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Published On: Wed, Dec 14th, 2016

Rahul Gandhi instructed reporters to “Read my lips”

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rahul-gandhi-churuNEW DELHI : The notes ban appears to have enabled Rahul Gandhi to bank some acceptance, even if somewhat reluctant, from as many as 15 other parties, some of them headed by leaders with far meatier political chops.

Mamata Banerjee, for example, who once dismissed the 46-year-old Congress Vice President as a political dilettante, describing him as “a cuckoo who appears only in springtime.”

15 of them gathered with him today at a press conference in parliament where Mr Gandhi, in a questionable appropriation of George Bush, instructed reporters to “Read my lips” and declared that he is bulked up with information to expose “the personal corruption” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Yes, he has matured as a leader,” said Tariq Anwar of the Nationalist Congress Party or NCP, a frequent ally of Mr Gandhi’s party. Some within the Congress say that the government’s sudden demonetization drive, which has shoved India into an intense cash crunch, has given Mr Gandhi some moxie after leading the Congress into a series of defeats in state elections.

But they also concede that if Mr Gandhi has emerged as the show-runner of the anti-government protests, it is partly because of the absence of his mother and Congress chief, Sonia Gandhi, who has been too unwell to preside over any of the Congress Parliamentary Party meetings of MPs.

So it has fallen upon Mr Gandhi to address his party’s 44 parliamentarians at meetings plotting their strategy on how to nail the government for the long lines at banks, the crisis of cash in rural India. At similar sessions with other parties, it is Mr Gandhi and not Mallikarjun Kharge of the Congress, officially designated Leader of the Opposition, who has spoken on the party’s behalf.

For years, the Congress has been clamouring for Mr Gandhi to take the party’s top job; the last resolution demanding this was cleared just weeks ago. For a party not just comfortable with but wedded to the idea of dynastic leadership, his promotion is no more complicated than a family decision that will be accepted whenever it is taken. But it can take some heart from the fact that other parties seem more comfortable now with doing business with Mr Gandhi.

Case in point, the Left. “Rahul-ji is speaker of the Opposition,” said P Karunakaran of the CPM. Party chief Sitaram Yechury, known for a strong personal rapport with Mrs Gandhi, is now believed to talk often with her son on the phone. They have also had at least two isolated meetings.

Those less won over include West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has pointedly either led or participated in protests against demonetization that did not include the Congress. Today, her representatives were by Mr Gandhi’s side But Ms Banerjee, who rarely criticises Mrs Gandhi without extending the same favour to her son, will be less pliant than other leaders about signing up on a team that has Mr Gandhi as captain.

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