Rahul's salvos at NaMo: 2018 edition

Rahul Gandhi targetted Narendra Modi and the BJP government at the Centre during its fourth year in power across various issues.

As the year inches to a close, here's a look back at Rahul Gandhi targeting Narendra Modi and the BJP government at the Centre during its fourth year in power across various issues, including and not limited to the Rafale deal and Padmaavat, which saw widespread protests in many parts of India.

Padmaavat:

2018 had scarcely begun and already signs of discord were visible when Right-wing fringe outfits across India spread out against the release of Padmaavat. The film, originally titled Padmavati, was a retelling of the poem Padmavat by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi.

Many states, mainly run by the BJP, had banned the screening of Padmaavat in view of protests and demands from fringe Hindu organisations, who decried 'distortion of history' as the reason for their protests. There was even a failed plea in the Supreme Court (https://www.deccanherald.com/content/654693/sc-rejects-plea-cancel-cbfc....) to have the film's certificate revoked.

When it became obvious that there was no stopping the film's release in a legal manner, Karni Sena and other fringe outfits took to the streets, damaging public property and endangering lives in their protests against the film. They even declared a bounty on Deepika Padukone for good measure.

Rahul Gandhi, and by extension the Congress, and AAP targeted the BJP for the violence occuring in the name of protests shortly after a school bus was targeted by protesters. While Delhi Arvind Kejriwal termed the attack on the school bus as "utterly shameful", Rahul Gandhi lashed out at the saffron party for using "hate and violence" to tear the country apart. Ironically, Pakistan's censor board cleared the film with no cuts despite the film's portrayal of Alauddin Khilji.

Political potshots:

Being a year of elections, Rahul had many opportunities to target Modi and the BJP over their perceived failures at ensuring development and failing to protect law and order throughout the country.

During a visit to poll-bound Meghalaya, Rahul was seen wearing a leather jacket. When photos of said jacket began circulating, the BJP took no time in accusing the Congress head of using black money to buy a Rs 63,000 suit to keep himself warm in a sort of return hit to Gandhi's frequent "suit-boot ki sarkar" jab to the Centre.

During the Congress campaign in Tripura, Rahul Gandhi said that the Congress "does not make false promises" like the BJP, and went on to allege that neither the ruling CPI(M) nor the saffron party paid attention to development. However, the Congress went on to lose Tripura, with the BJP making the government in the north-east state.

During the Congress' 84th Plenary session, Rahul spared no chance to launch attacks on the BJP, saying India was tired of the BJP, which spread hatred and anger in the country and only the Congress could show the way forward with politics of love and amity. He even went on to accuse Narendra Modi helping his namesakes Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi carry out the "biggest theft in the history of India".

Rahul Gandhi also accused the Narendra Modi government of "disrespecting" and "demolishing" various institutions by having RSS men "sitting in every ministry and giving orders." 

Rafale Deal:

When the Central government announced that they were buying 36 Rafale jets in flyaway condition from French aviation corp Dassault for the price of USD $8 billion. Comparing to the earlier deal, which involved 126 Rafale for the price of nearly $11 billion, the Congress saw a scam in the deal inked by the Centre and France, and took little time to begin targeting the Modi government of corruption and crony capitalism, a charge which was only intensified when it became known that the Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence would be getting the contract for manufacturing the jets.

Gandhi led an intense attack on Modi and the Central government, calling the deal "the biggest issue of corruption" in the country and asked the prime minister to reply why he took the contract from HAL and gave it to a "friend". Not long after, Nirmala Sitharaman gave a reply to the Congress' allegations, saying the Rafale deal would not go the way of the Bofors.

Undeterred, the Congress continued to attack the Government, saying that the BJP compromised on national security when it inked the deal with France, a charge which Nitin Gadkari rubbished as "anti-national", a word that had become a catch-all phrase to describe critics of the government, both political and civilian, since its ascent to power in 2014.

Gandhi later accused Modi of redoing the Rafale deal just to allow re-tendering the contract, saying that the "Rs. 40,000 crores loss to the exchequer" was "sayonara" to the money. He also went on to add Bengaluru to his arguments against Modi, saying that the PM gave the city a 'raw deal', referring to the suburban rail project and Bengaluru-based HAL not getting the Rafale contract.

Nirmala Sitharaman said that the price for the Rafale jets could not be revealed because such disclosures were barred by the provisions of an inter-governmental agreement signed between India and France in the UPA dispensation, an argument that France backed Modi on.

Bolstered by France's backing of Modi, the BJP return fired on the Congress, with BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi saying "Congress never allowed defence production in India so that it could strike "deals" with foreign suppliers and now levelling baseless allegations after the Modi government has worked to start domestic production".

Less than an hour later, the Congress hit back at the BJP, accusing the party of “lying” on Reliance Defence's role in executing the Rs 30,000 crore “offset contract” as part of the Rafale deal.

After the political back-and-forth, Rahul Gandhi next sought to use a more populist touch to his accusations. He said that the taxpayers of India would pay Rs. 1 lakh crores to Modi's "56-inch-friend" to maintain the 36 Rafale jets. The "chhappan inch ki chhati" was a phrase used by Modi in his rallies in Uttar Pradesh leading to 2014's general elections, where he said that was a prerequisite to turn a state like UP into Gujarat.

The Lok Sabha, too, was party to the political mud-slinging between the two big parties. The Congress stormed the Well, demanding a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee and causing the House to be adjourned twice, and then as the monsoon session came to a close, the Congress-led UPA began putting more heat on the BJP. Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi took more aims at Modi during his pre-poll Jaipur rally, calling Rafale the biggest-ever defence scam and Modi was a partner in corruption, challenging the PM to a public debate.

While Arun Jaitley launched a counter-attack on Congress, saying that the price of a fully weaponised combat jet as per the contract inked by the BJP-led NDA government was 20% cheaper than the price negotiated by the UPA, Rahul Gandhi got busy taking more aim at Modi and Anil Ambani, accusing Modi of protecting his industrialist "friend" and letting him know that HAL would not be getting the contract. He also claimed that the Demonetisation that took place was a scam to help his crony capitalist friends.

In September, the Congress claimed, once again, that Modi intentionally caused losses to state-run HAL so that Anil Ambani's newly-founded Reliance Defence could be benefitted to a tune of Rs. 30,000 crores, but the Deputy Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar refuted the Congress' allegations, saying it did not match with facts at all.

The BJP was not going to keep mum while Rahul made allegations after allegations, of course, with Ravi Shankar Prasad, the IT Minister, saying that the Rafale deal will not be probed to satisfy the ego of an "ill-informed" leader of the opposition party who "repeats lies".

The Congress for its part met the CAG with a demand to conduct a “time-bound” and “forensic” audit of the Rafale fighter aircraft deal, while Rahul demanded Nirmala Sitharaman's resignation and Arun Jaitley took to Facebook to claim that Rahul was lying about Modi waiving the loans of 25 industrialists to the tune of Rs 2.5 lakh crore rupees.

The Opposition got some real weapons against the Modi government, however, when Francois Hollande remarked that India proposed Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence as an offset partner for Dassault in the Rafale deal and French media outlet Mediapart claimed France was given no choice but Reliance.

Capitalising on this chance, Rahul went for the jugular against Narendra Modi over Hollande's revelations that India had proposed Anil Ambani's company as the offset partner for the Rafale deal, saying "chowkidar chor hai" and that the deal was a surgical strike on the Armed Forces of India jointly run by Modi and Jaitley. However, Dassault and the French government came to defend the deal, saying they chose Reliance freely. It quickly turned into a political slugfest on social media with the BJP and Congress coming up with hashtags to shame the other.

Soon after, both Arun Jaitley and Prakash Javadekar took turns at aiming at Rahul, with Jaitley saying the Rafale deal will not be scrapped and Javadekar saying that Rahul has neither facts nor evidence against the Centre.

Eventually, the Rafale deal went to the Supreme Court, which sought details of the deal, insisting that it only wants the details of the decision making process for its 'satisfaction'. Dassault went on record once again to clarify that it chose Reliance as its partner, leading to Sambit Patra, BJP's favourite spokesperson, to call Rahul Gandhi a 'clown prince' who is "lying through his teeth" to build his political career.

During Rahul's visit to Bengaluru, where he interacted with HAL employees, the BJP took another turn to hurl questions at him and accused him of betryaing HAL by shunting it out of the Rafale deal. Undetrred, Rahul maintained that HAL was a strategic asset and vowed to protect it.

When the chief of the CBI, Alok Verma and his second-in-command Rakesh Asthana were sent on leave on orders of the government, Rahul found and used fresh ammunition against Modi, saying that the PM had the two removed because they were nosing into the Rafale deal and he was scared of what they could find. However, the Defence Minister continued to insist that Modi kept the deal transparent.

Finally, as the Supreme Court asked the Centre to provide details on the price of the Rafale jets, Rahul Gandhi issued another statement claiming Modi would not survive an enquiry into the deal, alleging that Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence got Rs 284 crores from Dassault as the first kickback. This came just before Reliance itself dismissed the entirety of Rahul's claims as preposterous and a blatant lie.

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Rahul's salvos at NaMo: 2018 edition

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