Rahul Gandhi needs a refresher on Congress’s culture of respect

Rahul Gandhi visited former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee soon after the latter was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) for multiple ailments. This was a good gesture, but it was marred by the Congress president’s boast that he was the first person to pay the visit, that it was the Congress’s culture to respect elders, and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had no regard for either Vajpayee or the other veteran BJP leader LK Advani. It is obvious from Rahul Gandhi’s remarks that he went to see Vajpayee not out of courtesy but to score a political point. It is disgraceful that the Congress leader sought to derive political mileage out of a grim situation. There is a time and place for politics — and this was not it.

As to his statement that the Congress always respected seniors, the less said the better. Who would have forgotten the treatment that PV Narasimha Rao received after his death? His body was not allowed inside the Congress’s office in New Delhi; the gates were shut and the cortege had to turn back. Nor has anybody forgotten the treatment the party gave to one of its veterans, Sitaram Kesri, who was unceremoniously ousted as president to make way for Sonia Gandhi. And Kesri too was a Congressman. More recently, recall the noxious remarks made by certain Congress leaders against Pranab Mukherjee when the latter decided to attend a RSS function.

There are other instances of the Congress “respecting” others, including rivals. Recall the “Maut ke Saudagar” remark directed by Sonia Gandhi against Narendra Modi, and those made by Mani Shankar Aiyar against the Prime Minister. Add to these the shocking comment by Imran Masood, who was a Congress candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, that Modi would be cut to pieces in case he stepped into Saharanpur (in Uttar Pradesh), and you get an idea of the ‘respectful’ language Congress leaders use. Disgusting as Rahul Gandhi’s brag was, it was equally shameful that his apologists should have come on television to defend the remarks. While a few of them maintained that there was nothing political in his observation, others brazenly accepted that it was political but added that there was nothing wrong in playing politics! The Congress president should know that negative politics has a short shelf-life. Faced with negative politics, Indira Gandhi benefited in 1980; in a similar fashion, Modi swept the nation in 2014 against the onslaught of demeaning comments directed at him by the Congress.

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