Congress manufactured fake row over Rafale deal to overcome limitations of its leadership, writes Arun Jaitley

Arun Jaitley
The Centre's strategy in response to repeated attacks over its re-negotiation of the Rafale aircraft deal is getting curiouser and curiouser

Congress party's history of creating fake issues

In 1989, there was an outrage in the whole country against the Congress party and its leadership on the Bofors issue. The Congress party's strategists invented a counter strategy of diversion by creating a fake issue. A bank account in St. Kitts was created in the name of VP Singh's son so that the Congress could now have a face-saving argument €" if we are corrupt, so are you.

In 1999, when the NDA led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in the backdrop of the Kargil conflict, was likely to sweep the poll, and the Congress Party was faced with a massive defeat, it manufactured an issue of sugar export to Pakistan. Some two dozen press conferences on the issue were organised to question the government's commitment to nationalism. The truth of the allegation was that a mid-level unknown Chandni Chowk trader had been exporting an OGL item, sugar to Pakistan. Needless to say that the Congress lost the election badly. Falsehood fell apart.

The Congress party and the present political situation

The Congress party realises that there is a danger of the next election becoming a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's performance. The popularity gap between the prime minister and his competitors is very wide. Congress is either non-existent or a poor third or fourth in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Tripura, parts of North East, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Delhi and Tamil Nadu. These states account for 50 percent of the Lok Sabha seats. Of the balance seats, if Congress enters into some form of alliance, it may have to concede seats in several states to its allies. It is, therefore, faced with the prospect of effectively contesting only about 225 seats where it will face a direct clash with the BJP.

If the first part of the Congress mukt bharat (Congress-free India) was scripted by the BJP, the federal front is more than eager to script the part-2 of the same. Its message to the Congress is clear €" 'you will have to support us; the other way is not possible.' For the Congress the best case scenario is to become a tail-ender of the federal front and concede to it a large political space.

Many in the Congress realise that 2019 is not their election. They should try and improve but concentrate as a priority on 2024. However, mid-level leaders of the Congress in the age group of 65 to 74 are unwilling to wait for 2024. They know that 2019 is their last chance and they will probably be time-barred by 2024. They are quite willing for a tail-ender's role.

Its attack on the economy are failing since India, under the Modi regime, continues to be the fastest growing major economy in the world. The Congress party's strategy of consolidating arithmetic against Prime Minister Modi's chemistry is a double-edged weapon for the Congress. It can push the Congress to the margins with the federal front occupying the Opposition's space.

The Congress strategy

What does the party do if its leader has inherent and inbuilt limitations? It had been stigmatised by corruption and in contra-distinction Prime Minister Modi has led a scam free government. Its strategy, therefore, is one of distortion. If you have no issue, manufacture one. Hence the Rafale's fake controversy.

The Congress' strategy is, therefore, two-fold. It has manufactured the issue of the Rafale deal. The issue is failing to cut much ice. It's a government-to-government agreement with no private group involved. It involves national security and it is the armed forces which have preferred this aircraft for its improved combat ability.

The UPA ministers also never disclosed the cost breakup of the weaponry because that is not in larger national interest. The supplier/OEM manufacturers of defence equipment appoint their own offset manufacturers. The government has nothing to do with it. The truth always holds together. It is the falsehood that falls apart. So when Rahul Gandhi's statement that French president Emmanuel Macron told him that there is no secrecy pact got smashed into pieces, the next day the Congress party shifted the Rafale issue to other extraneous grounds.

The second strategy of the Congress party is directed against the federal front. By attacking the BJP on certain issues, it is engaged in an implied battle with the federal front in order to reclaim the minority vote. Comparison of Hindus with 'Taliban' and phrases such as 'Hindu Pakistan' are intended to help it against the federal front to reclaim the minority vote. This strategy also is likely to backfire. As equal participants in the Indian electoral process, the minorities have a constitutional right of a vote. But so does the majority. By redefining secularism as a euphemism for majority bashing, the Congress party is antagonising the majority against itself. This will always happen in an election where you have an inadequate leader and no real issue.

This article first appeared on Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's official Facebook page.

Also See: Congress hits back at Narendra Modi over triple talaq issue, says it does not believe in divisive politics

BJP, Congress trade barbs over Rafale deal; ex-defence minister AK Antony rubbishes Centre's claim of secrecy clause

'Congress will fight under leadership of Rahul Gandhi': Randeep Surjewala lays out strategy for 2019 Lok Sabha elections

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