Indian Congress Party try to be Modi-fied, but little too late

NEW DELHI: Congress is pulling out all stops to target Narendra Modi, attacking him on sensitive points ranging from an undisclosed marriage to the 2002 riots to alleged stalking of a girl, to show a sense of purpose in taking on the challenger.

But the widespread view in Congress and among observers is that the aggression may have come six months too late with the elections halfway gone and Modi having positioned himself as the frontrunner, charging ahead on the unchallenged presented to him.

Behind the shift from the deafening silence to the hawkish stance on the Gujarat CM lies a tactical error that could prove costly for the party in the ongoing elections. A section of Congress had made a strong push for campaigning against Modi when the latter started his countrywide tours immediately after being named chairman of BJP’s campaign panel in June 2013.

The party was inundated by demands that Congress should also start moving around and laying out the agenda for the future with Rahul Gandhi as the face. However, Rahul is learnt to have told partymen, including CMs and AICC managers, that BJP had started too early and it was not possible to sustain a political campaign for eight months. It was conveyed that Congress would start the campaign in December. It was also decided to keep away from a “personalized” offensive.

Now, the furious attacks on Modi after over 200 seats have already voted mark an acknowledgement that the party made an error in thinking that long campaigns were unsustainable.

The concession and regret is evident in how Congress, which appeared reluctant to speak on the 2002 riots, is raising the pitch for an apology from Modi while touching upon issues like “undisclosed marriage” and the alleged stalking of a girl. “It is late. We should have done it six months ago and we had even demanded it,” said a senior Union minister.

In fact, the haphazardly planned campaign moved in fits and starts. Rahul addressed a flurry of rallies in Delhi, MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan during the November state polls but the whitewash forced him into a shell again. Its campaign started well after February, a time when Modi had already covered a vast area.

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