Rahul has been able to project himself as a hero to both those distressed sections.
Neither kisans nor Dalits have reason to hail Rahul Gandhi as their champion: indeed outside Congress circles many would wonder who the party’s vice-president actually “leads”. Yet because of pathetic performances by BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh and UP, he has been able to project himself as a hero to both those distressed sections. The administrations headed by Yogi Adityanath and Shivraj Singh Chouhan were so shaken by their bungling in Saharanpur and Mandsaur respectively that they allowed panicstricken local officials to ban Rahul’s entry to the two trouble spots. And that played right into Rahul’s hands.
Ever one to favour the melodramatic over the politically-substantial, Rahul “went to town”, riding pillion on a motor-cycle towards Mandsaur (again sans a safety helmet as he had done in Noida), running across a railway track, seeking “cover” in fields while bumbling cops gave chase, he provided the TV cameras the footage on which they survive. And when he did eventually meet family members of those killed by a trigger-happy Madhya Pradesh police he provided the microphones sound bytes aplenty to flesh out the “story”. Would heavens have fallen, it may be asked, if Rahul (and other Opposition leaders) been allowed to visit both places with a minimum of police arrangement? Their popularity would have been subjected to severe test, in the legislatures of neither state does the Congress have the numbers to pose a genuine “threat”: a damp squib was allowed to become a flashbang. It is an open question if Rahul has the political skills to gain from his stunts ~ the track-record does not convince.
What does become apparent is that the BJP leaders lack the resilience to tackle adverse situations. The problems of both Dalits and farmers have a multi-state dimension, and the Central government has displayed adequate indifference to fuel dissent, agitations etc. Keeping Opposition leaders away only complicates problems. The unleashing of upper-caste forces, packing administrations with officials of specific communities, cattle bans and cow vigilantes running amuck expose the divisive nature of the BJP’s thinking.
There may be no such “motivation” when allowing agrarian distress to snowball out of control, yet the negative image of a trader-favouring government does “stick”. Never mind if Rahul’s questions about the right to protest would have been asked during an equally hot June 1975, they did resonate a little. The BJP’s central leadership is not entirely off-target when accusing Rahul of seeking “photo-ops” ~ those opportunities were created by ineptitude in Lucknow and Bhopal. BJP governments, an in-house critic observed, are focused on “managing headlines”, hence their taking umbrage at somebody else playing the same dubious game. The bold print Yogi Adityanath attracted with his farm-loans waiver has come to haunt all state governments. Rahul’s antics are just a side-show.