meant for the news channels in search of headlines and going bilingual seems to be by design. His arguments on the Rafale deal were incisive, charges serious and pointed. When defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman flashed the ‘secret’ ‘confidentiality’ agreement with France signed by her UPA predecessor AK Antony on the Rafale deal, he countered with details of a meeting with the French president.

There are evidently two ways of looking at the Congress president’s attack on the government and the prime minister: one, that in his efforts to take on Modi, he might have bitten off more than he could chew, and second, that in standing up to a strong prime minister, he had shown commendable spunk.

In essence, though, there is no denying that he managed to grab eyeballs with his ‘Jade kid jhuppi’ and was ‘trending’ on social networking sites. That may not suffice, though. Rahul Gandhi may have to script an effective alternative political narrative to counter the BJP and the Modi-Shah combine and turn more combative. He would have to offer a substantive socio-economic development model. Meanwhile, on political realignment, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and AIADMK of Palanisami and Pannerselvam not going the whole hog with opposition is good news for the BJP and NDA. Fractures within the opposition camp for whatever reason will come handy for Modi when he seeks a second term in office.

Not losing any of the NDA allies during the trust vote was yet another positive for the BJP. Not only did the NDA hold its flock, it also managed to drive a wedge in the mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) in the making at national level. The TDP led by N. Chandrababu Naidu, the prime mover of the no confidence motion is the biggest loser. Given that several other issues crowded into the no confidence debate, the party’s ‘special status’ demand was easily forgotten after Galla Jayadev’s speech. For the opposition camp, the SP-BSP sticking together along with nationalist Congress Party and the Trinamool Congress Party of Mamata Banerjee with the Congress working as the glue is a huge heft. This could, in fact, be the starting point for a wider opposition pact. More political deals cannot be ruled out especially in southern and eastern states where the BJP is betting big. The trust vote only reflected the battle lines being drawn for the big fight ahead.