But now with Sharad Pawar and Ghulam Nabi Azad speaking out, are the tables being turned on Rahul Gandhi?
Former Congress veteran Azad, who quit the party last year after blaming Rahul Gandhi for lack of leadership skills, spilled the beans on him yesterday in an interview.
“The entire family has associations with businessmen, including him (Rahul). I can give 10 examples of where he would go, even outside the country, to meet people who are undesirable businessmen,” said Azad in an interview to Malayalam news channel Asianet News. Azad was replying to Rahul’s tweet in which he had accused Azad of having ties with Gautam Adani.
Former J&K CM and ex-Union minister Azad had severed his five-decade association with Congress in August last year and floated his own party, Democratic Progressive Azad Party.
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In a tweet on Saturday, Rahul had linked with Adani four ex-Congress leaders who are now in the BJP, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kiran Reddy, Himanta Biswa Sarma and Anil Antony, along with Azad.Azad’s reply to Rahul is expected to put Rahul on back foot as the BJP can now use Azad’s criticism of Rahul to quiz him on his ties with various businesspersons abroad, especially when Rahul is known for spending considerable time abroad.Azad’s hitting back at Rahul fits into what seems to be the BJP’s larger plan to discredit Rahul who is adamant on a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the Hindenburg issue, not satisfied by a Supreme Court-ordered probe.
Just before Azad questioned Rahul, opposition stalwart Sharad Pawar had ticked off Rahul by defending Adani. Pawar also said there was no need for a JPC probe. On top of that, Pawar later also spoke out on the degree issue, differing with many opposition leaders who are trying to corner Modi over his educational degree which they claim is fake. Pawar said the educational degree of someone can’t be a political issue.
Pawar has clearly distanced from Rahul’s attacks on the Modi government, in an ample indication that the supposed opposition unity against Modi is splintering well before it could crystallize into any concrete electoral front.
Before these two statements that go to defend Modi, Pawar had distanced himself from Rahul’s criticism of Hindutva icon VD Savarkar. Just when Rahul had sharpened his attack on Savarkar, Pawar came out with a statement praising Savarkar. He said Savarkar was a progressive leader who had built a temple and assigned its upkeep to the Dalit community. He also said that the controversy over Rahul’s comments on Savrakar was distracting people from other serious issues on which the opposition can corner the Modi government. Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar too came out with statements that cracked the opposition unity over the Adani issue, He also spoke against another perennial issue raised by opposition leaders, the alleged manipulation of EVMs by the BJP to win polls, He said he had no problem with EVMs which can’t be tampered with.
With Pawar distancing from Rahul and other opposition leaders attacking the Modi government on Adani, Rahul, who has been the most vocal against the Modi government among opposition leaders, might get isolated.
And with Azad hitting back at Rahul now, there is also a chance of Rahul facing fire from the so-called G-23 group of veteran Congress leaders who are not happy with the way Rahul is running the party. Criticism from veteran party insiders will be embarrassing for Rahul, especially if they try to soft-pedal the Adani issue.
With his Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul had aimed to not only revive his party but also to emerge as an aggressive leader who could fearlessly take on the Modi government, and thus perhaps the leader of a possible opposition front against the BJP in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections next year.
But now it seems Rahul’s favourite Adani issue could boomerang on him. With Pawar, one of the most important opposition leaders and also an alliance partner of the Congress, distancing from Rahul on the Adani issue, and now Azad questioning Rahul over his own ties with businesspersons, Rahul could not only get isolated but also be left grappling with controversies tumbling out from his own cupboard.