Rahul Gandhi today made the declaration that he will continue to highlight what he describes as “the truth” about China encroaching upon Indian territory, even if it costs him his political career.
“I don’t care if I don’t have a political career after that but I am going to say the truth as far as the India territory is concerned,” Mr Gandhi said.
The ruling BJP was quick to retort that Mr Gandhi’s offer is an empty one because his career in fact has already tanked.
“Your political career ended soon after it took off. The people of this country don’t see him has any leader. It ended in 2019, and now, you are determined to kill the future of the Congress party,” BJP MP and national spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said.
In a 1 minute 20 second video released today on social media, Mr Gandhi debuted the fourth in a series of video testimonials about his opinion on the border standoff with China. He has alleged that the government is concealing facts and that China’s incursion on Indian land is irrefutable.
A growing group within his own party, the Congress, feels his approach is questionable. “He does not talk to us and we have no idea who is advising him,” said a member of this group of critics who will not take on Mr Gandhi publicly because of their party’s unwavering fidelity to the notion of the Gandhis as the unquestionable holder of its fortune.
At the party’s press conference today, Mr Chidambaram, former Finance Minister, was asked whether he has been consulted on Mr Gandhi’s airing of his foreign policy perspective. Mr Chidambaram tellingly responded that he has not served as Defence or Foreign Minister. He said Mr Gandhi does sometimes seek his opinion ” but not for these videos”.
In recent weeks, two major political crises, involving first Jyotiraditya Scindia and then Sachin Pilot, have triggered a low-volume internal debate over whether the Congress’ First Family is allowing disasters that could have been stymied, in part because Mr Gandhi and his mother, Sonia, are being counselled by different teams which pull in opposite directions. Both Mr Scindia and Mr Pilot, seen as toppers in the party’s slender count of young, able leaders, revolted against what they describe as the Old Guard’s ganging up against them to ensure there is no transfer of power to the next generation.
Mr Scindia cost the Congress its government in Madhya Pradesh. Mr Pilot seems wholly committed to attempting the same in Rajasthan. Within the Congress, there have been questions about whether Mr Gandhi, who quit as party president after the general election last year, is being allowed to exercise power without responsibility – though his mother is the party chief now, it is largely his opinion that seems to matter and drive strategy.
The same section of closet critics claims that Mrs Gandhi makes much more of an effort to get a detailed brief before taking a public stand – in illustration, they cite her questioning of the Prime Minister at a meeting of all parties that he called in June to discuss the seething border hostility with China.
“She consults us and takes an overview. Look at the pointed questions she asked to the PM at the all-party meeting,” a leader said. When asked why her son follows a different model, he said, “He (Rahul Gandhi) probably thinks we are useless people and his advisors know best.”
This constant friction between veteran members of the Congress, who see themselves as Team Sonia, and its younger lot clogs much of the party’s inner life. Team Sonia feels that Mr Gandhi’s comments on India’s relationship with China lack depth and isolate the Congress as an entity that is needlessly attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a matter of national security. They also point out that Mr Gandhi has on a few occasions attacked the PM over policies that were in fact introduced when the Congress was in power.
In June, the PM said in a televised address that no outsider had crossed India’s border. His statement was based on a deadly clash in June, the worst in five decades, that saw 20 soldiers killed and nearly 75 others injured in a face-off with China in eastern Ladakh. Both countries since then have been working on disengagement at a series of hot spots. Indian military officials as also Defence Minister Rajnath Singh have made clear that the process is not an easy one, with China reneging on some terms and conditions.