A case of message lost in thought-speech gap

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Madhusudhana Rao S

Cheerleaders of Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi say he is a ‘misunderstood’ man whenever a controversy erupts over his emotional speeches.  Probably, he is. But when a projected prime ministerial candidate blows hot and cold, how can the public, let alone political leaders, understand him?

Just a few days ago, Rahul Gandhi literally saluted his bete noire Narendra Modi for ordering surgical strikes against terrorist launch pads along the Line of Control in Occupied Kashmir. His unusual gesture has surprised many, including senior Congress leaders. At that time, he might have thought it wise to follow his mother’s example as the people from every walk of life had thrown their weight behind the government and the Army. Even before his words of praise died down in the developments that followed, Rahul Gandhi returned to his game of anti-Modi rant.

If his outburst on Thursday, Rahul accused Modi of profiteering from the blood shed by the Army in Jammu and Kashmir and surgical strikes. “Our soldiers who have shed their blood in Jammu and Kashmir, who have conducted the surgical strikes, you are hiding behind their blood. You are cashing in on their sacrifice, that’s wrong. The Indian Army has done its duty. Now you do your duty. Help the farmers, hike the salaries of soldiers under the seventh pay commission … that is your duty. That is your responsibility. India has elected you for that. That is the truth,” he thundered at a farmers’ rally in New Delhi. Speaking in Hindi, using sharp words, his flare-up came at the end of his month-long 3,500 km walkathon in Uttar Pradesh. It is Congress’s marathon bid to revive party fortunes in the poll-bound state.

While Rahul Gandhi’s onslaught on Modi has dismayed some Congress leaders, BJP went at it hammer and tongs saying “it shows his mental bankruptcy.” Once again, Congress and BJP slugfest has started with leaders and party officials from both sides leveling charges against each other. The phrase that has really stung the BJP is ‘khoon ki dalali.’

Proffering a clarification, a senior Congress leader told Indian Express: “His (Rahul) intention was to say that Army deserves the credit and kudos and you (Modi) cannot ride on them…but I agree it did not come out quite that way.”

If we have to believe the Congress leader’s explanation, obviously there is a gap between what he thinks and speaks. If none has explained it to Rahul, his use of choice words in a language that fits the occasion could lead to confusion and wordy duels as is happening now.

To say his tirade against Modi in the context of surgical strikes and Kashmir unrest is in bad taste is masking the real issue. That is, Rahul’s no line of control over his language and spurts of volcanic bursts. Take for example Thursday’s attack on PM at the farmers’ rally. It’s anyone’s guess how many would have understood him. What he actually wanted to convey to his audience must have lost in his angry tone. Moreover, his single target attack, without referring to any other political leader that looked out of context, has helped add more bitterness and animosity between the two national parties and politicize the surgical strikes issue.

PS: Amidst the raging verbal war comes a word correction from Rahul Gandhi. According to a tweet on Friday, he said, “I fully support the surgical strikes and I have said so unequivocally, but I will not support using…the Indian Army in political posters and propaganda all across the country.”

If that is what he meant to say on Thursday to farmers, why did he invoke ‘khoon ki dalali’? Is it a case of well-intended message lost in horrid expression?

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