PNB scam is a golden chance for Congress in 2019 election
Four years after being voted out of power for allegedly running a “corrupt” government, there is a sense in the Congress that its campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is resonating among common people and acche din (good days) for the party may not too far away.
The party leaders believe the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam, crafted by celebrity jewellery designer Nirav Modi, may just be the ammunition the Congress needs in the battle of perception against the Modi government.
Social media traction
On Saturday, former UPA Minister Kapil Sibal said the party would refer to the PNB fraud case as NiMoji.
“Modiji used to comment daily accusing the UPA of corruption over 2G scam where there was a presumptive loss of ₹1.7 lakh crore. But there the loss was still presumptive, but here it is still real. We will now call it NiMoji,” he said.
Leaders say their “Chhota Modi campaign” has trended on social media for days now. “In fact, people chide us online for calling him Chhota Modi (Nirav Modi) since he has fled with ₹22,000 crore of the public’s money,” said Gujarat Congress leader Shatisinh Gohil.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the ruling party’s “attempt to divert media attention from the Nirav Modi scam” had not succeeded.
“For a change, I would like to congratulate the electronic media. This has attracted the attention of the entire nation. At least, or at last rather, the media —Left, Right and Centre — have realised that something is going terribly wrong in this country under this present government. Why there are scams after scams? Why all the fraud-wallahs are running away to London and why are they connected directly or indirectly to the BJP’s top leadership,” Mr. Azad asked.
For over 10 days now, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been continuously speaking and tweeting about the Nirav Modi issue with hashtags such as #ModiRobsIndia and #JanDhanLootYojana.
And he has clubbed it with the Rafale fighter aircraft deal, an issue the Congress president raised even before the Gujarat polls. Despite the government’s categorical rejection of any allegation of wrongdoing, the Congress chief has been calling it a ₹58,000-crore scam.
“If you see his tweet where he shared a video of his Karnataka trip, it has been retweeted 5,000 times and got 13,000 likes but the February 19 tweet in Hindi where he has pointed out how tycoons like Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi have fled has got over 33,000 likes and shared more than 11,000 times,” said a Congress functionary associated with the social media cell.
Harnessing voter anger
From Meghalaya to Karnataka, where the Congress faces anti-incumbency, the alleged scams are now part of the communication template. Inadequate job creation, farm distress and middle class anger over new taxes or lowering interest rates on deposits are the other issues where the Congress wants to harness the voters’ anger in crucial State polls like Karnataka.
Former Information and Broadcasting minister Manish Tewari says not only has their party’s chief political messaging got sharper but also the ecosystem has also become very responsive.
But as the Congress, buoyed by a couple of Lok Sabha bypoll wins in Rajasthan, moves towards 2019, a senior leader from U.P. — the State that decides Lok Sabha fortunes with 80 seats — sounded a word of caution. “The Nirav Modi scam is getting traction because of good TV coverage but elections are won by candidates and organisation. And that needs to be tightened to make a difference,” he said.
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