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Analysing PM Modi's Assault on Congress in His Final Address to Parliament

Modi seeks to portray the Congress as disconnected from the aspirations of modern India.

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Opinion
4 min read
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi's final addresses (of this term) to both Houses transcended the customary reply to the President's address, morphing into a battle cry for the impending electoral fray. With a flourish of seasoned eloquence, he summoned the full gamut of his oratorical skills—fire, sarcasm, and rhetoric—to weave a narrative that was less a discourse on policy than a strategic assault on the Opposition, with the Congress in the crosshairs.

The pièce de résistance of Modi's strategy is the deliberate dismantling of the grand old party. He astutely acknowledges that despite its current frailty, the Congress remains the only entity with the historical gravitas and potential to challenge the BJP's (Bharatiya Janata Party) dominion. Whether as a direct rival in several states or as part of an alliance elsewhere, the Congress is the foil against which the BJP seeks to sharpen its competitive edge.

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Modi's Strategy Extends Beyond Mere Vilification of the Congress

Prime Minister Modi unleashed a barrage of familiar tropes in his assault, invoking the spectres of Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and the dynastic lineage, coupled with accusations of stagnation, corruption, and a regressive "cancel culture." His narrative meticulously crafts the Congress as a relic of the past, mired in inertia and negativity, while extolling the BJP as the harbinger of a dynamic and positive future for the nation.

Through the deft manipulation of historical quotes and selective interpretations, Modi seeks to portray the Congress as disconnected from the aspirations of modern India, its leadership tainted by allegations of nepotism and incompetence.

Crucially, Modi's strategy extends beyond mere vilification of the Congress; it aims to fracture and fragment the nascent opposition alliance, preventing its cohesion around the Congress. By sparing regional parties from direct censure, Modi tacitly acknowledges their potential utility in future political equations while simultaneously consolidating the BJP's national dominance. This approach harks back to the classic tactic of "divide and rule," calculated to undermine any concerted opposition to the BJP's hegemony.

Yet, amidst the cacophony of political rhetoric, one question looms large: Will the electorate succumb to the allure of promises or demand accountability for the present? Only time will unveil the answer as India navigates the intricate labyrinth of its democratic destiny.

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The Congress is Still the BJP's Real Ideological Nemesis

The Congress, despite its recent wobbles, remains synonymous with secularism, inclusivity, and social justice. These values stand in stark contrast to the BJP's Hindutva-driven nationalism, which often flirts with majoritarianism and exclusion. It's a clash of visions for India's soul, a battle between pluralism and a more homogenous identity.

The BJP understands this inherent conflict. While they may dismiss Congress as anachronistic, they recognize its potential to mobilise against their agenda. The Congress's historical legacy of leading India's freedom struggle and crafting its secular constitution remains a powerful counterpoint to the BJP's revisionist narratives.

However, the tragedy lies in Congress's inability to fully leverage this heritage. The party's dependence on the Gandhi family, while crucial in some ways, has also created a perception of dynastic entitlement and blurred its ideological focus. This self-inflicted wound allows the BJP to paint Congress as out of touch and irrelevant, despite its ideological relevance.

To reclaim its rightful place as the BJP's true ideological adversary, Congress must shed its internal baggage and re-embrace its core values. It needs to articulate a vision of India that resonates with the aspirations of all its citizens, regardless of their faith or background. This means not just relying on past glories but actively engaging with contemporary issues, offering concrete solutions, and building a broader coalition beyond the Gandhi family. If it falters, the alternative is a BJP unchecked, and the consequences for India's diverse society could be profound.

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The Strategy Has its Risks

Unlike smaller regional parties, Congress has a pan-India presence and a history of forming strong coalitions. Weakening Congress effectively diminishes the potential for a united opposition, making an independent BJP victory more likely. Simple electoral arithmetic.

This targeted strategy exposes a pragmatic, rather than ideological, approach by the BJP. While criticising the Left's ideology might serve a purpose, their limited electoral impact makes them a non-threat. Similarly, regional parties pose challenges only if bolstered by a strong Congress. Thus, dismantling the grand old party's fortress becomes the central strategy.

However, this singular focus has its risks.

Focusing solely on the Congress might underestimate the potential for regional alliances to coalesce, especially on critical issues like inflation or unemployment. Additionally, neglecting ideological battles can erode the BJP's own core values and leave them vulnerable to accusations of opportunism.

The prime minister's recent scathing attack on Congress has left observers wondering: will it invigorate the anti-Congress electorate or backfire with a sympathy shift? On the one hand, the speech aimed to energise the BJP's core base, reminding them of Congress's perceived shortcomings. This strategy could resonate with voters disillusioned by Congress's past or those seeking a strong alternative.

However, the risk lies in overplaying the hand. Excessive negativity can backfire, pushing undecided voters away and even garnering sympathy for the Congress. The constant harping on past issues might be seen as an attempt to deflect from current challenges, raising questions about the BJP's own record.

[The author teaches journalism at St. Xavier's College (autonomous), Kolkata, and is a columnist (He tweets at @sayantan_gh.) This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.]

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Topics:  Congress   PM Modi 

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