The churn within the Congress continues unabated with party leaders Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Shashi Tharoor supporting colleague Jairam Ramesh on his comments that demonizing Narendra Modi was wrong, and the prime minister should be praised for wherever his policies are successful, particularly the Ujjwala scheme.
Within the Congress, the comments of the three leaders have been interpreted both as criticism of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who made the “chowkidar chor hai” slogan the leitmotif of his 2019 Lok Sabha poll campaign, as also evidence of lack of ideological commitment of Singhvi, Tharoor and Ramesh.
In a tweet on Friday hash-tagged “Jairam Ramesh”, Singhvi said Modi's acts must be judged "issue-wise, not person-wise". Tharoor said praising the prime minister for doing the right things would lend credibility to the opposition's criticism of him.
"Always said demonising Modi wrong. Not only is he PM of nation, a one way opposition actually helps him. Acts are always good, bad and indifferent — they must be judged issue wise and not person wise. Certainly, Ujjawala scheme is only one amongst other good deeds (sic)," Singhvi tweeted.
Tharoor said, "As you know, I have argued for six years now that Narendra Modi should be praised whenever he says or does the right thing, which would add credibility to our criticisms whenever he errs. I welcome others in opposition coming around to a view for which I was excoriated at the time."
At the Congress briefing in the afternoon, when asked if the three leaders were critiquing Rahul Gandhi, who had led the party with his slogan against Modi of “chowkidar chor hai”, party Lok Sabha member Manish Tewari said any questions on the subject should be directed at the “mahanubhav”, or the great men, who have made these statements.
"As far as the Congress Party is concerned, we believe that there is a serious economic crisis in the country. The crisis is impacting the employment situation and we are extremely concerned and worried about it," Tewari said.
At a book launch on Wednesday, Ramesh had said Modi's governance model was "not a complete negative story" and added that not recognising his work and "demonising" him all the time was not going to help.
"It is time we recognize Modi's work and what he did between 2014 and 2019 due to which he was voted back to power by over 30 per cent of the electorate," Ramesh had said according to a PTI report. He also said the Ujjwala scheme was a success.
Former president Pranab Mukherjee's daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee, a spokesperson for the Delhi unit of the Congress, agreed with Singhvi. "Very true sir. Nation building is an ongoing process carried on by successive governments. Hope Modi and team also realise this,” she said.
"Instead of trying to diminish Pandit Nehru they should accept his and the Congress' immense contribution and carry it forward. Criticisms should be on policies, not personalities," Mukherjee said.
None in the Congress responded to these statements on record, but off the record they doubted the “ideological commitment” of Singhvi, Tharoor and Ramesh. “They have not come through the ranks, like the NSUI (the Congress’ students outfit), or the Youth Congress, where ideological tenets are honed,” a senior Congress leader said.
The perception, however, was that the three leaders were critiquing Rahul Gandhi, particularly now that he has quit as the party chief.