Analysis of Rahul Gandhi’s speeches, tweets and press conferences of the past two months shows Congress president has a new preoccupation — Rafale

New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi has a new fixation — the Rafale deal.

Rafale has been a near constant in Gandhi’s political discourse — with almost one third of his total tweets, four press conferences and several political speeches referring to the controversy — in the past two months alone, making it clear what the Congress party’s key pitch will be in the forthcoming state assembly polls and next year’s Lok Sabha elections.

An analysis of Gandhi’s tweets, speeches and press conferences since 27 August shows how he has pointedly and aggressively made the controversial Rafale deal a single-point agenda.

Case in point being his criticism of the ongoing ugly CBI row, in which Gandhi has focused on just one point, alleging CBI chief Alok Verma was stripped off his position to block the Rafale investigation.

“Today- Join us today at 11 AM as we march from Dyal Singh College on Lodhi Road to the CBI HQ, to protest the PM’s disgraceful & unconstitutional attempt to block an investigation into the Rafale scam by removing the CBI Chief. Similar protests are being held today, across India,” Gandhi tweeted Friday morning.

The Congress has been attempting to corner the BJP government on the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets. The main opposition party has not only raised questions about the financial terms of agreement, but has also alleged crony capitalism, claiming Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence was favoured as offset partner over state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Rafale On Twitter

Of the 82-odd tweets posted by the Congress chief in the past two months, around 25 — which is 30 per cent of the tweets — have been on Rafale. The tweets use a bouquet of methods to talk about the issue — from poetry, to videos, pointed attacks as well as media stories, both in Hindi and English.

Consider this tweet from 11 October: “The #GreatRafaleCoverUp has begun. To try and show the deal is legit, Raksha Mantri will need to generate minutes of imaginary meetings held between the French & our MOD & both sides will need to agree on a common story to be spun to the media. RM left for France last night.”

Or this one from 27 September:
Then on 29 September, he tweeted: 

In a 24 September tweet, Gandhi talks about the “sad truth about India’s Commander in Thief”, accompanied by a short video clip.

There has been a persistent effort by Gandhi and his team to take on the government and PM Modi on the Rafale controversy through his tweets. His other posts on Twitter in the past two months centre around the fuel price hike, his Kailash Mansarovar Yatra to which six tweets have been dedicated, condolences, birth and death anniversaries of national leaders as well as announcements of his public interactions, particularly in poll-bound states.

In Speeches

In the political speeches he has made in the past two months, especially in the poll-bound states, Gandhi has talked about Rafale in every single one of them. The underlying tone in most has been to mock Modi’s claims that he is a Chowkidaar (watchman) of the country, and point to the alleged scam in the Rafale deal.

For instance, at a rally in Sagwara in poll-bound Rajasthan, Gandhi said in the context of the Rafale deal, “Narendra Modiji said, I do not want to be the Prime Minister of the country, I want to become the custodian of the country and today in the heart of the country, there is a new voice in the heart of the people of Rajasthan, there is noise in the street. The watchman (chowkidaar) of India is a thief.”

Rahul Gandhi’s public addresses at Jhalawar in Rajasthan, Raipur (Chhattisgarh), Nirmal (Telangana), Sheopur (Madhya Pradesh), Datia (Madhya Pradesh), the HAL interaction in Bengaluru, Dholpur (Madhya Pradesh), Gandhi Sankalp Rally at Wardha in Maharashtra on Gandhi Jayanti, Sagwara in Rajasthan, Dussehra Maidan in Bhopal as well as the Bharat Bandh protest at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan on 10 September have all seen him talk about Rafale.

While most have been detailed statements on the issue, with specific allegations, in some instances, Gandhi has only made a passing reference to Rafale. At the Ramlila Maidan speech during the Bharat Bandh called by the opposition over rising fuel prices, he merely said, “Mr Jaitley is lying, the government is lying on Rafale and the government is lying on Vijay Mallya.”

His address at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit and press conference at Ernakulam in Kerala during the floods, however, spared the issue.

Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Mizoram go to polls in November-December and in the first three, the BJP faces an uphill task of beating anti-incumbency while the Congress has to grapple with the challenge of in-house factionalism.

Press Conferences

Rahul Gandhi has held four press conferences on Rafale in Delhi since August — on 30 August, 22 September, 11 October and the latest being Wednesday, 25 October.

His press meet at the Congress headquarters on 13 September may not have been on Rafale, but the issue still found mention, with the Congress president alleging the PM cannot answer questions raised on Rafale in Parliament.