At some point, during lockdown the Congress decided that it’s a good idea to go back to being an active political party, instead of playing secondfiddle to Mamata Banerjee and Uddhav Thackeray. It was Sonia Gandhi who fired the first salvo when she took on the Central government for charging migrant workers for their train fares, and ordered Congress states to foot the bill.
Arguably, that hit the right chord. Second, Rahul Gandhi decided to go out and meet the homeless migrant workers. Yes of course, it was a political photo-op, but within the backdrop of the crisis, a much needed one. Most BJP leaders chose not to comment; but not Nirmala Sitharaman who lashed out at him for being a “dramebaaz”.
In fact, I had tweeted that Sitharaman’s criticism of Rahul made her sound like a crabby, old neighbourhood aunt who complains if you play cricket outside her house. Admittedly, I was asking to be trolled but there were also a surprising number of people who agreed with me. Some, who were upset, limited their criticism to the fact that I had called the FM old.
Actually, I hadn’t, but it’s semantics. But the spectre of the Congress behemoth suddenly stirring to life is largely due to the fact that it feels that there is resentment against the government which can be harnessed in favour of Rahul Gandhi. I am not sure if it will work. Rahul had tried this earlier, end 2017, when he tried to cash in on the bleak Diwali mood, post-demonetisation and GST, to relaunch himself as Congress chief. But he lost the 2019 elections because that resentment was never directed personally against the PM.
Again, today, one doesn’t know how much of the anger is against Narendra Modi himself. But that doesn’t mean the Congress should not play its role as an Opposition. This includes Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s offer of 1,000 buses for the migrant workers. If one cuts to the end of all the “dramebaazi” (to use the phrase du jour), she is reaching out to a section that is feeling abandoned. Drama or not, you cannot fault the script. It is a carpe diem moment for the Congress, a time to play the role of a constructive Opposition.