Will Rafale Controversy Hurt BJP in 2019 Elections?

Will Rafale Controversy Hurt BJP in 2019 Elections?


Political parties have gone into a high-octane campaign mode with only few months left for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Congress’s campaign on Rafale deal, which has been joined by many from the Opposition parties, has emerged as a key issue. But does this resonate with the voters?

Rafale Controversy: More of a Perception Game?

After the Supreme Court gave it’s nod to the Rafale deal, the controversy survives more on unanswered questions by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) than legal evidence.

Speaking to BloombergQuint, Arti Jerath, senior editor, The Times of India, said that just like Bofors scam, Rafale controversy too has become more of a pre-election perception game and just like there was nothing proved in the former, it stuck with Rajiv Gandhi.

Also Read : Rafale Deal Rocks Parl, Bill to Amend Aadhaar Act Passed in LS

“It is a lot like Bofors (scam), it was also a perception game; nothing was really proved- no money trail led to Rajiv Gandhi. The Congress is trying to do similar with Rafale. They are trying to drag it enough for it to stick to PM Modi.”
Arti Jerath, Senior Editor, Times of India

Is It an Election Issue Yet?

When asked if the controversy is big enough to become an election issue, Sanjay Kumar, Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and Co-Director, Lokniti, said that the efforts by the Congress party have succeeded, but it’s a very limited success.

According to him, although more and more people are getting aware of the deal and that there is something wrong with it, but it is not enough to hurt BJP’s 2019 electoral prospects.

R Jagannathan, editorial director, Swarajya, said issues like Rafale controversy matter more in an “elite” conversation in Delhi, but it will be issues like farming that will turn the elections. He also pointed out the Congress, itself, is facing the National Herald case currently.

Also Read : Can't comment on offset partners in Rafale deal on basis of media reports: Sitharaman

“On ground it (Rafale controversy) will not have much resonance because there, who cares if something happened in Rafale or if Anil Ambani got some favours. Their life won’t turn on what happens here (sic).”
R Jagannathan, Editorial Director, Swarajya

Who Has the Edge?

Whereas the Congress party is continuously posing questions on the deal, the BJP’s Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday, 4 January tried answering few in Parliament.

With the non stop question-answer trail, maintaining edge right before elections is important for both the key parties and according to Arti Jerath, Rahul is leading right now.

“Rahul Gandhi gave a very impressive performance in the Parliament. It was simple bullet points. The other side went into details and when you talk about details in a defence deal, you lose audience.”
Arti Jerath, Senior Editor, The Times of India

She also said that the government’s failure to provide any answer on actual pricing places it on a back foot.

“So far Rahul Gandhi has made sharper points to sell to the public at large. BJP's arguments don't find resonance because it is difficult to explain all these things,” said R Jagannathan.

Also Read : Rahul vs Sitharaman on Rafale: What Went Down in the Lok Sabha

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